Beleaf on YouTube Success, Leaving Music, and Ted Talks (Interview)
At about 1:45 in the afternoon on Saturday, I sit down at my desk and restart the video from Beleaf In Fatherhood titled “Stay At Home Parents Need To Be More Selfish.”
I had started it when I heard my 2-year-old daughter screaming from her room. I was able to calm her down so she could continue her nap and I could finish the video.
The irony of the situation is not lost on me, and I laughed at myself as I hit play.
I didn’t know much about Beleaf before I reached out to him to speak. I follow him on Twitter and appreciate his commentary on the news of the day. As a dad trying to navigate the world we live in today and make sure my kids love God and are set up to succeed, we hit on a lot of the same notes. But that’s the point I suppose.
I had intended to ask him about his career before and get a better understanding of his story as a whole, but he went all in on what’s happening right now. And why wouldn’t he, there’s a lot going on these days for Beleaf Melanin.
Beleaf In Fatherhood
Rapzilla: You decided after your last album to drop music and focus on home. I can appreciate that greatly, I’ve got two kids myself. What sparked the notion to start your YouTube channel?
BELEAF: I honestly started the channel because album sales weren’t good. At the time [after the release of Red Pills + Black Sugar] depression wasn’t the wave. Instagram basically told me that they liked my fatherhood pics, so instead of being the “bully rapper,” I wanted to expose the other side.
I DJ’d and rapped with Dream Junkies. Junkies is my brother-in-law John Givez, and Ruslan. I just couldn’t make the road life and family life work.
One night after a show we all piled up into an Airbnb, and everyone had already claimed a spot to sleep, so I went out and slept in the van. I was like, ‘I have a bed at home, where my family is’. The biggest stage I’ll ever have is in my living room.
R: I feel that for sure.
B: I took all my talent and skill and poured it into the channel. I still get to make songs, but for the videos. I was just spending so much energy for less return just making music.
R: For sure. It’s not like when I was coming up. You drop an album, and then three years later you drop another one. I’m working on something now, and it seems like nobody wants boom bap and slow releases anymore. They want it now; it’s that streaming/binging culture.
B: Boom bap’s not dead; everybody wants something. The most anyone might listen to your music is within the first month though. They might come back to it for a little bit in three years to remember, but that’s it. Every video on YouTube is like an album for me. I’ve probably rewatched the Office more times than I’ve listened to my last record. That tells me something.
I can do what I want when I want, and it’s freeing. The channel’s going really well and I’m about to start a new channel called ‘Frank Puppet’ based on the puppet character you can see in a lot of my videos. I’m a YouTube Creator for Change Ambassador, which is Google’s effort to make art against discrimination.
I did a TEDx talk last October that was promoted to a full-fledged TED Talk and is one of the biggest accomplishments of the year. I also put out a children’s book called It’s Bed Time Now. You’d think that I have an amazing PR team, but God is just expanding my territory. It has become a ministry to talk about black fatherhood and interact with people.
R: That’s dope man. It’s really cool to hear, he’s using you in that way. So, what does a day in your life look like?
B: Every day is a little different. There’s a lot less filming than you’d think. It’s more admin and checking in with the team I’m building and trying to negotiate brand deals for the blog. I’m trying to invest in the business and build.
R: Awesome. Yeah, it’s still the Wild West for new media – podcasts, YouTube, etc. – even though it’s been around for a decade or better.
B: Yeah, it’s crazy, and we have a huge opportunity to grow.
R: I’ll let you go, I know you have the kids. Thanks for taking the time today man, I love what you’re doing, and I’m becoming a fan for real.
B: For sure. Thanks.
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