Is DJ Vlad the perfect opp?

OPINION: Is infamous YouTuber DJ Vlad an innocent music journalist or a vulture preying on the worst elements of hip-hop culture?

(L-R) Rapper Mysonne and DJ Vlad attend Digiwaxx presents Game Time at the South Street Seaport on July 6, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.  

OPP: [noun, informal] A Black vernacular term for “opponent.” Someone whose intentions are harmful or destructive, specifically: 

  1. police officers, undercover agents or informants
  2. Haters
  3. DJ Vlad

In the revolutionary 1969 novel, “The Spook Who Sat By the Door,” Sam Greenlee created the perfect opp.

The titular “spook” in Greenlee’s semi-autobiographical book was Dan Freeman, a highly skilled Black CIA operative confined to a low-level desk job inside the agency. Disillusioned by his token status, Freeman leaves his government job and uses his elite spy training to transform Chicago street gangs into an army of Black freedom fighters. But Freeman wasn’t just a double agent, he was a triple entendre. 

In 1960s Black parlance, “spook” was slang for a high-level undercover agent who infiltrated Black communities. “Spook” is also a racial pejorative used by people who think they can avoid sounding racist by simply prefacing a sentence with “I don’t wanna sound racist, but…” And, according to Greenlee, the title refers to the early days of affirmative action, when businesses hired overqualified Black job candidates for low-level positions and stationed them near the office entrance. The practice allowed companies to seem racially progressive without their white employees in the corner offices feeling threatened by the more qualified Black workers. 

Basically, the Black operative plans a Black operation to destroy his opps.

Although Greenlee’s book was a Black cult classic, it managed to slip under white America’s radar until it was released as a 1973 feature film. Critics said the film “preaches violence” against whites and portrayed “all whites, or at least all the whites that count” as racist. The New York Times even accused Greenlee of “hating white folks” and blamed the novel for Patty Heart’s kidnapping. But the most common criticism of the movie was the most familiar: Greenlee’s anti-white screed was something that a white artist would never be allowed do.

If ever there was a Mount Rushmore of whiteness, “if a white person did that…” would be right up there with “all lives matter” and “not all white people.” This Caucasian Counteragument Hall of Fame is based on a hypothetical world where white supremacy does not exist and Black people share power equally. But instead of visiting this double reverse racism alternate universe, we can simply examine the reaction to a white person who is already doing that.

His name is DJ Vlad.

Vladimir Lyubovny is described as a “former rap mixtape DJ who transitioned to hip-hop video journalism when he launched in 2008” and a “top name in hip-hop news” who “earned the respect of musicians and public figures.” While you’ve never heard the Ukrainian-born Berkeley grad jockey a disk, you’ve probably seen one of his viral videos with rappers, gang members and Black celebrities that earned him a cameo on “The Boondocks” and nearly six million YouTube followers. But none of those things are an apt description of this vulture who has managed to make millions circling the culture of hip-hop.

DJ Vlad is the opp who sat by the door. 

It’s not that Vlad is an opponent of Black people; he just loves people who hate Black people. His reputation is built on his ability to get his subjects to name names and start beefs. Even if you aren’t a household name, shooting someone or simply committing violence against Black people might land you a spot on Vlad’s coveted platform. Others have even refused to go on Vlad’s show because, as Chicago emcee Vince Staples, noted: “I just ain’t trying to sit down and talk about gangbangin’ for 30 minutes.”

And while Vlad might not work with law enforcement officers or government spy agencies, as some have suggested, to VladTV viewers, he is someone “who gives information” and “makes a practice especially for a financial reward of informing against others for violations of penal laws.” He has curated an extensive catalog of interviews with gangbangers, dope boys and killers bragging about how they committed violence against Black people. When he sat down with street ball legend Pee Wee Kirkland, Vlad wanted to focus on Kirkland’s life as a drug dealer. Most recently, the former tech entrepreneur has been in the spotlight for his interview with Duane “Keefe D” Davis, which directly led to the alleged gangster’s indictment for being involved in the killing of Tupac Shakur.

Vlad says he enjoys his anonymity and that “fame comes with a price” that he is not willing to pay. This is why he doesn’t show his face on camera; not because he is acting or executing in secret. Either way, he is operating undercover.

Sometimes Vlad just hates. He tried to disparage Tyrese and fought with Rick Ross by revealing Ross’ job as a former corrections officer, as if it was something to be ashamed of. He has a remarkable ability to recall and remind his interviewees who slighted them. Lyubovny falsely accused Minister Louis Farrakhan of calling for violence against Jewish people. He recently called out Drake and DJ Khaled for not speaking about the Hamas attack on Israel.

DJ Vlad’s concern for his fellow man seems to stop at people who are not DJ Vlad. His archives have very few interviews with the victims of the violence his subjects inflict. While rapper Lil Boosie was roundly criticized for being obsessed with Lil Nas X’s sexuality, few people rarely asked why DJ Vlad always always always seems to bring up the “Old Town Road” rapper’s name in interviews. He is doing for Black men what Kevin Samuels did for Black women. He is a one-man algorithm of anti-Blackness, a malice monetizer.

This is the definition of an opp. 

In 1975, a year after “The Spook Who Sat By the Door” was removed from theaters for stirring up anti-white sentiment, a Senate select committee revealed the existence of the Ghetto Informant Program. The clandestine initiative used more than 7,000 informants to infiltrate “subversive” Black resistance movements, including monitoring bookstores and demonizing Black artistic movements. Part of the effort involved “friendly media sources.” The report notes:

The Bureau’s use of the news media took two different forms: placing unfavorable articles and documentaries about targeted groups, and leaking derogatory information intended to discredit individuals … A typical example of media propaganda is the headquarters letter authorizing the Boston Field Office to furnish derogatory information about the Nation of Islam (NOI) to establish the source’s legitimacy… 

Approximately 28% of the Bureau’s COINTELPRO efforts were designed to weaken groups by setting members against each other, or to separate groups with ching t otherwise be allies, and convert them to mutual enemies…up to and including gang warfare between rival groups; and the ‘snitch jacket.’”

Final Report of the Select Committee to study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities

Hip-hop was created to amplify the voices of Black people. But the man who is not a DJ doesn’t interview rappers or graffiti artists or breakdancers; he makes money off making Black people look bad. His name is famous, but his face is largely unrecognizable. He spreads propaganda and demonizes his enemies. He isn’t making money off hip-hop culture. He is an opponent of it. 

If asked, he’d probably say that he loves hip-hop and the culture he portrays. Maybe he does. Drama moves the needle, and it’s possible that Vlad just doing what gets the most clicks. Or maybe he is subconsciously showing 80 million viewers how he views Black people.

But vultures eat dead animals because, unlike other predators, they’re not built for hunting. Perhaps the reason so many people trust DJ Vlad is because he’s not a threat. How much of an opp can a failed tech entrepreneur, ex-DJ with no musical background, shared experience or expertise be? Even if we can’t see his face, everyone knows where to find him … 

He’s right there by the door.

Michael Harriot is an economist, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His New York Times bestseller Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America is available everywhere books are sold.

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