Death of online rapper ‘3pac’ highlights disconnect between fans and creators online


Photo courtesty 3PACTVHD

I’d like to discuss the death of a true titan of the rap community, 3pac. Not Tupac. 3pac. The 24-year-old rapper died last month during water polo practice at his college. 3pac is hardly a household name — his YouTube channel has just barely over 20,000 subscribers at the time of writing. But that’s still nothing to sneeze at: he carved out a sizable niche for himself with his barking, comedic raps.

3pac died on Oct.17, but despite being a dedicated fan of his, I didn’t find out until Oct. 26, nine days later. This isn’t too surprising considering 3pac had no manager, no friends with celebrity status, and—because his work is all online—virtually no contacts in the real world who would know to pass the news of his death along to his fans.

There is an inherent disconnect between fans and creators in the emerging community of online content. People who make videos on YouTube, songs on SoundCloud or even goofy tweets on novelty Twitter accounts like @coffee_dad (I highly recommend this one) could just vanish without a trace with no guarantee of fans ever finding out what happened.

A less morbid example of this effect: there was a YouTube user named “HellkiteDrake” who made videos about a video game called Dark Souls. Then, he was gone. His channel was deleted, every video was removed. The rumor goes that he grew tired of pressure from people who thought the hacking he did in his videos was rude and dishonest toward other players. This is just speculation though, there is zero confirmed evidence that this is true. HellkiteDrake could be dead and buried, working in a supermarket, or running a Fortune 500 company. Okay, that last one is doubtful, but it’s still a mystery we will likely never learn the answer to.

The uncertain nature of online fan interaction is essentially the opposite of modern celebrity culture. Twitter, TMZ and the rumor mill at large keep the public up to date with every stray breath Kim Kardashian and her clan take, but online you might not know if someone is still alive until they post more content.

While this certainly makes following an online content-creator frustrating, in a way it makes new releases more satisfying. My personal favorite Youtube creator is the Dublin-based “MechaGamezilla.” He releases videos infrequently, about once every two months (sometimes less). He doesn’t announce when his videos will be coming. There’s no media blitz about when the next big thing’s going to drop, no marketing campaigns and no carefully considered hype building. I just log into YouTube and—once in a while—I get to enjoy a treat I wasn’t expecting courtesy of MechaGamezilla. It feels special in a way other media simply doesn’t.

This will sound horrendously pretentious and it probably is, but there is something uniquely gratifying in following relatively unknown, quality creators. The comments sections are a world a part from what you’ll find underneath the latest VEVO video: instead you see core groups of a couple hundred commenters discussing the video, song or whatever with sincere interest. It’s a wonderful thing.

Online, intimacy like this is bundled with an ironic disconnect. These creators could vanish at any time and we’d be left twisting in the wind, but the same model that makes that lack of information possible fosters sincere relationships between fans and artists that simply are not possible in other content creation frameworks.