On Monday, rap raconteur DJ Akademiks announced a partnership with rising media platform Rumble to live-stream exclusively on the platform three to five days a week. In a statement, Akademiks expressed, “I look forward to being one of the first to bring music and cultural conversations to a platform like Rumble. There have been many bad decisions at larger platforms where they haven’t put creators first, and they are disconnected from the community. I feel now is an inflection point for streaming platforms. I couldn’t be more excited to lead this effort on a platform that puts creators first.”
The Toronto-based company, which was founded in 2013, came to prominence recently after offering a platform to controversial podcaster Andrew Tate following his ban from YouTube and TikTok. The deal, for a show aptly titled Tatespeach, is reportedly worth millions. Earlier this year, the company announced an exclusive partnership with Donald Trump Jr. for a biweekly livestream show titled Triggered with Don Jr.. While some of its biggest stars are less overtly conservative, like Russell Brand or Glenn Greenwald, the site has become a haven for right-wing commentary thanks to its positioning as a counter to so-called “woke” platforms that often flag and remove content deemed to be harmful or to contain misinformation.
A Pew Research study found that 76% of people on the site “identify as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.” They surveyed 200 prominent Rumble accounts and found that 22% of them were previously banned from other sites. CEO Chris Pavlovski has said that with Rumble’s relatively hands-off moderation standards, he wants the service to differentiate itself from platforms that “embrace” so-called “cancel culture.”
In a press release about Akademiks’ acquisition, Pavlovski said, “Akademiks is one of the most influential personalities in the hip-hop and cultural world. Having him on Rumble sends a big statement to the other platforms on how serious we are in getting into different channels of content, from sports to music to culture.” The deal also exemplifies how conservative-minded hip-hop media figures have become in 2023.
Hip-hop, as a community, is more conservative than many fans would like to admit. The recent documentary, Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World showed that there are many anti-establishment artists who deftly call out white supremacy and contribute to left-leaning causes. But too many artists in the major label orbit could be read as a lyrical tao right after Mitch Mcconnell’s heart: honoring profit above all, demeaning poor people, all while espousing misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ ideas. Even more overtly, rappers have been inching closer to conservatives for many years. It may seem incongruous to see Meek Mill hanging with Trump ally Robert Kraft; Kanye West joining forces with Nazi apologists and commentators like Candace Owens; or Lil Pump campaigning for Donald Trump, but the brand of capitalist patriarchy at the root of modern conservatism has long permeated hip-hop.
Perhaps it reached a fever pitch with the former President, who symbolized much of what mainstream rappers bragged about only to reveal how those traits are entangled with fascism. There was plenty of anti-Trump motion from the rap world, but his off-color energy and economy-first ethos appealed to a segment of hip-hop fans that ultimately aren’t that concerned with much more than money and bravado.
Akademiks, who previously streamed on Twitch, embodies the conservative shock jock as a reductive, adversarial, patriarchal figure, resolute on amplifying the worst stereotypes of Black people. In his “War In Chiraq” YouTube coverage, which is still up, he called Chicago “a cesspool of coons that live and breathe like cockroaches,” said that gentrification in Chicago was necessary because the young Black people there “aren’t human,” and proclaimed “you can’t tell me the difference between ‘Chiraq’ terrorists and the ISIS terrorist group.”
And while he’s framed The War In Chiraq as his sophomoric attempt at “satire,” he’s carried that conservative pathology into his modern work. The Trump devotee, who’s said he’s “definitely” voting for Trump if he wins the 2024 Republican nomination, recently suggested to DJ Vlad that the ongoing trend of prosecutors using far-reaching RICO statutes to arrest prominent rappers is a “cleansing.” In a conversation with comedian Funny Marco, he joked that he’s the only Black person in his neighborhood and tells the cops to pull over any other Black people he sees. He’s previously been at odds with women in music, getting into tiffs with Megan Thee Stallion, Yung Miami, and SZA, calling the latter the B—- word and getting suspended from Complex.
He finger-wags rappers who live their raps yet giddily spectates their beef, earning a fortune and an immense following from his hypocrisy. His body of work has accrued him 5.2 million Instagram followers, 2.7 million YouTube subscribers, and 1.4 million Twitter followers. Outlets like Spotify, Complex, and now Rumble have partnered with him in order to tap into the immense fanbase who tuned into his Twitch stream. But while Spotify and Complex reached out to him because he has a following of rap fans, Rumble did so because he has a following of conservative rap fans.
And for Akademiks, partnering with Rumble represents a chance for expansion. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t faced criticism from within the rap world. Many rap fans took to social media to bemoan the rise of reactionary figures in rap media. Akademiks remained defiant, tweeting at one commenter that ”I made myself. Biggest platform cuz I grinded for it for 15 years no one gave me shit that’s why I can tweet at peons like u to EAT A DICK.”
Perhaps as his profile expands, Akademiks feels more like his close peer Adam22, who, on a recent episode of his podcast, pondered whether or not “people going to be dying to hear me interview underground rappers at 50,” after platforming alt-right figure Richard Spencer in March. Their interview has over 463,000 YouTube views and supportive comments like, “more of this and less 304s, anti-intellectual rappers, and fist fighting p1mps.”
A recent Media Matters for America investigation castigated No Jumper as a safe haven for people with bigoted, anti-semitic views through interviews with reviled figures such as Nick Fuentes, Richard Spencer, and members of the Nation of Islam. After his Fuentes interview, Adam 22 asked aloud, “Did I just do my part to sort of like make being racist seem chill to people?”
Unfortunately, Hip-Hop wouldn’t have become the fulcrum of pop culture without the patronage of people who don’t love it or respect its progenitors. Nothing becomes ubiquitous without becoming a little poisonous. It’s always been acknowledged that platinum plaques were buoyed by suburbanite listeners who had no proximity or understanding of the places or culture that influence the genre. They were once a largely voiceless cadre, but the growing crop of online platforms like Akademiks, No Jumper, and other prominent rap accounts create a feedback loop of engagement with corrosive content that reveals their true nature. They may like the latest new rap album, but they also romanticize Trump, demean women, and take glee in mugshots of young Black and Brown people. There are plenty of fans who may have rebelled against their right-wing parents musically but didn’t politically.
Those are the conditions that Akademiks takes advantage of as he makes millions from an art form borne from protesting systemic inequality, all while platforming and spewing ideas from the very people who sustain systems of oppression. And what’s most alarming is that for him Adam22, and other rap page admins, shifting from covering the rap world to aligning with right-wingers didn’t feel like an abrupt pivot but an eventuality from people who embody hip-hop’s worst patriarchal, capitalistic instincts. It says as much about the people who gave them their power as it does about them.