Anthony Fantano, creator of YouTube music review sensation The Needle Drop, is one of the most popular music vloggers on the planet; growing out of text reviews and humble online roots, he rose to the 1.1 million subscriber mark with his album reviews, which analyze and dissect modern music with a clear voice and slick editing. Last year, Spin wrote a profile on him dubbing him “Today’s Most Successful Music Critic.” He’s a verifiable YouTube celebrity.
And if those last two words set off any alarm bells for you, given the ominous turn toward the right from the even-more-popular YouTuber PewDiePie, well, congratulations, because you’ve clearly been reading ahead. Fader has a piece today about the other side of Fantano’s brand, a now-shuttered channel called thatistheplan that had about a third of Needle Drop’s traffic, and was devoted to “meme reviews”—i.e., discussing, replicating, and appearing to endorse the worst kinds of racist shitposting from the depths of places like 4chan and its ilk.
Fader has a full breakdown of a number of Fantano’s now-pulled videos, many of which were apparently devoted to mocking the same black rappers whose work he respectfully discusses on his more mainstream channel. Here’s a description of a video making fun of rapper Hopsin, who’s frequently discussed his struggles with mental illness:
The next shot is even more disconcerting. Fantano wraps a cord around his neck, while an image of a black guy with a white noose around his neck that appears behind him. Next, we see a background image of another black person being choked, right as Fantano says the words “choked to death.” He’s playing the specter of black suicide and death for laughs.
The redpill-heavy atmosphere of thatistheplan has also infiltrated The Needle Drop from time to time; the channel’s affiliated podcast has featured a number of big-name guests from the ranks of the self-described “edgelords,” including anti-feminist blogger Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon Of Akkad) and Sam Hyde, the co-creator of canceled Adult Swim series Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. (In case you’d forgotten his brand of humor, Hyde’s the kind of guy who gets a kick out of tweeting things like “I’m hearing credible reports that Jews are responsible for the Vegas shooting” the day after 59 people were killed there.)
According to the Fader piece, Fantano’s attitude toward both men was permissive to the point of fawning, laughing along to Hyde’s lurid descriptions of the ways he’d like to assault female celebrities, and questioning Benjamin about how he gets so much engagement from his subscribers. That seems to be the key to his shift toward the “alt-right”; he revealed today that thatistheplan was being closed not because of any ideological reasons, but because YouTube refused to monetize its content anymore, suggesting that, for all his efforts to energize and connect with that brand of followers, there was no point to it if he wasn’t getting paid.
According to his Twitter, Fantano has read the Fader piece. He says he’s preparing a video response.