A viral sensation pulls back the curtain on Southern hip-hop
Tom Richmond / www.tomrichmond.com
Ms. Peachez favors clown wigs, press-on nails, and pastel blouses over her beefy, middle-aged frame. In the video for her 2006 song “Fry That Chicken,” she raps in a voice deeper than my uncle John’s.
As with most immediately catchy songs, it’s so dumb it’s genius. It’s a nursery rhyme crossed with a Mardi Gras march, springy brass propelling the beat while high-register synth notes chime like Pavlov’s bell: “I got a pan, and I got a plan / I’m a fry this chicken in my hand! / Everybody want a piece of my chicken / Southern fried chicken / Finger-lickin’.”
The low-budget video takes place in the yard of a rural shack. The scene is a country barbecue, with Ms. Peachez holding raw chickens and taunting a group of children. Peachez’s blue hair, and her T-shirt bearing an oversized peach, are nearly consumed by smoke from the grill, which heats a giant pan of bubbling grease. She passes thighs and legs through a bowl of flour, massaging them with her hands in time to the beat. After dropping the poultry into the pan, she shakes her hips and gets the hot sauce ready.
“Fry that chicken!” the kids demand, looking half-crazed as they pound on the picnic table. Peachez advises the kids to wash their hands, “’Cause you’re gon’ be lickin’ ’em!” When the food is ready, the kids tear into it, eating with their fingers and then, yes, licking them.
There’s something innocent and funny about the video, but also something creepy. It vaguely recalls a 19th-century blackface skit, although none of the participants are white and the production appears to have been made in earnest, rather than as an ironic joke.
But a jive-talking, cartoonish drag queen hypnotizing a group of children with her Southern-fried bird—seriously? Could the video’s crafters possibly be unaware of its loaded, Uncle Tom stereotypes?
The oddness of the clip has been eclipsed by its popularity. It’s been seen 3.9 million times. But as “Fry That Chicken” went viral, it became one of the most politicized hip-hop documents in years. Many people saw it as the epitome of the troubling turn rap music was taking. Despite the fact that bloggers and other internet commentators knew nothing about Ms. Peachez—she didn’t have a record deal and had never done an interview—they called her a degrading minstrel act that was setting the gains of the civil rights movement back 30 years.
But the criticism only seemed to spur Peachez’s popularity, and she proceeded to release a series of follow-ups, each more outlandish than the last. Two and a half million more people watched her “In the Tub” video, a loose parody of 50 Cent’s “In da Club.”
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>