Exclusive Interview: Spoken Reasons
Spoken Reasons has been a star on the internet and well known face in the industry since late last decade. With viral YouTube videos such as "Askin' All Them Questions", "Facebook Issues", "The Haircut", and many more, JB has set the standard for internet comedy that people still strive for today. His success with internet comedy got him into Hollywood, as he had a big supporting role in The Heat, a movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in 2013, a film that grossed $229.9 million at the box office that year. I got to speak with Spoke about his come up, the industry, and any advice he'd have for young black creators. Enjoy the read, listen, or both, and soak up some game.
ML3: So...how's it going?
JB: Chillin'...chillin' man, how you doin', everything good?
ML3: Yeah, I'm doin' good, just workin'...when you first started YouTube, it was around 2009, did you expect that success that you got out the gate?
JB: Yeah...yeah, I just didn't know how it was gonna come. I mean I really blew up in 2011, and I actually started in 2008, but you know...I knew it was gonna come, I just didn't know how it was gonna come...that was pretty much the whole drift of it. So yeah, it wasn't a surprise.
ML3: Oh ok, when you started blowing up in 2011 with the "Askin' All Them Questions" video and stuff like that, you built a lot of relationships and got a lot of people into the spot...how are your relationships with those in the industry that you've worked with over the years?
JB: Um...the relationships...it's cordial, you know? It's business. That's pretty much it, you know? The entertainment industry is strictly business, it's nothin' personal. You build rapports with people, you build relationships, and then from there on, you see if you can get a friendship out of it. But you don't go into the industry looking for friendships, you go into it looking to build relationships, and the rest will follow.
ML3: After everything blew up, you got into a movie, then you went into All Def Digital, you helped build All Def Digital into what it is now. You've talked about how much you sacrificed when you did that, if you could go back, would you change anything, or would you do it the same way you did it back then?
JB: I mean...the only thing that I'd probably change is just the way I invite people, as far as going into ventures and in my surroundings, so I mean that's pretty much that. But actually, I wouldn't change anything because it's all a learning experience, I'm way smarter than I was before, I'm way wiser. So, if I hadn't have got those lessons, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I take life lessons the way they come, if it's bad, I take it and I turn it into a good, if it's good, I'm still gonna keep it positive. At the end of the day, you wish you could turn and change your situation in the heat of the moment, but when you really look back on everything, I don't take it all back because it built my character.
ML3: Okay okay, that's understandable, I've been through a lot of things where I had to look back and say that I wouldn't be who I am without this bad experience, I understand what you're sayin'...
ML3: When you started the podcast, The Spoken Truth Podcast (Unspoken Truth Radio), were you inspired by somebody? Or did you say "I need to get myself out there more than just YouTube" and things like that and decided to start a podcast as well?
JB: The podcast was just more of a transparent way to let my voice out to the people who cared about me speaking in a raw way without it being edited. Hat's the reason why I did it. I didn't really do it because it was a trend, I did it because I saw that it was out there, I've always wanted to do radio, and I've always wanted to speak to the people in a raw format. People are so used to me speaking to them as far as work, with chop edits, you know, and seeing a finished product, they never really got a chance to really see who JB is, and Spoken, when you really tune in and see him move in motion. They don't really get a chance to see me make mistakes, so that's the chance where they see the looseness happen and get a chance to really judge the man for what he is. So that's the reason why I started the podcast, and it just did it's thang.
ML3: With YouTube, getting back to YouTube, you started the internet skit and everything that the internet has gone wild with over the years. How'd you come up with that idea? Because no one was doin' it before you that I could remember.
JB: Well I wasn't the first one to do any type of comedy online, you know what I'm sayin', whoever that first person is, he needs to go ahead and jump out there and get his credit too. I don't know who it was, but I will say this, I started the wave. I started the viral wave inspiring people to wanna do it as well. It really came from the movie The Heat. When I did the movie The Heat, that took it to the next level. When I was doin' skits and everything then, it was new, a lot of people didn't have all of the confidence to do it. There was some people coming out, but a lot of people didn't really come out. But as far as the movie, the movie came out, when everyone was in attendance for it, that's when everything changed, and that's when I just seen the game just flip, just flip upside down, and started shaking everybody outta nowhere.
How I got started, honestly, I got started because the comedians wasn't lettin' me on the stage for the amount of time that I wanted to get on stage. So at the time, I was a poet, I was goin around, selling CDs for $10, I was going from state to state, city to city, I was a full bred poet, on the road, and without the internet. And then when I went home, after college, I wanted to get into the comedy brand, and when I went o the stages and tried to introduce myself, a lot of the older comics...they wasn't havin' it. They was gon' give me 5 minutes, if I even got 5 minutes at all. What people don't understand is, comedy is a fraternity, it's like a fraternity you know? Not everybody is invited into circles and not everybody is gonna be friendly and welcoming and opening to you. So that's the reason why I ran to the internet, and started a lane, started a wave that can't be taken back now. And now those same comics that were hogging the open mic nights or whatever, they're the same ones that's doin' Instagram skits, YouTube comedy, and Vines today. So at the end of the day, that's just what it is.
ML3: You went on a little hiatus 2015-16ish, what happened there? "Cause you know, as a fan, just personally, I was wondering where you went, and the YouTube views weren't the same, and I don't know how that happened, you know? Like was that an industry thing, or was that...because I don't know how YouTube works exactly, you know what I mean?
JB: It was a little bit of everything man. I took a step back to analyze the game, it was the game changing. You know when I first started, it wasn't Vine. Instagram wasn't around. Facebook videos wasn't around. I was actually one of the first ones to do Facebook videos, I started doing Facebook videos back in '07. I touched that before I went on YouTube, so I was actually on Facebook before I was on YouTube back in 2007 and 2008. So I went on a hiatus, the game changed, the algorithm changed, it's just a lot of different factors that went into it.
A lot of people think that they got the answers, and they think they know the one answer to what happened to me, but it was a little bit of everything. It was a little bit of my growth, it was a little bit of the game just changing, and it was just more so an "out with the old, in with the new" type of thing. It's just a weird situation, it's a weird thing because people have their opinions about things, but what I'm saying is the actual facts. You know, most people from the outside lookin in, they're not gonna talk about algorithms, they're not gonna talk about that. A lot of people don't even know what that is, unless they actually entertain people for a living, so the algorithm has a lot to do with your traffic, it has a lot to do with the people that view you, share you, everything. So I just got caught up into the crossfire with a lot of traffic, and yeah that was it. But as far as the views, like I said, it was that, and it was also me focusing on trying to become an actual actor. So I ha to take time out to focus on being an actor, and I had to pick and choose. It came to a point where I had to pick and choose on which one it was gonna be.
So I was focusing on building All Def Digital, the network that was built off of my back, on behalf of Russell Simmons and Steve Ripken, and also I had to audition for movies, and figure out if that was for me or not. So a lot of different factor went into it, and I was pulled away from my #1 baby (YouTube), just to see if I could try to pursue Hollywood and the acting world. I mean you can't blame me because I'm really the first one to aim that high, I'm in a #1 comedy movie in America, at the time, and people only expect me to go up,. Especially when you see someone in a movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, you expect them to be in other big movies, you know, with other A-list actors and stuff like that. That's when I had a chance to really learn the game of acting. The game of acting is a very cold place, it's a very cold world, it's very fickle, it's very up and down, it's wishy washy, and that's what they don't tell you about it. And if you really look at the history of actors, over the years...just look at the history of how many actors had big supporting roles, and how many out of 100 really made it, really made it to become stars. A lot of them didn't.
ML3: Especially black actors...
JB: A lot of them didn't, especially black actors, and that's that. The thing about it is, it was a little bit of everything that played into it (hiatus). I don't take any of it as a regretful situation or stance. The way I look at it is, who's gonna do a movie bigger than that?
ML3: Yeah, we haven't seen it yet...
JB: Yeah exactly, when you look at a movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, I mean that's already as high as it is. For that to be the #1 movie that year, in the summer, especially for comedy? Man...I've already looked at as...I took it as, look man, if you don't get anything after this, if you can't get anything bigger than this...you're blessed. And that's how I look at it. So I'm fine, you know what I'm sayin'? I'm good. I could never do another movie again honestly. I'm dead serious, I've been sayin this for years, I told myself that I could never do another movie again and I'm fine. I'm fine with clocking out with just that, because that's a high level to achieve, and most people that do movies...they can't make it that high.
ML3: Yeah, that's true...speaking of movies, I wanted to talk about how you're making your own, doing the independent film thing. Deal With The Devil came out, and then you have the movie about spoken word coming out soon too. What's it like being an independent movie maker? Like the difference of having to pay for everything yourself and you know...
JB: Well...the difference between an independent movie maker and actually going on someone's set is literally what you said. You have to pay for everything, and everything is on you. That's the thing...is it difficult? Of course it's difficult, but at the end it's very rewarding because you get all of your money, you get all of your points, you get all of your duckets. You know, a lot of people don't choose to go that route because they know that's the struggle route. But I've always been a guy up for the challenge, and that's pretty much how I attacked it, so when I went and did Deal With The Devil, I didn't even know that was gonna be a movie. It was originally supposed to be a short film, and it just turned into a film as I was shooting because it was so long.
So overall, I love the independent route because I don't have to answer to anyone, I get to move the way I wanna move. I get to write my script the way I wanna write them, and no one can tell me "Oh, take that part out", "Leave that part in." That's the thing that I had an issue with as far as being in Hollywood, it's the whole control thing. You can present your script all you want to, but at the end of the day, there's always gonna be something that they're gonna want you to take out and change. That's the issue that I had because when I left Florida and went to California, I thought I was gonna go with total freedom and total creativity, because was one of the first ones to come from the internet. And they came to me, I didn't even come to them. So I'm thinking because they came to me, that I was gonna have total leeway, but come to find out, I had to learn the hard way and I had to hit my head. So if I had to really pick one, I would most definitely pick my independent movies over that, but I'm not against doing a commercial movie as well, written by someone else. It just has to make sense, I'm not against anything as long as it makes sense.
ML3: That's understandable, as long as they're not trying to push you into doing something that you never wanted to do.
JB: Exactly, I have no issue at all.
ML3: You're gonna be on Wild N Out in May, you put that up on Instagram. Are you able to speak about that, or is it just we wait for it?
JB: I think it's something...you know, at the end of the day, that's in May, God willing we all make it to that day. I don't really know what to expect except or a bunch of roasts and stuff like that. One thing I could say is just tune in, enjoy the show, and put your seatbelts on, 'cause it's gon' be a hell of a ride. I'm comin' with my ammo.
ML3: I'm excited to because I've been waitin' for you to get back into the spotlight, you know? So, it's gon be good.
JB: Yeah, appreciate that.
ML3: Yeah, no problem. My last question is as someone who's made it, for young black creators like myself and a lot of others...what advice do you have for them, as far as the industry, and how they should move based on any mistakes or any triumphs that you've had over the years?
JB: Keep a tight circle of people that care about you, and focus on your support base of those people. And you know...be an underdog in the public, and be a pit-bull in private. That's the best way to put it, because when you're an underdog in public, people love the underdog story. People love when you're humble, you know what I'm saying? They love seein' a make it from the struggle story, for some reason. And what I mean by being a pit-bull in private is don't take no shit. Don't take no nonsense, there are gonna be plenty of vultures that are gonna try to leech off you, try to make money off you, off your fame, off your name. You gotta keep your eyes off of that and you know, stay prayed up and make sure you can fight off those demons and those people that don't have your best intention...because it's so easy to get manipulated, and they can do it in a way where you'll look back 8 years from now and say, "Damn...what happened?" It's not like taking a million dollars from underneath your nose and you see the million dollar gettin' taken away from the table. They're stealing money from you that you never thought was there.
JB: That's how that works, you know, it's not like I had $30 million then all of the sudden my $30 million is gone. no. They're taking money from you that you don't even know about.
ML3: It's like you get your check, but they hit you before you get your check, basically...
JB: Yeah exactly, they know about things...you gotta understand you're going on they're playground. They don't call LA "Sin City" for nothin'. Or not "Sin City", but they don't call it the city of lost angels for nothin'. See what I'm sayin'? Like it's the city of lost angels because there's so many people that's chasing the wrong things and livin' the wrong way, and it's so easy to get lost into that, based on the amount of spirits that you collaborate and communicate with. And it's so easy to get sucked in, and that's why so many people go to LA, they become homeless, they get chewed up, they get spat out, because they're not prepared. Before walking into a major industry, you need to make sure that you're well prepared and you know what you're goal is. f you don't have an end goal, it's gon' be very very rough for you.
I had an end goal, my end goal was just to simply get out there and see what I could do. I didn't go out there with the intentions of being an Oscar winning actor/comedian, I didn't go out there with the intentions of saying, "You know what...I'm gonna leave with $5 million", I just went out there to test-run and to see what it was all about. That's all I went out there for because I originally didn't wanna move out there anyway. I moved out there because when I did the movie The Heat, my manager told me, suggested "you move to LA to further your career". I think anybody on the planet Earth would move to LA after they finished doing a Sandra Bullock movie, you see what I'm sayin'? I think anybody in they right mind would do that at least. At least give it a try, and that's what I did, I gave it a try. So...am I in LA right now? No. Do I still go to LA? Yes. Do I stay there long? No, I just do my work and I get out.
And that's another thing too, you know, when you're in Hollywood, you gotta understand that you are the commodity, they're not. Hollywood...they have this perception amongst people make them feel like they have the sauce, they have the juice. But nah, you got the sauce, you got the juice, you know what I'm sayin'? The people gave you the sauce, the people gave you the juice. You created the sauce, you created the juice, They need YOU to put on their platform, the only thing they can come with is just money. And how do they have the money? Because they started it all and they own everything. You don't own anything, so when you're going into it, you're already going into it in a defeated position, so this is why they say play ball, play game. When Monique was going through the stuff that she was goin through, Lee Daniels stated that she didn't play the game, she didn't play ball. And that's what a lot of people say, you know, when you're amongst people in the industry, they always say build your relationships, be cordial...play the game. Because when you don't play the game, you're looked at as a Dave Chappelle, you're looked at as a rebellious individual amongst others. That's not how the game was written, that's not how it was set up. It was set up to abide by certain rules, and if you don't you're not gonna be a part of it. So I would say, even a part of my views went down because I'm somewhat blackballed. And being blackballed simply doesn't mean that you can't do stuff, it just means that you're limited of opportunities, that's all. So if you're encountered with a certain individual that don't like you, or don't like the way you move, all they have to do is make a phone call or two, ad then you won't be welcome on that platform anymore...and now 10 years from now, 5 years from now, you got people asking you, "Why aren't you on this show?", "How come you're not in this movie?", "How come you're not doin' that?". Those are the people outside lookin' in. Then it gets to a point where you get tired of answering those questions, so you just shut up, you know what I'm sayin?"
JB: So, you get tired of answerin' those questions, and you just let it ride. I got to a point where I just let the shit ride, and also I didn't really tell my story until last year when I did the "What Happened In Hollywood" (YouTube video), and this is why I'm gonna tell my story on March 2nd in Atlanta for Hollywood Unspoken. I'm gonna take it a little bit deeper than I did with the "What Happened In Hollywood" story time video.
But one thing I learned about views over time...man...views are amazing. It can make or break your brand, he world and everything else, but one thing I definitely do know...work on your core. Because when you work on your core fan base, and you spend your time working on the people that matter, it doesn't matter if you're not viral anymore, those core people are there to catch you...and that's one thing I've always had. I have FCHW (Faith, Consistency & Hard Work), I have hundreds of people, if not thousands, I don't know, but I have hundreds of people that I know that I see, with tattoos of FCHW across their bodies, and I don't even have a tattoo on my body. I don't even have not one single tattoo. Did I tell them to do it? No, I never told them to do it...
Michael Jackson was cold at one point in his life. Bill Cosby is cold right now, see what I'm sayin'? These are two big celebrities that you would've never thought would've hit rock bottom, that you would've never thought would've been cold. Now if those two guys can be cold, why are people lookin' at me like I can't? I think it's safe to say that people have ups and downs, and that's one thing that people are too afraid to admit in the industry, because people are too busy trying to fake it to make it. This is why I'm so real and transparent with my audience, because I don't want them pullin' my card on somethin' that I can't uphold...and this is why I walk through my fire. So if I don't look like a million bucks, so what? I'll look like a thousand bucks, but I'm still Spoken Reasons, I'm still JB, you not gon' disrespect me, 'cause I'm still the same person.
ML3: Yeah, you haven't changed at all.
JB: Yeah exactly, and that's that. So whether I got a million followers, whether I got 3,000 followers, I'm still gonna go down as the person I came in as, at I represented myself as, that I projected myself to be. That's all that matters at the end of the day.
It's all a matter of what your goal is too, some people's goal is money. So some people come in the game with talent, no gifts, with talent, and they just soak the game up, they get the bag and they get out. And then some people come in trying to do it for the legacy and all that other stuff, some people come in and they try to do both. I tried to do both, I tried to get the money, but I'm all about my legacy over the money. I'm all about my coins and my chips, but I've turned down a lot of movies and turned down a lot of TV shows, and I've turned down a lot of gigs...I've had roles that were just strictly right in my hand sayin, "This is for you." Meet The Blacks, Grow House, even the James Brown movie playing Little Richard. They wanted me to play Little Richard, I'm not puttin' no lip liners on my lips. You know what I'm sayin'?
ML3: Right, right, there's certain things that you just don't do.
JB: Exactly, exactly...so those are things that I never went into depth or details with, and that's that. So at the end of the day man, at the end of the day...you see people with Hollywood stories, what happened to him, 30 under 30, stuff like that...it's really about how you feel. At the end, people wanna have opinions about what they feel like you should've done...no matter what. You know Tom Brady got 6 rings and they still hatin' on him. The man done been to the Super Bowl about 9, 10 times and they still got somethin' to say. It does not matter how much success you have, people will still find something to say. So you have to ask yourself, "Am I peaceful? Am I happy? Am I good at where I'm at?" I'm good at where I'm at. I'm peaceful, see what I'm sayin'? I'm happy. I may not have looked like it with the whole Nick Cannon thing and everything, but that was just simply me defending my character. Because I'm gonna go down swingin' before anybody count me out sayin', "You fell off". Because at the end of the day when people die...they don't people they flowers while they're living, they wait until they die to put "Rest in peace" and say "You the GOAT". Nigga I wanna see the shit when I'm livin'. Give me the shit while I'm livin', I wanna see what the hell is goin' on. Give me my flowers, and I feel like that's the same thing Soulja Boy did while he was cuttin' up. He just simply let the world know, like, "I got money, I'm cool, but I'm feelin' disrespected and I want my flowers while I'm livin". People should demand and stand up for who they are. Because the last thing I need is to leave this earth and people make a fucked up biopic about me that ain't true. Let me tell my story while I'm here. So when I tell my story, and somebody wanna do somethin', the fans gonna call out and say "That ain't it! That ain't what JB said!"
ML3: Yeah, you got way too much information out there that you've said already to where someone could even try to lie on you.
JB: Exactly! So this is very important in this time, because I'm speakin' on somethin' that the celebrities and the public figures in the 90s and the early 00s and prior to that...they couldn't do that. You know? They went in for auditions, they did their movies, they did their work, and then being cut and edited the way that the industry wanted to cut and edit them. For the most part, I was in control of my image 90-95% of the time, and that's a blessing. Lord knows where I would be if I were to give my footage and give my image to people. They would've cut me up and made me look all types of ways...you know what I'm sayin', set me up for failure all types of ways. And that's one thing that's very important for independent creators, take control of your image, take control of your brand. Don't let nobody chop you up and make you look crazy out here, you make sure you stand over them, and you make sure you're presented right. Because all you have is you at the end of the day. When you ain't got no money, when you ain't got no love, and nobody is supporting and everybody walk out on you, all you have is you. just don't lose that. That's it.
ML3: Alright...thank you so much man, this is a big opportunity for me, and it was just good talking to you to be honest.
JB: All good man, I appreciate it, I appreciate you man, thank you.