Atlanta youth find homegrown viral video fame

theGRIO REPORT - A video posted on YouTube by students at Grayson High School in Greater Atlanta has gone viral with than more than 90,000 hits in just 7 days...

A video posted on YouTube by students at Grayson High School in Greater Atlanta has gone viral with than more than 90,000 hits in just 7 days.

The video, which features three teenage rappers from Grayson, is about their rivalry with Brookwood High, who they will compete with on the football field at the end of the month.

The story received local media attention, so much so that CBS News Atlanta invited the boys into the studio Thursday for their first live debut performance of “Brookwood Where You At?”. It would be a stretch to say their performance was a serious attempt to secure a lucrative record deal but it is testimony to how quickly cyber news (good or bad) can spread online, simply with the click of a button.

Amani Channel, a social media expert, says social media is a way for people to get their message out there without the mainstream gatekeeper. “It gives the opportunity to access the masses, potential customers as long as they are interested in your niche,” says Channel.

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Another example of media savvy and technologically astute young people raising their profiles on popular social platforms is the creative comedy college collective, Dormtainment, based in Atlanta.

The six African-American men have their own website where they put together videos, vlogs and blogs to showcase their talent. They even produce merchandise which they sell to dire-hard fans.

“We promote and market ourselves with our website, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr,” says 23-year-old Tay Dier.

Dormtainment’s latest effort, a hip-hop spoof of life in one of Atlanta’s most desirable areas, Dunwoody, has become an overnight Internet sensation, generating more than 250,000 YouTube views in less than three weeks. ‘Straight Outta Dunwoody’ a parody of NWA’s 1988 Straight Outta Compton, even got air time on NBC’s Today Show.

But by far the biggest Internet phenomenon is the posting of videos on YouTube, where high views can create generate enough buzz for overnight success, perhaps leading to that long-awaited recording contract or interest from TV stations.

“We are just six guys who came together about three years ago without a clear direction of where we were heading. Now we’re well on our way to getting our own TV show and are in talks with a prominent TV network about getting our own TV show,” says Amanuel Richards.

Although the biggest impact of sites like YouTube has been on the music industry.

The list of established artists discovered on sites like YouTube or MySpace is impressive and continues to grow. Soulja Boy was one of the first artists to leverage his YouTube profile and crossover to mainstream success. Sean Kingston was discovered through his MySpace page and signed to Beluga Heights Records in 2007. At 12, the young Justin Bieber was posting homemade videos of himself on YouTube and industry insiders started to take notice.


“We’ve an A&R person that goes to gigs and music events to scout talent and ultimately sign up acts. But at the same time we definitely look at their online presence, how many views on YouTube, fans on Twitter or their Facebook following,” says Phaedra Hammond, co-owner of AO Records, an independent record label in Atlanta. “In this competitive industry and artists are expected to self-promote, even before they’re signed up,” she added.

The latest YouTube sensation is 11-year-old Maria Aragon, whose rendition of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way turned her into an overnight YouTube sensation, with now more than 41 million hits. Following Aragon’s online success Gaga asked her to perform at The Monster Ball Tour concert in Toronto. Aragon and has now signed a recording deal.

“Sites like YouTube and MySpace allow artists to establish their brand and create their own fan base independent of record labels. That’s going to minimize the risk for record labels to do their own marketing because artists have already created their own buzz,” says Channel.