A dispute over a 2016 music video shoot has landed “1-800-273-8255″ rapper Logic in an unlikely beef with a historic ship in Brooklyn, and offered a rare peek into the making of a “no budget,” guerrilla-style music video by a major label signee.
The video is “Super Mario World,” a track from Logic’s 2016 mixtape Bobby Tarantino. The ship is the Mary A. Whalen, an almost 80-year-old oil tanker off the coast of Red Hook, Brooklyn operated by a small nonprofit group, PortSide New York. In July 2016, PortSide leader Carolina Salguero tells Spin (as first reported by IndieWire), she was approached by two men and a friend wearing a Mario character costume who asked to shoot video aboard the ship for a high school project.
The moment was captured at the very end of the “Super Mario World” video, when a man in a Mario suit calls up to Salguero on the ship’s deck. “I’m doing a summer school project for Super Mario,” the costumed man says. “I was wondering if we could film something on your boat.”
Salguero, who describes herself as out of touch with pop culture, says she didn’t even recognize the costume as a Nintendo character. “I wouldn’t have known Logic if he stepped on my toe,” she says. “I thought, he’s a high school kid, and probably the costume character’s a high school kid.” Logic, who’s now 28, would have been 26 at the time of the video. The third member of the group was a videographer with a few gray hairs; Salguero assumed he was the father of one of the students.
Salguero asked the group for the name of their high school, and she remembers being surprised to hear the answer: Glen Cove, some 30 miles away on Long Island. But PortSide regularly hosts school groups and vocational training on the ship, so the idea of a father and son driving out to visit didn’t seem terribly far-fetched. “I like helping kids, and I’m a trusting person,” Salguero says. After reaching a verbal agreement that the ship would receive credit in the video, she says, she allowed the trio on board. She and others on board that day as part of a union-sponsored job training program even danced for the camera.
That afternoon, Salguero fired off a follow-up email to an address provided by the videographer, Justin Fleischer. “The agreement is that you got to shoot the video here in exchange for giving us a copy of it and agreeing to give us credit,” she wrote in an email reviewed by Spin. “Please also send an explanation of what this is!”
“Super Mario World” was posted to YouTube the following month, with a credit Salguero provided included in the caption: “Special thanks to historic ship MARY A. WHALEN, home of PortSide NewYork. … with dancing staff from PortSide and apprentices from District Council 9 trainee program.” Salguero didn’t see the video until some time after that, when she heard something surprising from a man who owned a boat docked nearby: His son had spotted his dad’s boat—and the Mary A. Whalen—in a Logic video.
Salguero had never heard of Logic, and when she learned he was a rising star with a Def Jam contract, she wasn’t happy. PortSide offers the Mary A. Whalen for professional shoots in hopes of generating extra revenue for its nonprofit mission, but because Salguero believed the Mario team were high schoolers, she’d allowed them to film for free. She was even more annoyed to find that the final cut of “Super Mario World” included the footage of her first interaction with the man wearing the costume. “This galls me,” she says. “Putting your lie in your commercial project… I don’t know what they are thinking. It’s brazen.”
In December 2016 Salguero emailed Fleischer again, seeking a $5,000 donation to PortSide in lieu of a location fee. Fleischer passed her request to a representative for Logic’s management company, Visionary Music Group.
“In full transparency this was a no budget video shoot,” Visionary’s rep replied, according to emails reviewed by Spin. “UMG [Universal Music Group] Def Jam, Logic’s label handles all budgets for his video shoot and we can revisit a cost in the new year. Their offices are closed until early January. We are confident we can get some funds your way.”
The last she heard from Logic’s team was January 2017, Salguero says. A year later, the rapper’s star is on the rise: “1-800-273-8255″ reached #3, and Logic performed it live at the 2018 Grammy Awards. In recent weeks, Salguero began speaking out the only other way she could think of: on social media, tagging Logic in her tweets.
As the controversy bubbled up online, viral-video comedian George DeNoto identified himself as the actor in the Mario costume and released a statement on Twitter. “This has NOTHING to do with me,” DeNoto wrote. “No one was trying to lie to avoid anything, we all figured it would be funny for the video to act like i was filming a school project, and figured that the people who own the boat, that 1) agreed to allow us to use it, 2) never mentioned any price at the time: would be elated, happy, and proud … No one there was aware of any ‘5000$’ payment to use a boat for 5 minutes.”
Salguero says PortSide is under financial strain from losses incurred during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and that she’s still hoping to collect the donation. “After this, we are definitely looking for a location manager,” she says. “I’m not going to get caught in this again.”
Requests for comment to Logic’s representatives at Def Jam and Visionary Music Group, as well as Justin Fletcher and George DeNoto, have thus far gone unanswered. We’ll update if we hear back.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the last time Salguero heard from Logic’s representatives was December 2016; in fact, it was January 2017.