satellite cult 51.51
souljahsoulz, memphis, a YouTube legacy
welcome to this week’s satellite cult dispatch. i’m so glad you’re here. i hope the artifacts i present you with will engulf you in a never-ending snare of on-screen text from classic YouTube lyric videos. the next time you open your laptop, the Windows XP edition of Movie Maker will be open, and you won’t be able to close it until you create a lyric video for a crunkcore song.
please be aware that the void dive section below contains flashing gifs. forgive the way Substack formats some embedded media from Bandcamp.
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when we think vaporwave, we think the 80s and early 90s, but when you get down to it, disco’s always had its fingerprints all over genre. Crystal 95 has only been publishing music since earlier this year, and i can’t help thinking of MIDNIGHT LOVE, the classic VECTOR GRAPHICS album when listening to Memphis. hitting the space between vapor funk and total future funk, reflective of popular vaporscapes circa 2013, this disco-inspired release isn’t afraid to show its roots, and as the visual and sonic aesthetics of the 70s have been swinging back around for at least a couple of years, i’d expect to see this style become more prominent again as well.
if you like ambient noise and experimental broken transmission, you might like this release by L O S T C H A N N E L T R A N S M I S S I O N S. containing two soundscapes, each clocking in at about 22 minutes, the music plunders dialogue from YuYu Hakusho and interprets the narrative of Yusuke Urameshi’s spiritual journey. to appreciate ロストチャンネル：幽☆遊☆白書, you need to be a very active listener (and maybe a YuYu Hakusho fan), but if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s very worth it.
Themes For a Dying Mall
i missed the September 30th release of this album by Digital Bullet, but i’m glad to double back and listen. when most people consider mallsoft, their minds conjure a sound that is vaguely ambient, floating delicately in the background of the listener’s consciousness, maybe incorporating Muzak or what we’ve collectively come to call grocery store music. it’s rarely associated with high-energy vaporsynth or future funk, but on Themes For a Dying Mall, that’s exactly what we get.
i always think about malls this time of year; the celebrations of consumerism that spans the period between Black Friday and the new year triggers my sense of nostalgia like nothing else. remember being bundled up in a jacket and boots, stumbling after your adult family members from store to store and checking off items on the gift-giving list? dodging all the people packed in the hallways, hearing the chatter and footsteps of hundreds of mall-goers echoing off the floors and walls and ceilings? maybe if you were lucky, someone would buy you a soft pretzel or something.
all the activity on this album that actually feels fitting when it comes to dead malls, because there is a great deal of activity around them, too. malls just needed to nearly disappear for people to start paying attention again.
The sunset turns into stars
icy cool breakcore with some sextrance influence slipped in for good measure, this slick album by KittyK4tz is simultaneously ridden with anxiety in a way that feels cathartic. like a lot of internet breakcore, it plunders sonically from anime, but the choppiness of the samples is fresh and welcome.
collaborating on this album with the likes of Goreshit, TOKYOPILL, and purity://filter, Souljahsoulz presents a breakcore voyage deeply rooted in the aesthetics and culture of the chronically online. ambient in some places, straight up gabber in others, this album hits hard and soft, and it’s a journey for anyone who spent their middle school years on image boards and old YouTube.
CORRUPTED ANGEL FILES
this bright cybercore jungle by j1nabae will help you ascend to glitch heaven. hard at times, but still angelic, these tracks are floaty and with just enough substance.
old YouTube, lost
when we think old Youtube, we tend to think viral one hit wonders: Miss Teen USA 2007, David After Dentist, Grape Lady Falls, and a whole catalogue of similar content. on the flip side, there were videos that traveled from New Grounds, B3ta, or Albino Black Sheep to Youtube like Badgers and The Ultimate Showdown. what we don’t often think about? the first wave of YouTubers.
considering that these creators largely built the formats that laid the foundation for how people use video platforms today, it’s odd that they’re so deeply removed from the cultural consciousness now. Some of these early creators, like Daxflame, are largely beloved and still have followings to this day, while others, like Shane Dawson, hold massive platforms, but aren’t well liked in the community.
recently, i was reminiscing about a great and largely forgotten failure of early YouTube, which featured some of the platform’s most prominent creators of the time. TheStation was a collaborative channel between LisaNova, Shay Carl,1 KassemG, Dave Days, Shane Dawson, thebdonski, WhatADayDerek, Philip DeFranco, and hiimrawn. in September 2009, Mashable reported TheStation was the second most watched channel on Youtube for the month, right behind the juggernaut that was Fred and before the ever-enduring SMOSH. but TheStation burned out faster than a toxic situationship between two Bushwick DJs. this is what happened to it from the outside:
TheStation was founded by LisaNova and Danny Zappin in 2009, and the collaborators produced sketches together while still maintaining their own YouTube channels—these sketches were hit or miss, in my opinion.2
Shane Dawson left TheStation shortly after its inception, and the news was a big deal in the YouTube community.
TheStation halted uploading, but returned later in 2009, or perhaps early 2010.
also in 2009 LisaNova, KassemG, Shay Carl, hiimrawn, thebdonski, Danny Zappin, and Philip DeFranco founded Maker Studios, which became one of the most influential multi-channel YouTube networks on the platform.
TheStation became a product of Maker Studios. most members of the original lineup stopped appearing on-camera entirely around 2011, and even before had taken diminished on screen roles. the channel was used to launch multiple on-going series, starting with the sketch show Nacho Punch, which featured some original TheStation creators, like KassemG and hiimrawn, in its videos.
Maker Studios was sold to Disney in 2014 for about $500 million. it became Disney Digital Network, which is now defunct.3
other channels, like BlackBoxTV and Take180, emerged from TheStation’s ashes.
it’s difficult uncovering more information about TheStation these days. the channel wasn’t particularly well-documented, as internet media wasn’t taken seriously by mainstream outlets in 2009. searching “what happened to TheStation?” mostly yields unrelated results. this is one of the few pieces of media coverage i could find about the channel’s inception, and it links back to this article, which can only be accessed via the Wayback Machine.
the YouTube channel still exists, but it hasn’t been active in six years. it’s been wiped clean of almost all content uploaded by the original creators, save for the channel teaser4 and a few sketches, though TheStation2, which was used to upload vlogs and behind the scenes footage, seems entirely untouched. there are definitely some reuploads floating around online, but plenty more of the missing videos are presently lost media.5
several of the YouTubers from TheStation’s original lineup have similarly sanitized their digital footprints—i could have sworn LisaNova’s channel used to have double the uploads it does now, and hiimrawn has deleted his channel entirely, alongside most of his social accounts, it seems. but that could also have something to do with the other thing that was happening alongside the rise and fall of TheStation: Internet personalities were getting noticed by the traditional media industry. LisaNova, for example, has largely abandoned her online life—even then, she had a stint on Mad TV to focus on prior to TheStation, and her crossover success, though short-lived, was notable enough to get her profiled in The New York Times.6
back then, the goals of a YouTuber were much different. now, people want to build followings online, and traditional media celebrity is slowly but surely becoming less desirable. you can make a good living online. but in the earlier days of the platform, (many) popular YouTubers wanted to break into television and movies. i remember Shane Dawson saying it all the time: i want my own tv show.
so what happened to all the deleted videos? i can only speculate. it could be the creators just wanted to leave that period behind. a lot of the sketches included elements that were definitely offensive then, but wouldn’t fly at all now, and those who had aspirations beyond YouTube maybe thought twice about leaving them up for anyone to see. maybe there were even some contractual issues that required them to take videos down.
there is another possibility: that perhaps, the videos haven’t been deleted, but are unlisted or private. the unlisted feature was introduced in 2010, after all, and all unlisted videos uploaded before 2017 were automatically made private by YouTube, unless the uploader has since manually changed the privacy settings. these videos could live just under all of our noses, and no one would know.
if you’re an online creator, you owe some of your success to early YouTubers like these, for better or worse. regardless of the quality and content of their uploads, the videos have historic significance in the grand scheme of the web. these were the first people to prove that you could build a career online.
in recent years, YouTubers who transitioned to traditional media haven’t faired very well. Lilly Singh’s NBC late night show flopped, Colleen Ballinger’s Netflix comedy was panned by critics for being unfunny and offensive—even as far back as 2015, when Vine was at its peak, YouTubers were struggling to make it IRL. Grace Helbig, considered a darling of the platform for years, was given a television show that lasted only 8 episodes before cancellation, and a year later Hannah Hart’s Food Network series met a similar fate.
somewhere along the line, maybe just before Vine stars started migrating to YouTube in 2017, people decided that chasing tv and movies wasn’t worth it: online media had developed its own tone, style, and even a distinct visual language by that point. and now, as streaming services are desperately trying to reinvent cable, and as movie studios are pumping out remake after remake, hoping nostalgia bait will be enough to drag people to the box office, we understand that online media was the future all along.
aka the man responsible for the family vlogging epidemic.
mostly, i just remember the Hot Girls sketches, which featured LisaNova and KassemG.
some people say that Philip DeFranco bought back Maker Studios from Disney Digital Network, making them both separate organizations, before absorbing Maker into his other studios, but i can’t find a reliable source.
the teaser was part of an interactive zombie apocalypse sketch that spanned multiple channels. the final installment can be found on this channel. it’s titled “The End.”