What Happens When the Line Between Hip-Hop Journalist & Online Personality Becomes Blurry?
No Jumper’s Adam22 and DJ Akademiks practice music journalism — although they’re not music journalists. So the two are not tied to any of journalism’s ethics or standards, allowing them a freedom in their coverage that can lead to messy results.
On September 14, 2018, media personalities Adam22 and DJ Akademiks were slated to come together for a live hosting of the No Jumper podcast in New York City. The event never occurred. Neither one of them offered an explanation on its cancelation, although the two have interacted with each other since. The planned pairing is indicative of their roles as popular online figures in contemporary rap music.
Although Adam22 and DJ Akademiks practice music journalism they’re not music journalists — as some fans have falsely described the pair. The two not tied to any of its ethics or standards, allowing them a freedom in their coverage and how they navigate the media landscape that their corporate rap media counterparts don’t have. As a result, they’ve managed to carve a niche space for themselves in rap media.
Originally a Tumblr blog, No Jumper was transformed into a podcast in 2015. The series finds Adam22 interviewing online and public figures alike, although it’s primarily known for its interviews with rappers. No Jumper has had countless popular interviews but the most notable was with XXXTentacion in 2016, which was the rapper’s first long-form interview.
Since then, No Jumper has amassed more than two million subscribers on YouTube. In March 2018, Adam22 announced that he partnered with Atlantic Records to create No Jumper Records, and shared the first release from the label — “Hard” by Tay-K and Blocboy JB. He also hosts monthly live concert series at the Los Angeles music venue Echoplex that often features up-and-coming rap artists and producers.
Akademiks is now known as one of the co-hosts for Complex’s Everyday Struggle series, but he already had an online following before that. In 2015, The Daily Dot called him “hip-hop’s one-man TMZ,” “putting forward a brand that is passionate enough about rap to pay attention to its gossip and minutiae.”
Akademiks blends the provocateuse of fellow media personalities Charlamagne Tha God and DJ Vlad with the flamboyant tone of gossip sites like Bossip and Media Take Out; his AkademiksTV Instagram profile encompasses short videos from contemporary rappers, quotes from prominent black artists and entertainers, and more. The profile has almost two million followers while his Twitter, which provides everything from projected album sales to comedic quips about music headlines, has over one million followers.
Internet troll culture informs how Adam22 and Akademiks navigate their respective platforms although it’s more notable from the latter. Akademiks’ posts on Instagram are meant to evoke intense responses from those engaging with his page, posting questions to the latest rap news headlines that receive countless reactionary answers.
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On his YouTube profile, which has over 2.1 million subscribers, he delivers his opinions on rap gossip and news with unfiltered bravado, sardonically using contemporary rap slang to discuss topics. The execution is messy but effective, Akademiks’ disregard for nuance making for the same inflammatory responses he receives on Instagram, speaking to his fanbase in a way that’s conversational, humorous, and unfiltered.
Where Akademiks addresses contemporary rap’s most sensationalist moments, Adam22 provides a platform for its most prominent figures — and lesser known artists — to speak on themselves. The interviews vary from insightful to mundane depending on who the guest is. Adam22 has had everyone from XXX and Tekashi 6ix9ine to Ghostface Killah and Too $hort. For first-time guests, it’s usually an introduction into who they are artistically and personally. For recurring guests it feels more familiar, the pair catching up with each other since their previous interview.
As an interviewer Adam22 isn’t compelling or distinct. At times he can be insensitive or unconcerned with his guests, as was the case when he recently asked Cuban Doll about a rap lyric from Tadoe, her ex who allegedly assaulted her. He’s an enabler at times, too, failing to police or confront an artist when they’ve said something that’s undeniably offensive. This happened during his interview with XXX, where the rapper referred to a gay man he was in juvenile detention with as a homophobic slur. In response to hearing the word, Adam22 only asked for clarification on if the man was gay and didn’t even seem to try to hold XXX accountable for saying the slur.
Overall, Adam22 is aloof and safe, presenting himself as the beer-drinking, weed-smoking rap media personality who you can shoot the shit with.
“There’s all these artists — $uicideboys$, Pouya, and a lot of these guys that I got a lot of attention interviewing early on and realizing ‘Oh damn, there’s nobody in the hip-hop media paying attention to this,'” Adam22 said of creating No Jumper in an interview with VladTV. “Now, it’s much more normal for you to see all these hip-hop media companies covering really underground artists but at the time I didn’t feel like anybody was doing it so that’s what really incentivized me to get into it.”
Adam22 and Akademiks’ approach in running their independent media entities are different but they’re similarly grounded in their focus on rap’s current generation. Where the former contextualizes the latter sensationalizes, and both have built up such a large following that they’re viewed as legitimate figures in music journalism by the general public. Without abiding by any journalistic protocol the pair has been able to use their main platforms to monetize their online brands in other ways while simultaneously blurring the line between their media and personal personas.
This is why Akademiks can have an alter ego by the name of Lil AK, a parody of contemporary rap that’s basically an extension of his online satirical persona. Or why Adam22 can share videos of himself engaging in sexual acts with his girlfriend and other women. There’s a messiness and sensationalism to it all that results in what Adam22 and Akademiks want most from their content — virality.
However, both Adam22 and Akademiks have found themselves in troubling situations as a result of this blurring. Recently, The Daily Beast published an article where several women accused Adam22 of sexual misconduct ranging from preying on underage girls to rape. Included in the story is Lauren Duck, a woman Adam22 interviewed on No Jumper. Duck recounted how after the interview she hung out with Adam22 and his girlfriend Lena the Plug and stayed at their place where they all proceeded to have sex.
Duck doesn’t accuse Adam22 of raping her in the article but she claims he filmed them having sex and that he showed people footage of it without her consent.
“I filmed like 8 seconds of us having sex, she 100% knew I filmed it and I didn’t distribute it in any way although at some point she got the idea that I was ‘selling’ it,” he said in response to the accusations in that same article.
Adam22 and Lena then released a video responding to Duck, reiterating that she knew he was recording them having sex. However, he does admit to showing the video to “one or two of my friends at most.” (The now-deleted response video to Duck was posted to his personal YouTube page.)
Since The Daily Beast’s story was published, Atlantic Records has parted ways with Adam22, although he claims his deal ending with the label “wasn’t really based on the accusations.”
Akademiks has found himself wrapped up in Tekashi 6ix9ine‘s federal indictment because of his proximity to the rapper. Akademiks interviewed 6ix9ine in November last year, where the rapper offered his account of his 2015 sexual misconduct case. The case revolved around several videos that showed an underage girl sitting naked on 6ix9ine’s lap and engaging in other activities with him and another man. The rapper was charged with the use of a child in a sexual performance and plead guilty to the charge as well.
From there, the two’s relationship seemed to transform into a friendship. From IG live videos of the pair dancing to Soulja Boy and BlocBoy JB to their parodying of 6ix9ine’s viral interview on The Breakfast Club in March this year, two of rap’s most notorious trolls had banded together.
Akademiks’ satirical persona became distorted as he seemed to transform into 6ix9ine’s PR machine, creating videos about anything pertaining to the rapper. His jewelry purchases; his feuds in Los Angeles, Minnesota, and San Antonio; his feuds with other rappers like Trippie Redd, Vic Mensa, and YG. 6ix9ine was already an omnipresent force on the internet but Akademiks only proliferated that, adding to the chaotic and unruly mythos surrounding the rapper.
Last month, 6ix9ine was arrested on federal racketeering and firearms charges — including conspiracy to murder and armed robbery — and faces 32 years to life in prison. As news of the arrest circulated so did a report claiming that Akademiks was a confidential informant in the case against 6ix9ine, which he denied. Still, prosecutors have used videos from Akademiks’ social media profiles during the case.
Adam22 and Akademiks have become two of rap’s leading voices in media, their rise as independent platforms parallel to the rise of underground and SoundCloud rappers that have come to define contemporary rap. But like the rappers they cover, there’s a messiness and unruliness to the pair that adds to their appeal and has contributed to them becoming internet stars in their own right. But it seems to be catching up with them — more than they may realize.