YouTube is growing up. Your go-to time-suck, once better known for kiddies with Koresh-like followings and painful Gotye covers, now boasts a burgeoning ecosystem of talented and buzz-worthy entertainers. These personalities have catapulted themselves into a new milieu of fame. They command hordes of fans who fiend on each new upload like meth heads on that Heisenberg. But while the majority of YouTube’s stars continue to put out music videos, juvenile pranks and ranting vlogs (video blogs), dramatic, scripted content rarely emerges from the most popular channels.
Spoken Reasons, the uber-popular YouTuber-turned-big-screen rookie, is the exception to the rule. After uploading his first video in 2008, he’s gone from posting asinine videos with titles like “ME AND MY BROTHER BORED AS HELL” to festival-worthy 18-minute flicks. The beauty of YouTube is that the creative timeline is easily accessible, revealing an organic evolution and less a Weezy-like artistic awakening. In January, SR posted the first episode of “Relationship Games,” the first in a multi-part series, which runs fifteen minutes — a virtual eternity on the Internets. The serial drama earnestly tackles the consequences of infidelity and a certain venereal disease, while managing subtle moments of humor. And just like the herp, Spoken Reasons ain’t going nowhere. His dramatic series in the fickle world of trolling haters isn’t the only thing that separates him from the pack. This summer, he’ll make his big-screen debut in the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy cop/chick flick, The Heat. The film’s estrogen-fueled faux-feminist agenda isn’t enough to stop Spoken Reasons from proving he’s got the makings of a bona fide star.
Now managed by legendary Loud Records founder Steve Rifkind (the man in part responsible for putting on Wu Tang), Spoken Reasons is proving he’s poised for his close-up. Mass Appeal sat down with the entertainer to get his perspective on hard work, dealing with haters, and how kids these days need more heroes like Bernie Mac.
MA: How did you get your start performing?
SR: It started with poetry. I was just 19 years old. Just sitting inside my college apartment. I had just dropped out of school after doing one semester, and I decided poetry was all I wanted to do. It was pretty much my life until I discovered YouTube in 2008. I hopped on YouTube to discover other things and it went from poetry to me just being funny on there. I’ve always been funny. I’ve always been a silent class clown. I wasn’t really a goofball, but if you asked me a question, nine out of 10 times the answer was going to be funny. I kept being consistent and in 2011, it really started unfolding.
MA: When did performing become full time?
SR: I was stuck behind a rock and a hard place, whether I was going to pursue my dreams or pursue a nine-to-five. I quit my job and I went for it. I promised myself I’d upload a video twice a week until I had a video that got 20,000 views plus. I kept going at it, kept going at it. I knew once I crossed [20,000] it was going to become something else. And that’s what I aimed for — seven months, every Sunday and Wednesday I was uploading videos. Around the summer time it took a turn; [in] January 2012 it became a whole ‘nother picture, that’s when I got the movie role and shot it.
MA: What’s your relationship with your audience like? It’s different for a YouTube entertainer, right?
SR: It’s very hands-on. A lot of entertainers don’t talk to their fans. I make sure that I am very vocal about what I stand for. I blew up by being myself. I didn’t blow up being somebody else. I’m just being me. I know what my fanbase likes. They like to hear the truth. They know they can get that from me. I can do pretty much anything in my career and they’ll accept it.
MA: Haters — you must have some, right?
SR: With success comes the haters. It could be people inside your circle. I’ve learned how to deal with it. There was one point in time where I couldn’t take the comments. But I have a very thick skin; you gotta take it for what it is. Regardless what they say about you, no matter what they say, good and bad is good at the end of the day. If people aren’t talking about you, you’re in bad shape.
MA: Not many people can pull off scripted drama on YouTube — that was ballsy. How’d you know you could do it?
SR: This goes back to the relationship I have with my fans. My success started growing rapidly when I started uploading relationship topics. It could be about anything — a girl cheating, a guy not pleasing her. I’ve gotten a lot of success based off relationship topics. That’s been one of my main killers of all my material. After I shot The Heat I went home and wrote a script because, you know, if I’m in a major film, it’s only right for me to become motivated and write something like that. It was worth the risk. If people can watch a movie for an hour and a half, then why can’t they watch a short film for 18 minutes online? People are afraid of dropping longer material online. You hear fans saying, “I’m not going to watch this, it’s seven minutes long!” But if it’s good quality and good content, they are always going to be around no matter what.
MA: Talk about coming from YouTube. Do you think there’s a certain perception?
SR: The perception of YouTube has been changing since 2007. As kids start to get older, kids who grow up with iPhones and Androids, the perception doesn’t matter. It only matters to those that are 25 or older. They come from an analog era. Kids can’t even tell you what a cassette tape looks like. Kids see people on the Internet as real-life celebrities. I feel like if you’re 25 or under, then the perception doesn’t matter.
MA: Where does the inspiration for your material come from?
SR: I don’t know everything, but I tell people I know a lot. But I haven’t been through everything.
SR: I’m very observant. I’m around people all the time who have plenty of issues. I just take their story, write it and put a creative twist on it. A lot of people right now are playing with fire. The youth needs more heroes. When I was growing up I had heroes. I just want to be a hero.
MA: Who are your heroes?
SR: Tupac. God. Bernie Mac.