On Culture Vultures, aka The Problem With DJ Vlad
Vladislav Lyubovny, a.k.a. DJ Vlad, is a smart guy. As a YouTuber whose video interviews have garnered almost 3 billion views, it’s safe to say the 47-year-old, Russian-Jewish former mixtape DJ has capitalized on his position in the culture.
Vlad is currently the subject of a debate over whether or not he’s as good for the culture from which he financially benefits as it has been good for him and his business interests.
A DJ Vlad boycott has been going on for just over a month, since he published a video interview with comedian D.L. Hughley.
The problem: Vlad apparently misquoted a Louis Farrakhan Fourth of July speech—but instead of apologizing for the error, he edited the misquoted statement out of the interview footage and moved on.
He’s also allegedly said that the only way he’ll apologize is if Farrakhan agrees to sit down for a VladTV interview.
As a result, several recurring VladTV contributors, including Brand Nubian rapper Lord Jamar and comedian Godfrey, have announced they will not serve as regular contributors on the site’s videos, which are monetized through an ad partnership with YouTube, where he has more than 4.2 million subscribers.
Others are voicing their disagreement with Vlad, from famous rappers like Royce Da 5’9 to viewers leaving critical comments about Vlad below his video posts.
Vlad has always had questionable morals when it comes to profiting from hip-hop in extractive ways.
If you’re thinking, “Wow, this sounds like something a startup bro would do,” you’re right. Vlad attended UC Berkeley for computer science and, unlike most Black people who appear on his platform, got a job out of college making six figures at major tech companies, according to his bio.
Vlad also received a six-figure cash settlement after Rick Ross’ crew assaulted him in Houston at the 2008 Ozone Awards, which, if nothing else, is at least an honest way to make a buck.
He’s openly admitted to bootlegging hip-hop albums when he was a mixtape DJ, but told Chinese-American rapper China Mac in a VladTV video that he stopped pirating Black music not only out of fear of legal consequences, but because, in his words, he was concerned about his reputation.
“I never aspired for my legacy to be someone who stole.”
Clearly DJ Vlad is a guest in the house of hip-hop. He’s far from the only one, but he’s one of few who’ve made so much money sharing seedy insider stories about a community of which he considers himself a member.
But who says people have to talk to him?
We won’t tell you what to do. If you want to watch VladTV, or be interviewed, do those things. But it’s not mandatory. Just like Vlad, you can start your own thing.
People can stop going on Vlad’s channels and telling on themselves. People, especially up-and-coming rappers, can stop showing up to Vlad’s set, higher than giraffe genitalia, extolling the virtues of drinking promethazine and codeine, and answering questions about the drugs they do.
People can even question Vlad about why he focuses on negativity, like Buffalo rapper Benny the Butcher did on VladTV last year.
But what people can’t do, and expect to be taken seriously, is continue to feed Vlad while they pretend to fight him. And no one should be surprised if his concessions of wrongdoing only come after he’s been guaranteed to make money.