Without Poo Bear, Justin Bieber wouldn’t be the world’s biggest pop star he is today. The singer and vocal producer has co-written some of Bieber’s biggest hits including “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean?” He also co-wrote Usher’s “Caught Up,” a standout record from the Atlanta singer’s Diamond-certified album Confessions. Now, Poo Bear is diving into a new venture: Black Star Burger in the heart of Fairfax. The selling point is that each consumer eats their burger with black gloves.
The brand was founded by Russian rapper Timati, who’s been described as the “Drake of Russia.” The Black Star chain has about 25 locations in and surrounding Moscow, promoted and backed by Timati’s 14.9 million followers on Instagram. The first U.S. outpost of the restaurant carries all the attributes of your favorite casual burger joint, equipped with multiple TVs, a bar and out-of-this-world desserts.
L.A. Weekly caught up with the nine-time Grammy-winning artist otherwise known as Jason Boyd, a few days after the release party for Justin Bieber’s new project at Black Star Burger to discuss his appetite for something different.
How did you become part-owner of Black Star Burger?
Initially, I flew to Moscow in January of 2013 to work with an artist named Timati (Egor Kreed), who’s a part owner of the burger chain. I wrote about 12 songs in eight days. After a few years went by, the partners wanted to build a studio in L.A. as well as a burger joint. Always looking to expand, they’ve got a car wash, barbershops, hair salons, tattoo parlors, electric car racing and even toothpaste in Russia.
Everything’s Black Star?
Everything. Anything you can think of, they have Black Star. I thought, “Wow, I’d love to be a part of this movement and the rest of the world.” We came up with a cool agreement. They provided me with the studio in Studio City, which is cool because I’ve never had anybody build me a studio and fuck with me that much. On top of that, they wanted to open a Black Star Burger here, and make me a partner in that. Everything that’s going to be Black Star in North America, I have a partnership in.
Ironically, I don’t eat meat. It’s been 10 years since I’ve eaten meat, which is strange to be a part-owner of a burger spot. But we have amazing vegan burgers. I never thought as a kid I’d be a part-owner of a burger spot, that was never a dream.
How much involvement do you have?
We’re equal partners for the most part. Enough for me to want to come to work every day and really send as many people to Black Star Burger as possible. The goal is of course to do a couple more in L.A., then Vegas, Miami, New York, Qatar, Saudi Arabia.
Food and music are two senses I feel are universal. To be able to be a part of peoples’ taste buds with a burger, then be a part of their series of emotions by way of melodies and words, it’s really a dream to be able to deliver that. When I was a kid, I definitely didn’t see this in my future.
As a kid, did you think you’d be one of the greatest songwriters?
I didn’t. When my dad was in my life until I was 8, I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music or worldly music. Because my dad was a preacher, I grew up in a real religious household. I’d sneak and listen to Stevie Wonder, feeling like I was going to get in trouble. When my parents divorced, this tornado came, and we were homeless for a while. I had to be the man of the house, I had to do something to provide for my mom.
We started over in Atlanta, the church was able to get my mom $4,000. Atlanta was the New York of the South. Everyone from Another Bad Creation and all these kid groups were coming out of Atlanta in 1990. It inspired me because I was 10 moving to Atlanta, seeing other kids like Kris Kross and the boys. I started my own little kids group and signed my first record deal when I was 12. We got taken advantage of course but from there, I was writing, engineering, producing. I was doing everything.
I definitely didn’t see myself as being one of the biggest songwriters in the world. Once I found out who Diane Warren was, she’s definitely my inspiration. I wanted to be on her level. I’m a Virgo, I’m super realistic. I wanted to be a great songwriter, but I didn’t know I’d become what I’ve become now.
Do you guys have a mean spicy chicken sandwich?
We do. I’m not sure what drug they put in our chicken sandwich, but it’s definitely addictive. When they started comparing sandwiches to Chick-fil-A… see, I’ve never had any of that. I’m not sure what Chick-fil-A puts in their sandwiches to make people go crazy but when people start comparing chicken sandwiches to Chick-fil-A, that’s serious.
What’s the significance in the black gloves?
That’s an amazing vision our head chef created. When you eat a really good burger, whether it’s vegan or beef, it’s supposed to be sloppy. Instead of using so many napkins and for the environment too, we save trees. You don’t have to worry after every bite, “let me wipe my hands.” That doesn’t make sense to do it nine times.
It’s brilliant. People have tried to steal our concept in Japan, but it’s cool. Everybody would definitely cut down on unnecessary use of paper if you use gloves. It’s something to talk about and I love being a part of new things that haven’t been done before. The gloves are really the icing on the cake, and we have an unlimited amount.
Can you talk about your dessert menu?
In addition to vegan ice cream we’ve got drill cream. Drill cream is made with a machine that drills different flavors into the ice cream. Like the butter cake from Mastro’s or a chocolate chip cookie. We’d take a batch of soft chocolate chip cookies and drill them into the ice cream machine, that way every bite has cookie in it.
What’s your favorite flavor?
The Black Star special drill cream can have Cinnamon Toast Crunch in it. We change them up. I’ve even tried to add beignets from New Orleans. Yup, drill it into the ice cream. Every bite’s a good time.
You mentioned earlier music and food, what music are you playing at Black Star Burger?
It’s definitely hip-hop. I’m sure our playlist is some streaming platform’s playlist, but it’s cool. Music definitely adds to everything, because everywhere you go, there’s a soundtrack to your life going. So it’s important.
You have friends in town and they’re going to Black Star Burger — what should they order?
I’m not vegan because I love all cheeses. I want to clear that up. Maybe not blue cheese, that reminds me of what it is — mold. Whether it’s a vegan burger, regular burger, or the chicken sandwich, get it “Poo Bear style,” which comes with grilled pickled onions, all of the cheeses, diced mushroom sauce and pickles on a toasted buttered bun. Choose your own sauce, barbecue or vegan pink sauce.
I’d recommend the fried cheese balls, they’re life-changing. If you’re trying to watch your carbon intake, I’d recommend California-style, on lettuce. As much as I don’t eat French fries, I’ll have a wedge fry and a half. Our sweet potato waffle fries are amazing.
How often do you eat at Black Star?
When people come into town, I make it a point to have meetings there. I find myself there two or three times a week. I don’t gain any weight because I’m not eating any bread. It’s a cool environment, it’s amazing to offer people a new burger outside of their typical burger spots. Hopefully, the brand will continue to grow.
If you’re at the crib and you’re craving some Black Star, do you Uber eats?
I take it a step further. I’ll call the manager and tell him “I’d like a Poo style burger.” It’s a form of Uber Eats, but we skip the eats. We cook it and I just straight Uber. I can literally have food to my house in 16 minutes. They got the burgers down to two minutes, fresh burgers. No microwave, none of that. The Uber’s one minute away and it’s 11 minutes to get to my house.