Elijah Quashie, the 23-year-old sensation known as the Chicken Connoisseur, has created waves on the internet with his brilliant reviews of chicken shops at several different spots across London [link to his YouTube Channel]. With each episode of The Pengest Munch, Quashie visits a new shop. Before he even begins his review, he undertakes his compulsory crep check to reassure the viewers that he’s looking fresh. He then proceeds to analyse several aspects of the shop, from its pricing structure and standard of customer service, to the breadcrumbs on the wings and the assembly and presentation of its burgers. Everything he says is executed with light-hearted rigour along with a fantastic comical twist.
His take on the quality of breaded wings and fries resonated with many; rating the standard of an establishment’s food, as well as noting down which bossman will nice you with an extra wing or two, is a conversation and scenario to which many young Black Britons will relate. His channel will certainly prove to be a useful resource for future reference! Through Black Twitter, Quashie’s videos received widespread interest, praise, and acclaim.
When something this big happens, it’s difficult to keep it under wraps (no pun intended). Many news and media outlets have wanted to profit from the buzz of the story. The morning after The Pengest Munch received its viral attention (a whole year after the first episode in the series), his videos were shared all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His most popular video, which has jumped from 20,000 views (when I first saw it on the evening of the 8th December) to 928k views (at the time of writing), is here:
However, most of the outlets sharing his work were white owned; their pages have since enjoyed thousands of views and shares, thus generating revenue for them, yet almost none gave Quashie any credit for his original video whatsoever. White writers for a number of different online publications also pounced on this opportunity and began to tell the story of a nameless, chicken-eating Black “kid”/”boy”, whose language was even described by one man as “confusing”. Many of these articles came coupled with problematic “translations”, or “glossaries”, of the language used by Quashie to enable their predominantly white audiences to “understand” what he is talking about in his videos. The same writer who described Quashie’s language as “confusing” also described “mandem” as follows (via Twitter user, @ddaappoo):
me: *tries to give white peoole a chance*
also me: *sees this* pic.twitter.com/MSZdXLik02
— merry duck 🇳🇬🎁 (@ddaappoo) December 9, 2016
At least he remained consistent with his confusion. (In case people were unsure, “mandem” comes from Jamaican Patois, and simply means a group of men, or boys). To fully appreciate and understand the Chicken Connoisseur and The Pengest Munch requires being fully engaged with the cultural references throughout his videos. He gives nods to the likes of Kayode Ewumi’s character, R.S., from the popular #HoodDocumentary, and Big Narstie and Lordie’s Uncle Pain series, most of which would have been lost on those providing their uneducated social commentary. The use of words and phrases that developed primarily from the Patois and Creole spoken by Caribbean immigrants who arrived in London in the Windrush Generation of the mid-20th century has undoubtedly influenced the Black British vernacular; the meanings of words we use will clearly be foreign to the white middle-class, and when these ill-equipped writers wade into debates that are culturally divorced from their own experiences, we see the aforementioned nauseating descriptions of commonly used words and inaccurate links to “gang” culture. Relating Black British English with criminality is an all too common occurrence found in these “glossaries”, and it does nothing but negatively pathologise the Black community.
There are large numbers of Black British writers who would have been much more suited and well-prepared to report on this story, but instead, their voices and potential contributions were overlooked by the desires of a few culture vultures and opportunists in the white to profit. It is worthwhile noting that the only writer who made the effort to reach out to the Chicken Connoisseur was a Black woman writer, Victoria Sanusi, whose conversation with him enabled her to inform the world of his real name, his age, and his actual intentions behind starting his Pengest Munch project. I believe this is a perfect example of how much more receptive a culturally-aware Black writer would be to such a scenario. It is rather plain to see how much better Sanusi’s journalism on this story was in comparison to the remainder of the mainstream. White media and its culture vultures have exploited and capitalised on the popularity and success of Elijah Quashie’s The Pengest Munch series, and it is yet another episode in a tired saga of how they take a half-hearted interest in the products of Black Creativity (mainly through Black Twitter) in order to boost their traffic and make money from their visitor/ad revenue. Twitter user @ubuntugraphy writes a great thread on this, some of which is quoted here:
Black Britons affect British popular culture, no, we define it! We define language, fashion, music, viral content. We are powerful man!
— Tatenda.jpg.mov 🇿🇼 (@ubuntugraphy) December 9, 2016
Black creatives are increasingly under siege. Uncredited recirculation of content made by people like Quashie, and just downright lazy journalism, not only unjustifiably makes money for white media outlets who take over the conversation, but it also has a negative effect on the growth and development of Black creatives. Their work goes underappreciated or misrepresented far too often, and that is a huge problem. As @ubuntugraphy says, this shows how we in the community must work to help protect our services and creations from external parasites, so that we, as the originators, are the ones who monetise and profit from it.
Because for every viral video, or something we make popular in culture that these sites take, they’re making money mate, not you.
— Tatenda.jpg.mov 🇿🇼 (@ubuntugraphy) December 9, 2016
About the writer of the article – My name is Jordan and I maintain this blog. I am currently a student reading for a Master’s degree in in Physics at Oxford University. If you would like to read more of my blog posts (from African Warrior Queen Muhumuza to the rich history of Jamaican Patois), then please feel free to check them out. My Twitter page may also be found by clicking here.