Let’s clock the tea from the top: if you don’t know Qaadir (a.k.a. Timaya), you don’t know one of the true pioneers of fierce, funny vlogging. Qaadir stormed onto a young, crude YouTube landscape over 6 years ago, and the impression he’s left on it since has been considerable. He has irrevocably changed the way many YouTubers–both gay and straight–tell stories and interact with their viewers. Qaadir’s channel is the admitted progenitor for Kingsley’s channel, his work has been shouted out by Shane Dawson, and he has had characteristically uproarious videos featured on “Tosh.0” and been singled out by Wendy Wiliams. Qaadir is a YouTube original that has influenced well-known contemporaries and budding YouTube bloggers alike, even if he doesn’t always get the credit or recognition he deserves for it. One of the reasons: Qaadir is dedicated solely to being Qaadir. Even while his YouTube channel has seen its ups and downs, Qaadir has stayed the course in terms of what he wants to put out, when he wants to put it out, and how he’ll go about promoting it. In that way, Qaadir is the epitome of the original YouTube spirit – a unique, smart, funny, talented creator that puts out his art independent of YouTube network analytics and branding. Read on to learn exactly what makes Qaadir uniquely Qaadir.
Tell me one famous celebrity that you think it would be really cool to have lunch with.
Qaadir: Lauryn Hill, because I’m a huge fan of hers, and if I had to pick one person to sit down and pick their brain it would be her.
Do you want Lauryn Hill back when she was in The Fugees or do you want the crazy, cracked out Lauryn Hill of today?
[laughs] I want Lauryn Hill Fugees and “Miss Education” Lauryn Hill. So, “Doo Wop” days and “Killin’ Me Softly” days I would love. Even her cracked out days–I don’t care–I love Lauryn. I feel that if you’re a fan then you’re a fan. Unless she said something out of the way to me, like derogatory. But the point is that if she said something out of the way to me, I would be crushed because I wouldn’t expect that from her. I would even want to sit down and get her back on top, like writing music for her. Not that she needs my help, but the point is that Lauryn Hill to me is the bomb diggity, no doubt for sure. It would have to be her.
How’s your move been? You’ve just come from Georgia, and now you’re in Southern California.
Right. It’s been amazing, I think. Some hiccups here and there and some turbulence, but to me that’s normal, and that’s to be expected. I want to say that I was prepared. I mean, you can only be so prepared for something that you’ve never done. I think as much as I could be prepared, I am or I was. I’m not fully there yet, but I’d say so far Cali has been amazing to me–the people that I’ve been meeting and the different opportunities that I have been presented–so I can’t complain.
Why’d you move?
Well, because what I’m doing in my career I feel like this is the place to be. I feel like I took it as far as I could in Atlanta. It was just that time. Mind if I tell you? Years ago, I did a drag show, and it wasn’t my cup of morning joe, but at the same time one of the judges told me something that stuck with me. When I came out, I sang live and I went out and did my drag lip sync whatever. I didn’t win, but the person who did I felt like she deserved it, so I’m not going to hate, but the judge at the end, she said, “What’s your name?” I said, “My name or the drag name?” She said, “What’s your name?” I said, “My name is Qaadir.” She said, “Well, Qaadir, you need to leave Atlanta.” I said, “What?” She said, “What you’re doing, the way you’re trying to do it, you’re bigger than this. Here it’s this, and you need this. You either need to go to L.A. or New York; that’s where you need to be.” So after that, I said, “L.A.” There were some detours in between; I moved to Jersey with my grandfather at one point and this, that, and the forth whatever. But that stuck with me. She may not know this, but that’s one of those things that kind of stuck with me to kind of help me make the decision.
You need a bigger stage.
Yeah, don’t get me wrong; a lot of cool opportunities happened in Atlanta, but I feel that even just since me being here going different places and people not knowing who I am and what I do–all I said to one woman was, “Oh girl, your hair is fabulous,” and we started talking, and she says, “You are a star. I have some friends–like some real friends–that you need to meet, and we need to make some things happen with you.” This woman doesn’t know me from Adam. My mom says that when these things happen that’s the universe giving you confirmation that you made the right decision, you know?
Shane Dawson’s been a big fan of your work.
He definitely has been supportive and has given me multiple endorsements in support of my work, whatever what have you. Definitely in that regard, I have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s been very supportive of what I do. Anyone who shows me love in reference to my art and what I do is going to get love from me, because that’s just the way it is. Lil’ Kim said it best: “Show love.” That’s what a real mom does.
In the past, different YouTube studios have reached out to you. What was your reaction?
I’ve gotten, in the past, some things, but the things that I’ve gotten, to me–and it’s absolutely no shade on them–but I’ll just say to me, personally, they weren’t as reputable as the last two companies that I mentioned to you earlier. I don’t think they were reputable. Well, let me not even say that, because it makes it seem kind of sketchy. Let me put it like this: I feel like everybody has to start from somewhere, and these companies were starting here, and I suppose if I wanted to take a chance and I believed in what they were doing 100%, then I could have started with them, and we could have just went up together. At the time, I just wasn’t comfortable enough to make that leap with anyone who was on my level. I know it sounds bad, but it’s honest. I just wasn’t comfortable in making that leap. But I’ve definitely gotten other offers, but nothing on the level of the last two I was talking about.
You’ve now signed a contract with Full Screen. Before that, what were some of the fears that you had about signing a contract with a network? What would happen?
You want to know something, honestly? We kind of talked about it earlier behind the scenes, but one of my main things is what you touched upon earlier, and I was like, “Oh my god, you’re killin’ me softly as Lauryn Hill,” because it’s like you’re saying things that–we’ve talked about this already. The thing is: one of my major concerns is number one, I don’t want to lose the integrity of what I do. I kind of feel like the bigger you get, the more demands: we need you to post three times a week, we need these videos, we need that, whatever what have you. I think that when you do that you lose something because it’s not organic. Don’t get me lying; I understand that no matter what, you’re going to have to bend a little no matter who you sign with. But just off of me seeing other people who have signed these contracts and other people who have kind of gotten big, the proof is in the pudding. You can just slowly see the descent; it’s kind of like they were here, and their content was funny, and you wanted to watch them; and suddenly, it becomes too–as they would say–“Hollywood.”
Too commercial. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t even mind the commercial aspect. Here’s why I don’t like it: I feel bad because I feel like this is going to bite me in the ass just because then one day you’re going to click on my video, and I’ll be like, “Hi! Oh my god, I love this Lipton tea!” That’s scary. That’s the main thing. The second thing is I want to work two jobs. Here’s the thing: when you feel like you have to depend on making money through these people, that’s when you compromise yourself more because you feel like “This is how I’m eating; if I don’t do this, then I’ll be on the street. I won’t be making money.” When you have other sources of income coming in–and it’s not like you need them per se–you can kind of stick to your guns more without having to compromise the integrity of the content, the organic natural feeling of it–however you want to call it. You don’t have to compromise that because you are making other money outside of that. Those are my main two concerns: losing control of what I’ve worked on all these years–I want to keep it organic, and I don’t want to lose the integrity–and I also don’t want it to feel like if I don’t do exactly as I’m told, then I’ll be in a vulnerable position. Those are my main concerns. I’m sure there are little other things, but those are the main.
I think it’s brilliant to have two jobs, because it makes sure that you’re not so hungry to where you feel like you have to kick down walls and do whatever it takes for that first job.
But don’t get me lying. I feel like I don’t want to come off as I’m high and mighty and be like, “Oh, don’t do this!” I’m human, I’m still young, and I’m still learning. Like my mom said, I’m going to make mistakes on this journey we call life. But at the same time, at this point right now as I’m talking to you, I feel like that’s where I’m mentally right now. Tomorrow, something can happen–god forbid–but something could happen where I feel pressed to sign this contract. Not even sign this contract, but to just how they say “Sell out.” That’s so depressing; I don’t even want to think about that. It’s like, girl, the day that happens I don’t even want to do videos anymore. Let me just get a regular job and be happy and travel the world and do this as a hobby where it’s not even a big deal.
How did you first get started on YouTube?
Years ago. I think I started at 17, and I’m 23 now. May as well say 24, because time flies. It just feels like I turned 23, but anyway. I had heard about YouTube, and it was like, “Girl, if you want to see anything, if you want to see that performance, just go on YouTube.” Like, “What the fuck is YouTube? Like ‘you’ and then ‘tube?’” I went, and I’m like, “This could be a sketchy website.” That’s why people always ask me, “How did you come up with the name Timaya?” I wanted to put my name, but I said, “If this is a sketchy site, I don’t want my name blasting.” So of course, I put my daughter’s name, or my dog, like that’s any better–leave her holding the bag. But yes, I named it “Timaya” because I didn’t want to put my name on a site that I really did not know if it was reputable. Like, “Is this a porn site, and I just didn’t know it?” Then, next week, somebody was going to be like, “Qaadir, you’re doing porn now?” You don’t know! So I’m like, “No ma’am, Miss Pam,” so I put “Timaya.” I started off doing nothing but singing videos. People don’t know. I guess the height of what I did was when I started telling my stories about my life, but music has always been the forefront. In the beginning, I was singing Whitney songs. Just random things. Girl, I looked such a hot mess–just thinking about it. Oh shit, I used to look like a fucking fool! But I mean, it is what it is. I like it because it shows the growth of what I’ve been doing. I love it for that reason, but I’m not going to lie: some of those hairdos, bitch, don’t get me lying. Some of those costumes, well, they weren’t costumes, but I’m calling them costumes now because they were a fucking wreck; they were ratched. Back then, it was a getup for real. It is crazy because I thought I was so fabulous, like “Girl, yes!” That’s how I started: doing my music, singing, and then it just naturally progressed into what it is now.
I think you were 100% fabulous throughout.
He’s [Alan] just very kind. He’s just a nice guy.
No, I’m being honest. There are a lot of YouTube artists that I’m not a fan of. Your channel is very much you. So, you’ve also done original songs; where do you get the ideas and concepts for these songs?
You want to know something, honestly? I know that this may sound cliché, or I don’t know how this is going to sound, but the truth is that life in general is the inspiration. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true. Creative people to me bounce off of creative people, if that makes any sense. Just doing this and to me the energy I get off of this, I can write about the fact that we came here. When it comes to my music, I can go on and on, so let me try to funnel it. When it comes to my music–I don’t know if you listen to my music–it runs the gamut from rap to pop to house to R&B soul. Some of my lyrics are very abstract, and you have to know my lingo to really kind of understand it. Or maybe if you read the lyrics you’ll get an understanding of what I’m coming from. Even when I write my goofy lyrics, it means something if you read into what I’m saying. The “Duck, The Crab, The Shrimp (The Lesser Girls)”–all of it means something. People are like, “Oh my god, these lyrics are funny.” It’s funny, but it got your attention, and you’re getting into the message. I want you to be able to have a good time and dance, but I also want you to get into these lyrics. The point is that anything can be the inspiration. Just like something like this: us sitting down having a conversation just talking about being creative. If I had my studio here like I had in Georgia, I’d want to go back and just write about–I don’t fucking know–like the photo shoot. I could write about this fucking– [holds up shaker with fine brown granules in it]
Whatever that is.
Whatever the hell that is–cinammon, brown sugar. What is this? It smells like wood, honestly.
Let’s call it “paprika.”
OK, paprika? I could write about anything. Like I said, my music is my most personal thing. That is my true passion above all of it. Above all of what people think I do, that is my passion. Don’t get me to lying; I love acting, and I love everything else, but music is therapeutic to me because it’s like a diary of whatever I want to talk about. All the people may not get it–I think because it’s real, it’s raw, and no matter whether I’m writing–sometimes I’m writing on other people’s experiences from my perspective. Then other times I’ll write directly from my perspective, and I think that whether gay, straight, white, black, Muslim, Christian, atheist, whatever, it doesn’t matter. If you write about something that’s real, it’s universal. I think everybody on some level knows what it’s like to be in love, knows what it’s like to be in those beginning stages, knows what it’s like to be heartbroken, knows what it’s like to be upset–just all of these things that are very universal. If you write about them correctly, people will be attached because it’s real, and it came from a true place versus somebody just writing. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hating on other people but I feel when you have to sit down and write it yourself it’s almost like when somebody gives you something, and it’s like you appreciate it but not the same way when you actually go out and do it yourself. When you have to spend your own money on this shit, it’s like, “Girl, I’m so sorry, girl. You can’t eat in my car.” Girl, don’t do this and do that, because it’s your shit. When you’re writing the lyrics, it’s like your child. You can see the idea, and it’s real; it’s a part of you. Somebody told me–which I guess I’ll entertain the idea now–somebody told me, “Why don’t you get your foot in the door by writing for other people? The way you write, why don’t you write for other people?” But at the time, I was like, “No, these are my babies! Can’t nobody sing it like me!” Please! You got a check? Keeping it real. I’m not going to lie. I know some people that are like, “Girl, you’re selling out. You’re selling your lyrics.” Girl, I got to eat. You’re going to pay these bills? I still like to think that’s being organic, because the lyrics are real. I’m just selling the song. Rihanna…holla! I’m so goofy. We’ll be here all damn day fucking with me. I’m just keeping shit real.
Have you been a part of the genderfuck scene and the drag queen scene? Are you influenced by it? I think I’ve seen some ball dancing influence in some of your songs.
The genderfuck thing is new to me. This is my first hearing of that. This is the first time I’m hearing of it. One of my recent songs on the “Collection Before the Boom!” or “The Boom…Part II,” there’s a song called “Shallow Surface Dolls.” It’s actually directly speaking on life, but the inspiration came from the black gay house scene, the balls. What it basically speaks on is just the idea of how shallow it is. You can be the best person here, but if you don’t make sense to them fashion-wise, you’re out. “I don’t want to hear what you have to say, I don’t even want to hear what you want to bring to the table, because bitch, whatever you’re bringing to me fashion-wise is not entertaining me, so you’re done.” Even if you get through the door, the constant pressure to once you get here to stay here is so much. I haven’t had to deal with that, but I’ve seen it for other people. So many labels, like Marc Jacobs this, Michael Kors that; everything becomes labels. Then the moment you kind of misstep, and somebody else comes up: “Yeah, girl, you thought that you were a legendary mother. You thought you had a permanent seat at the table, but really you’re expendable.” You’re not as important as you think you are. You’re there today, and tomorrow somebody younger, somebody cuter, somebody with the new glitter, whatever it may be, comes in, and now you’re out. It’s so fickle, and it’s so shallow. Directly speaking on what you’re saying, it’s literally about that but that can go to life. I feel like life–I’m not going to lie–in the gay scene, it’s a little bit more. Just keeping shit real, but I do think that people are like that in life in general. You can be that beautiful person on the inside, but if they think that you’re fat, or they think that you’re ugly, or they think that you’re broke or whatever it may be that you’re lacking, suddenly, I’m not entertaining you for what reason? “We have nothing to talk about, and there’s nothing we can relate to. You don’t know my life, and I definitely don’t know your life, so why even open up that door?” See, that’s looking at the glass half-empty. Now, half-full would be “Well, guess what? You’re right; I don’t know your life, and you don’t know my life. That’s why we should connect, because now you’re going to open up things to me that I would not have opened had I not met you, and vice versa.” But people don’t look at it that way. They just want to stick in their own box and stay there and be cute and comfortable. What they don’t know is that after so long you’re going to become old or not even old, because in the gay scene, girl, old is like 25. “Girl, you’re old.” What I’m saying is, suddenly you were here today, you were cute, and you were 21, but girl, your shelf life is 4 years and you’re done. I want more than that, and my music to me dictates that. You probably didn’t see me going in that direction, but that’s where I was leading with it. In reference to my music–just getting back into that, and I’ll let you ask your next question, but I get so passionate about it; I’m so sorry. I can go on and on and on. That’s what I want my music to reflect in general, because I know me being a black gay male that would be the typical route to go, and I wanted to show people, “Sweetie, I can write house music, and I can write any type of music. I can write rhythm and blues, I can write neo soul, I can write pop, I can write rap and hip hop.” I even wrote a country song for my mom. I never released it, but just for her [imitates country wailing]. It was cute; don’t get me wrong. I can write any kind of music, and that is how I live my life, and that’s what I want my music to reflect. I’m not just going to fall into this category because since I’m black and I’m gay, this is what I have to do. No, I can be any category I want; not just because I want to, but because I have, in reference to my music, I have the talent, and I have the foresight, and I have the vision, so why not? I’m not going to go into a box in any level of life. Forget about it!
I think it makes sense. I think that writing music and singing is an extension of storytelling, and you’re a storyteller.
Yes! Did you just say that? I don’t know if you saw, but I did a little while ago a music video to one of my tracks called “Dream (Fuck the Haters.)” My cameraman–shout out to Robert Walton–amazing, amazing, amazing! One of the reason why I gravitated towards him–a bunch of people emailed me about working with me in reference to the video–but he has a disability. I don’t want to call it that, but to make the point of what I’m saying, why I really wanted to work with him was because I know, I know, I know to my core what it is like to know that you can do something, to know that you can contribute, to know that if somebody would just give you the opportunity to show what you can do that you would knock it out of the park. Just because something is off about you in their eyes, they will not give you the opportunity. “You’re too gay,” “You’re too short,” “You’re too–even Asian!”
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It’s so many different things that could cause you to miss out on the opportunity. That has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about the art, the artistry. “Can you do the video?” is the question. Well, if you can do that, I don’t give a damn if you’re green or purple. Can you do the video? If you can do the video, that’s all we really need. When he emailed me, he was very genuine. He told me upfront what the T was. Automatically, I’m like, “I want to work with him.” This guy reached out to me, and his work ethic was very on point. Piggybacking off of what you said, I feel like the bulk of the people who know me now, even to this day every time I release a song: “I don’t know you sing.” I’ve been releasing music since I’ve started. But because my storytelling and my skits are the main thing on my channel, I know that I have to come up with a better strategy on how I want to parlay into my music. What I said in the behind the scenes or the mini interview for the video was: “In my music, especially the more quirky songs, for the people that are used to my videos, that is just an extension.” In theory, I guess my storytelling would be an extension of my music, I don’t know. Regardless, they’re cousins. They’re not exclusive, like “One is this” and “One is that;” they’re together. The jargon that I use in talking to you is the same kind of stuff I see in my music. The same way I communicate and keep people’s interest as I’m talking to them is the same thing that I do with my music. It’s not like here I’m animated, but in my music I am boring. Like, “Girl, I went to the mall and blah, blah, blah.” No, girl, if I’m going to talk about going to this mall, we’re going to go in, and we’re going to go in from a different angle. I just have to be strategic on that. See, I’m about to get ahead of myself. I can go on and on. Let me let you take control; I’m sorry.
It’s alright. It’s good to be passionate about something. Why not be passionate about the thing you’re best at? So you can definitely see progression in your videos: you as an artist, as a person, all of that stuff. These days, you don’t wear as much women’s clothing. Were these the costumes you were talking about earlier?
Not even just doing the women clothing but even the guy clothing was wretched. Here’s the thing about me: I’m very honest about my shortcomings, who I am, if I look like shit. To me, girl, I just looked like shit. I wouldn’t tell somebody else that they look like shit, or if I wanted to say it, I’d say it in a more cuddly way. I said to myself that one lesson I have to learn is the same way I treat other people when talking to them is the same way I need to talk to myself. Why should I feel like I want to be gentle with you, but I’m harsh on myself talking about my own shortcomings? I still need to be like, “OK, Qaadir, here’s something you need to work on, and here’s the path you need to take,” versus “Bitch, you look a fucking wreck. What’s going on?” But anyway, in reference to the clothes, getting back to the question. Wait, was that the whole question?
With the women’s clothes, were you comfortable and happy? Were you trying to be androgynous?
Yes. I have a song called “Androgynous.” Actually, I wouldn’t even say that was the intention; thats what I did, and as I grew I realized that there was such a thing called “androgyny,” and I realized that in my eyes I fell into that category. It wasn’t something that I set out to do at first. It just so happens that I like wearing my tight jeans, and some of my tops I like them to be more on the feminine side, so forth and so on. It had nothing to do with necessarily trying to set out to be androgynous, with the exception of when I did drag. With that small window of time when I did it, it was intentional. In reference to my everyday life, no, it was just what I liked to wear. Then I found out at maybe 16, 17, what it was. Someone told me at my job, “You’re so androgynous;” thats what it was. “Well, what the fuck does that mean?” She says, “Its just when you have female and male characteristics in reference to your way of dress, your face, the way you wear your hair, whatever it might be; you are straddling that line between male and female.” Some people get it wrong. Bitch, there’s a difference between drag and androgynous. Some girls wear female clothes from head to toe. Girl, all you need are the fake breasts. You’re a drag queen! To me, that’s not androgyny. To me, androgyny is if you’re female, people can still tell that you’re female; you just have a lot of masculine qualities. Maybe you like to wear boyish clothes; like Janelle Monae, to me, would be an androgynous female. Grace Jones would have been an androgynous female. David Bowie would have been an androgynous man, so forth and so on, but I wouldn’t say RuPaul would be androgynous. He’s just a drag queen or a female impersonator. Then there’s so many umbrellas. There’s a difference between a drag queen and a female impersonator. To answer the question, long story short, no it wasn’t me trying. I feel like that was the question. Was I trying to be androgynous? Was that the question? I’m so sorry. I feel like I get into a conversation with you and then…
I just wanted your thoughts on it, because a lot of people look at your channel and go, “Wait a minute,” because people are so obsessed about labeling. “Is this a male? Is this a female? Is this a transsexual? What is he trying to do?” It upsets their labeling.
You know what’s interesting too? I have an interesting way of thinking about labels. I don’t have a problem with labels, because here’s the reality: everything is a label. Everything! This paprika is a label; the fact that we named it “paprika.” What’s it in? A container. Everything is a label. I think it’s about you finding the label that you feel comfortable with, because one way or another you’re going to be labeled. You might as well choose it yourself rather than let somebody else label you. I think that’s where the disconnect kicks in. I’d rather pick my own label and be comfortable with myself with my own choice than to have somebody else tell me, “Well, Qaadir, you’re A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” and now I’m living by what he told me I was versus what I decided for myself. I guess that would be my only upset about that. I know especially in the gay community, I know people are like, “Girl, don’t label me!” Even when people say “judge.” Girl, what the hell do you mean? Everything is a judgment. That’s the reality. For the fact that I met you guys today, and talking to you and I feel like you’re a great conversationalist, that’s me making the judgment on you. It just so happens that the judgment is favorable of you. I think people what they really mean to say is “Don’t judge me in a bad way. Don’t say that you don’t like me.” If I were to say, “I don’t like that bitch,” well, that’s my right. If I met you, and I didn’t like you, then I don’t like you. It’s my right. I think what is wrong is when you meet a person and before you even say, “Hi,” or anything to them, “Oh, I don’t like that bitch.” Well, why don’t you like her? “I just don’t like her. I don’t know.” For no reason at all, that’s when it gets murky and incorrect. But if I actually sit down with the bitch, and I’m like, “Girl, this bitch is a hot–” like I was telling you earlier about the situation. Then I feel like it’s legitimate, and I’m giving tangible reasons. That wasn’t the question; I’m just going so far off the Richter scale.
I think it’s brilliant what you’re saying about labels because it’s absolutely true. When you put a word to something, it all of a sudden becomes constricted by that word. It becomes that word, because that’s how we determine reality. But in reality, you are who you are. Other people, they label you however they want to label you.
Right, and that’s the part that’s never going to change. I think in a perfect world, if you didn’t label anything then how would we communicate? How would I have told her what I wanted on that menu if we didn’t have a label for it, the burritos and the tacos.
I think it’s difficult because people don’t want to be limited by labels.
I was just going to say what’s interesting to me, and you’ll find this if you just listen to people talk: they don’t want to be labeled, but they’re quick to turn around and label. I had a friend–but we’re no longer friends–but he said something like, “This is a ghetto,” and he knows who he is if he’s watching this shit. The point is he was like, “This is a broke down dirty ghetto.” Now, you just labeled the area that I’m familiar with where I come from, and to me, it wasn’t broke down. I think why he said it was because there were more people of color, and that’s just his perception on it. Now, it didn’t so much bother me because he labeled it, but maybe it was just how he said it. Why did it have to be a “broke down dirty ghetto?” Why couldn’t it just be a “more urban area?” But then again, I guess that’s just me trying to limit his freedom of speech. I don’t know, but the point is one time I confronted him about something, and he says, “Don’t judge me! Don’t label me!” just this whole thing. But if you listen to him talk, I’m telling you, from one conversation to the next to the next to the next, it’s a constant thing of, “Oh, this group. That group. This group. I don’t relate to these people because they’re different from me.” Well, you are constricting yourself to say that I would not be getting along with her. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem with labels as long as it’s true to form. That’s my way of thinking.
How do you feel when people group you with other gay YouTubers like Chris Crocker or B. Scott?
Well, here’s what I would say, honestly speaking. And you want to know something? Me and B. Scott–we had a tiff, but who cares? At this point in the game, my mom says, “What’s meant for you is for you,” so whatever he gets one way or the other, whether good or bad that’s what he deserves. I wish him the best in his endeavors and same with Chris Crocker, but here’s what I say: I don’t mind people grouping me so much. I guess the thing that would bother me is it depends on the intention of what it is. To be more clear, what I suppose I’m saying is this: outside of the fact that we are all gay and YouTubers, and occasionally I do skits, and I know that Chris Crocker does skits; we are shit alike. I feel like the whole energy that I give, the energy that B. Scott serves, and the whole energy that Chris Crocker presents is an apple, an orange, and a god damn grape. One has nothing to do with the other. Now if you were going to say just gay YouTubers in general, that would be one thing. But if you were going to pair me with people you think I’m similar to, and you’re going to say B. Scott, that’s when it’s like, I wouldn’t even say “annoying” but just an aggravation. That’s like saying, “Oh well, let’s compare Taylor Swift and Britney Spears.” Well, they both make popular music, but one is country/pop and one is pop pop. They’re just completely different. Outside of the fact that they’re both white females that do music, what else are they similar in? And that they’re both kind of autotune, no shade. Taylor, I love you girl! I don’t, but I like you. You know what drew me closer to her? I saw her documentary on Netflix. I’m not going to lie, I was not a fan. Are we keeping it real? I did not care for Taylor Swift because I kind of feel like she’s kind of overrated.
She is. She can’t sing.
She can’t sing. Girl, Taylor, you’re a good songwriter but we got to get out of these high school songs. Can you do anything else? She put herself in that box. See, that’s why sometimes I don’t like watching people’s documentaries, because at first if I did not like them suddenly I find myself liking them not because I like their music per se, but I like their story because I know what it’s like. I know what the hustle is, I know what the grind is, I know what it’s like for people overlook you. People tell me all the time, “Oh, well, you’re gay. You’re black. Girl, you’re too ethnic. We don’t know how to put you in. How would we sell you? How would we market you?” But I have the vision! And then all the popular YouTubers we were saying earlier, these people may have 3 million subscribers whatever it may be, OK, that’s cute. But here’s the bottom line: you don’t need 3 million people to make it. All you need is one person who’s in the position, and that could be it; the one person who one day you’re in the comedy club on amateur night, and you’re just on it and you’re hitting all your jokes. It’s that random person who goes up and says, “Girl, let’s go out tonight.” She almost didn’t go out, but her friends keep nagging her and telling her to come out. You almost didn’t come out, but they said, “Girl, you got to do amateur night. Girl, you lost the bet. You said you’d do this, so don’t be a punk,” so then you come out on that one night in the universe when the stars were in alignment. You told that one joke in a certain way, and she said, “This person, I see it.” That actually happened to me, but I didn’t see the stand up comedy thing for me at the time when she wanted to work with me–a woman who was in the position to help me with that, but I just didn’t see that.
That’s what it comes down to sometimes. You have “supporters” rather than “fans;” why is that important for you?
Two reasons. Initially, when I started saying “supporters” versus “fans,” no disrespect to the other YouTubers that do this, but to me it’s so cheesy like, “My fans, my fans!” Bitch, girl, you’re a YouTuber. It’s not something exclusive; anyone can create it. Not to make it seem like anyone can be a YouTube star, but anyone can make an account and be a YouTuber and start making videos. It’s not like you’re on a sitcom or something. I just kind of felt like I hadn’t earned the right to say that. Initially, it started like that. I felt like I haven’t earned that right to say, “To all my fans.” Even now to this day, my mom says, “Correct yourself.” To me, it just sounds–and maybe I’m thinking too deep on it, because number one, I feel like I haven’t earned it; number two, I feel like when people say it to me, it just comes off as false sense of, I don’t want to say “entitlement,” but it’s not real.
It’s not normal to go, “My fans.” It’s not what a regular person does.
Yeah, and I feel like to me I had to think about it and be like, “I don’t want to call them fans. What can I call them that to me is accurate and what they are to me?” I feel like these are the people who believe in my dream and support me. They uplift me, and they share the videos on Facebook and Twitter, whatever they do. They are supporting my dream, and they believe, and so they are my supporters. That’s anything; with the presidential election: Barack Obama’s supporters. People who believe in his campaign, his platform, whatever the case may be, these are the people who are supporting him, going out, canvassing and doing A, B, C, D, E, F, G. These are the people who are supporting him so he can win or whatever it may be. I feel like “fan” is short for “fanatic.” I don’t know if I want people nutting up over me. I’ve had a couple of incidents though; they were really sweet. They weren’t bad incidents, but I’m not going to lie – it kind of shook me a little bit. At this level, it’s not like it happens all the time. I’m walking down the street, and it’s like, “Oh my god!” That happened once. No, twice. It’s not like it’s happening like it happens for Beyonce. I don’t want fanatics, because it just gets weird. These people who are like getting your face tattooed on their ass and your name tattooed to their fucking face–to me, that’s stupid and scary almost. Now, some of these people are so obsessed that it becomes a situation where it’s like, “I love you so much I must kill you! That’s the only way we can be together!” So they start plotting at the Grammys, and I’m like, “How does she know this information?” I had a dream about this; that’s what scared me too. I was at some event at the red carpet. Maybe I shouldn’t even say, because I feel like if I say it then it might happen. It was really weird. This is very scary. Some of my supporters, well a lot of them, are like, “Why don’t you do a meet and greet in Cali?” I want to do it so much, but I feel like anytime I do a live broadcast, the moment I go on it’s almost like the trolls are already there, which means that they follow my Twitter and that’s how they knew that I was coming on. (43:55-46:27)
How do you feel about people trolling you or having negative comments about you, especially early on? Have you dealt with a lot of homophobia?
Actually, I haven’t dealt with it as much as some of the other YouTubers. I think that Chris Crocker probably gets it a lot more than me. But also, it’s because I think he also gets more views than I get. I think the more you’re seen, the more you’re going to get that. Not to big myself up, because it’s not my intention, but I think I don’t get it as much as other gay YouTubers because I don’t use me being gay as my door into people’s life. There are some gay people on YouTube, and that’s the only leg they stand on. It’s kind of like your whole thing is, “I’m a gay man, and I’m fabulous, and I’m just so gay!” I’m not knocking that, because my thing is I know that I’m animated, but it has nothing to do with me being gay. I’m just animated. I don’t talk talk about gay issues in every video. Does that make any sense? I know a lot of YouTubers that are gay, and a lot of their formula is talking about gay stuff. I talk about it when I’m inspired to, and I feel that it’s important to talk about it, but every gay issue that comes up I don’t feel like I have to give a speech or video, even though people might not like it. The thing is: if you speak on everything, you’re heard on nothing. Pick your battles. I just feel like I don’t want to be known as the gay YouTuber. I want to be known for my talents and what I do: for storytelling, for my music, for being able to make people laugh. Whatever it might be is directly connected to or affiliated with my craft, no matter which one they’re connecting it to. I want them to connect me with that, and not me with being ga. Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s a part of me, and I know they’re going to say, “Oh, you mean the gay YouTuber?” Maybe they’ll introduce it like that, but I can guarantee you that when people watch me it’s not so much because I am gay, I think it’s more of they’re entertained of what I’m talking about. They are entertained by my videos, and they’re entertained by whatever it is that I’m doing and not much of “Oh, he’s gay.” I know that’s true, because my audience has transcended. It was initially the black gay community, and then it slowly evolved to the gay community in general. Then, it became heterosexual females and then heterosexual males. All kinds of people email me all the time that you would think would not be watching. Later on, I’ll tell you a story to me that proves that. I can just go on and on and on. You know how I can do. (46:27-49:45)
You were raised as a Muslim. Why don’t you practice Islam anymore?
Honestly speaking, I felt like I couldn’t be part of something–and it’s no shame to Islam–but just for me personally, I couldn’t be part of something that didn’t accept me fully. That was pretty much the long and short of it. Not only that, but also some of the views towards women, but to each his own; I’m not bashing it. If they can’t accept me as a full person, it’s not for me. (49:45-50:44)
There was a period where your YouTube channel got really big. One of your YouTube videos was even featured on “Tosh.0,” but then, you dropped off a little bit, and you were only releasing videos every once in a while. What happened there?
That was a situation to where I was in the wrong place at the right time. If I had been here [L.A.] when all that kicked off, by now I’d be in a different direction. A lot of people wanted to work with me, but guess where they are? Here. I think that’s probably for the better, because one thing that I’ve noticed too is I don’t know if I want to be a huge YouTube star, because I look at it like I look at “American Idol.” Once you get off that show, you’re always going to be “American Idol” cheesy. Only a couple of them have made it past that, like maybe Carrie Underwood or Fantasia; what about the rest? I feel like the rest are cheesy “American Idol” people. I don’t want it to be randomly like, “Oh, that’s the YouTube guy.” Now, maybe Justin Bieber blew off of YouTube, and he blew the fuck up. You have Fred, who’s on Nickelodeon now, but you have millions of people on YouTube, and where did they go? I feel like a lot of them had opportunities where producers have found them, but because they were associated with YouTube they couldn’t. I know of Karmin, and I think they’re blowing up. I just don’t want to be a cheesy YouTuber. No shame to YouTube; I’m not saying it’s cheesy, but you know what I mean.
No, I totally know what you mean. You get constrained to YouTube; you’re a YouTuber. There’s a difference between YouTube famous and famous famous.
Not also that, but YouTube also shaded me; let’s keep it real. They really did shade me. It’s really political. They took my videos down to where people cannot find them, whereas before when you typed it in, I was on the first page or second page. Once I started getting really big, they made it so it was impossible to find me. People don’t know that part about it. People make it like, “Why would you think that?” When you do it, you know the truth, because you’re doing it. But the people behind the scenes, the audience, people think you’re just paranoid and making this shit up. I don’t really care, because I know the truth. It’s very political. I feel like if I had the same platform as Shane Dawson or something like that, that shit would have been took off. I feel like what I’m presenting to the table, it’s enough to where I feel like it could translate. YouTube doesn’t want me to be the person who blows up from YouTube.
Why don’t they want you to be that person?
They don’t want me to be that person because I’m not commercial. I’m not the kind of commercial they want. I’m not even going to tell you what they look for, but if you just go to YouTube’s top 10 and just look at the kind of videos that they play–
[music begins to play in the background]
Oh damn, that must be like the Oscar music at the end. You know, when the Oscars are like, “Girl, shut the fuck up.” [laughs] That’s kind of like what just happened to us. Anyway, just go on YouTube’s top 10. I don’t even have to tell you. Just look. Not only the people, but the kind of content that they put out and you’ll see why. Then if you’re going to be black, then it’s a certain kind of black that they need, and I wasn’t that kind.
What can your supporters look for in the future? What do you have coming up?
You know what? This is what they can look forward to: first of all, I’m on grind. I came out here, and I told them I’m bringing this one home for the home team. You know, one thing that I plan on doing is once I start working these jobs for real–there’s so much I want to do but just getting to the meat and potatoes–number one, I’m going to go back and re-record my mixtape tracks, because I know they could be hits. If you look at people like Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azaelea and just all the people who are blowing up now–even like Wiz Khalifa–all of them started off with these underground mix tapes. My problem has nothing to do with the lyrics or arrangements; it has something to do with the production and the quality. Number one, I want to re-record all of these songs before I blitz all of them. Then, I want to go on maybe Craigslist and get one of those cool music video shots, not really like a big deal, but like black and white–something cool, you know what I mean? And then start marketing it that way. Once the production steps up, I feel like that will open up so many doors. That’s where I am mentally. The subject changed, but that’s where I am.
Are there any other YouTubers whose work has inspired you in any way?
I’d hate to say, “No,” but honestly, “No.” I feel like there are people I may watch from time to time. You said inspired right?
A YouTuber that you just like, then?
I would say I love Lonel, not so much because of his work, but because he’s such a sweet person in real life. Shout out to Lonel. There’s other people that I watch, but I don’t watch that much. Sometimes, I go on there to watch music videos and find some random things, but people who I actually watch on a regular basis, no.
Where else can we find you?
You can find me on Twitter. I want to say right now it’s El_Ramsey_Rey. Facebook, although I changed my name to something anonymous, because I’ll tell you later. If you just type “Qaadir” or “Timaya,” they’ll all pop up. Somebody else put the stuff on there. They made a Tumblr too–The Timayan Army. You can find me on Tumblr, you can find me on Facebook, you can find me on Twitter. BlogTV, yes! If you really want a show, we have so much fun. We do movie nights, we play music. We have so much fun; it’s just us. How we’re doing it right now, that’s what we do on the show. It’s a conversation, and we really get to know each other. That’s what it is. It’s a community.