The Chicken Connoisseur – On The Exploitation of Black Creativity

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.

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Elijah Quashie, The Chicken Connoisseur, tucks into a burger at Taste of Tennessee. His review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naSO2wMopoU

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):

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This writer remained consistent with his confusion.

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 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.

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Chicken Connoisseur – On The Exploitation of Black Creativity

  1. Sincerely well written article, i commend you for this effort, pulling the substance wrapped in prey clothes and unwrapping it for true intellect to approach closer and comprehend, impeccable read.

    Possessing real eye for truth:

    “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.”

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  2. Many thanks to you Ms M, Victoria Sanusi and any others exposing the culture vultures! Big up to Elijah Quashie! As our people say “You are bwei!”

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  3. Funny actually because i thought the same and I am white.

    A lot of the commentary I’ve seen seems to fall into “look at the comical black folk and their quaint ways” and its distasteful as all hell.
    Just reinforcing that horrible “us and them ” rhetoric.

    Wonderful article and I will be sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article! completely agree, only thing I’d ask is to what extent is this symptomatic of lazy journalism in general rather than colonising of black culture in particular. Also how would you respond to the assertion that if only Black journalists should cover “Black stories”, then conversely only white journalist should cover White stories”

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  5. I was lucky enough not to see any of the coverage you picked up on – I live in Japan so heard about this through straight-up sharing on social media – but we’ve all seen it time and time again since back in the day. In fact, as a white guy perhaps, this all pervasive cultural ignorance in mainstream journalism had me sure that it was pretty much the standard that something/someone like Chicken Connoisseur would be misunderstood by at least 25% of the press surrounding it/him. I find it must be the most embarrassing for those journalists in question surely? But you make a good point, these kind of stories should be put in the hands of those who are best-suited to handling them; not necessarily always black or of the ‘same race’ as the central subject but at least existing in approximately the same world. However, it does lead to the thought that some media outlets might not be able to spot who that journalist is, may not have that suitable journalist to hand and, most importantly, they might not want to put the story in the hands of someone who can present it in a good light. The latter part certainly gives credence to your article! Very well written, thanks for writing, and more to the point, big up the CC and all the bossman who blessed it, the wings are a madness.

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    1. Thank you for engaging with my blog! Funnily enough, I actually watched your video yesterday; it suggested to me on YouTube once I’d watched the latest instalment of The Pengest Munch, and I noticed you’d linked to my post in the description! I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts.

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