Debut Single From Rapper J.R. Bricks Upsets Southern Restaurant Chain, Sparks Controversy
Less than a week after the digital release of "Waffle House", the debut single from newly-signed Hip-Hop recording artist J.R. Bricks, legal counsel for WH Capital, LLC and Waffle House, Inc., owner and licensee of the Waffle House® trademarks respectively, issued a cease and desist letter to the artist's label, Block Starz Music LLC, www.blockstarzmusic.com, claiming improper and unauthorized usage.
In response, Block Starz Music has changed the song's title to "After the Club". This has sparked cries of racism by some in the online Hip-Hop community who see the southern restaurant chain's move as an effort to distance itself from its, predominately black and Latino, early morning weekend customers.
"I don't think Waffle House's actions were motivated by racial discrimination," says J.R. Bricks (born Earl Harrison, Jr.), a Havana, Florida native and United States Air Force veteran now based in Atlanta, GA. "But I do believe it is based on cultural discrimination. I don't believe they want to see their company associated with the Hip-Hop lifestyle. The song portrays what we do in the South after we tear it down at the club. I don't speak on violence in the record. I just speak on having a good time."
Released online July 20th, the single formerly known as "Waffle House" was an instant hit on the web, generating rave reviews from influential deejays and major label A&R and impressive sales on iTunes.
"Reaction to the record jumped off a lot quicker than I expected," concedes J.R. Bricks, who had originally planned to shoot the song's official music video on location at an area Waffle House. "I was surprised by the cease and desist, but I think my label made the right moves to diffuse the situation."
The son of military parents, J.R. Bricks moved to Wiesbaden, Germany at age 10 and began his music career while in middle school and high school there. The rapper said Block Starz executives offered to change the song's title to "Waffelhaus (After the Club)" as a homage to his adopted second home, but this was also rejected by representatives at Waffle House, which produces and sells its own restaurant-themed music, over concerns the song's popularity would likely cause its "consumers to be confused."
"This reminds me of the incident with Jay-Z and Frederic Rouzaud," says J.R. Bricks, who is also nominated for "Best Southern Rapper” and "Buzz Factor" awards at the prestigious 2011 Underground Music Awards taking place on August 21st at world famous B.B. Kings in NYC. "Frederic, the owner of Cristal, said he wasn't happy with rappers associating themselves with his brand. Even the Tommy Hilfiger situation... it caused the whole Hip-Hop world to stop buying their product. These companies think Hip-Hop will put their product in a negative light [because] the Hip-Hop genre is very influential. If anything, we are giving these large corporations free promo."
J.R. Brick's "After The Club" is available from Block Starz Music on iTunes now.