lil_chuckee_web.jpgFlorida International University

MIAMI — A landmark Liberty City restaurant recently played host to a hip-hop video when up-and-coming artist Rashad “Lil Chuckee” Ballard chose Jumbo’s as backdrop for his debut solo video “Da Wop.”

“Da Wop” features catchy samples from Little Richard’s 1955 classic Tutti Frutti mixed with a strong beat and Lil Chuckee's not-quite-mature adolescent voice.

“I am so excited,” said Lil Chuckee, 16, resplendent in long braids, some tinted florescent red. “It hit me just now that it's my official single video, with just me on, just me.”

The teenage rapper was born in New Orleans, relocating to Atlanta with his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Signed by Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment, he joins a roster of artists that include Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne, himself.

Jumbo's, a Northwest Seventh Avenue restaurant known for its fried shrimp and 1950s-era décor, is not new to hip-hop.

Rick Ross shot scenes for his 9 Piece video at Jumbo’s. Born N Raised by Trick Daddy, Pitbull and Ross contained a scene in front of the restaurant featuring a cameo by Fat Joe.

“I selected the location because the song has a Little Richard sample,” said Damian Fyffe, the video’s director. Tutti Frutti was made in the ’50s and I chose Jumbo's because this place is from the ‘50s.”

Lil Chuckee agreed. “The whole concept of the video matches this place,” he said. “We thought this was the perfect place to shoot the video and we’re here now.”

“Da Wop” achieved a measure of popularity even prior to its release; an unofficial, crudely edited YouTube video of the song has received more than 43,000 hits.

“It’s a really cool choreographed dance,” said Fyffe. “It’s a mix of today’s dances and ’50s dances like the swing and Lindy hop.”

The production crew paid $2,600 to rent Jumbo’s for 12 hours, including food from the restaurant’s menu.

“It's good that it exposes my business nationally,” said Bobby Flam, whose family has owned restaurant, among the first in Miami to desegregate, for more than 50 years. “We should have more videos made here because Jumbo’s is one of a kind.”

Contact Darren Collette at

Photo: Lil Chuckee