The Vlad Effect

There’s something strange happening in the realm of Hip Hop documentation. From websites and Youtube channels to magazines and podcasts, there’s a long list of outlets documenting the music, it’s artists and it’s influence. But among these outlets Vlad TV stands alone for its collection and categorization of the crimes committed for, against, and by Hip-Hop artists.

Vlad Lyubovny, better known as DJ Vlad, is the man behind Vlad TV, a Youtube channel where Lyubovny’s disembodied voice shoots questions at well-known and not so well-known artists and celebrities in a series of video interviews (His videos are also hosted on his website, vladtv.com). What makes Vlad TV unique is how willing many of the people he interviews—on video—are to expose their own criminal wrong doings regardless of statute of limitations, street code, or loyalty to friends and family.

Let me paint a picture. You’re sitting in a police interrogation room at a metal table, seated on a metal folding chair; a camera in the corner of the room silently playing witness to the ongoings in the room. On one side of the table sits a detective determined to make a high profile drug trafficking/gun running/murder arrest.

On the other side of the table sits a person with no source of income outside of the music he makes and sells. Lets call him Rapper A. Rapper A has had his share of run-ins with the justice system and knows better than to reveal anything to the police.

The detective, with years on the job, is unable to get the self-styled rapper to provide anything useful. Evidence is circumstantial. And corroborating witnesses are non-existent. In the end, with little to go on, Rapper A is released with no charges.

This same scenario plays out differently in Vlad TV’s studio. For one, the lighting is better. Brighter, I would imagine. The seating is more comfortable; you may even get to sit on a spacious couch with a nice armrest and lumbar support. And the high definition camera is front and center, you can’t miss it. The interrogation is not subtle but still, the answers are quick with lots of detail: names, locations, dates. No brow beating. No threats. No coercing. Like a villain in a B movie, Rapper A reveals his entire scheme to Vlad. Identifies his co-conspirators, and, with a smile on his face, Rapper A admits to the killing/drug operation/location of stashed guns.

This is the Vlad effect in play. The willingness to abandon any notion of self-preservation, or need to remain free of police scrutiny in pursuit of the attention and adoration that comes with Internet fame.

VLAD IS THE FEDS
In October 2017 Abdul West, better know as AR-Ab, a Philly rapper who had gained moderate attention for his affiliation with Cassidy, sat down for a video interview with Vlad TV, during which AR-Ab spoke at length about his burgeoning criminal empire; how a business partner was helping him wash dirty money through real estate investments; a murder case, and the money he and members of his gang continued to make from current drug deals. In essence, AR-Ab told on himself and his entire crew. On camera. And mic’d for sound.

We were beefin’ on the phone. At some point it got crazy.. I was going up there to pop him….. I told my man what I was gonna do straight up and down I told him what I was gonna do.

—Chi Ali on Vlad TV

Each poorly thought-out answer from AR-Ab opened up new lines of leading questions from Vlad. In October 2018, nearly one year to the date of his interview with Vald, AR-Ab and eight members of his crew were indicted on numerous charges including drug trafficking. Neither Vlad or his YouTube channel were mentioned in AR-Ab’s indictment, but it’s impossible to believe law enforcement would not make use of a resource where alleged criminals openly confess to their alleged crimes.

AR-Ab’s arrest reignited talk that Vlad was working with police, luring in rappers with shady pasts and asking them questions that would get them in trouble.

Vlad is not the feds. He is not working with law enforcement to entrap people.
Vlad does not try to trick anyone into revealing criminal secrets. All his questions are very clear and direct.
Everyone who sits for an interview with Vlad is free to answer, or not answer, any and all questions asked.

AR-Ab is one in a long list of hip-hop artists who have sat in front of Vlad’s cameras and volunteered questionable information.

STOP SNITCHING
Why did AR-Ab think it was a good idea to blab on video on a popular Youtube channel about legally problematic investments? That’s not clear.

But AR-Ab, and others like him who’ve made appearances on Vlad TV are part of the new era gangstas who chronicle their wrong doing on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms looking for likes, retweets, and the power of clout.

Frequently, professional rappers, amateur rappers, and run-of-the-mill criminals can be found flexing on the Gram with illegal guns, drugs, and bundles of cash, sometimes broadcasting video straight from the trap house. It’s a prosecution smorgasbord. So it should be no surprise gangstas in this new era would spill their guts to Vlad. Clout has proven to be an overwhelmingly powerful drug.

In 1991 at the age of 15 Chi Ali made his rap debut on Black Sheep’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. A record contract followed, along with tours with the hottest rap artists at that time. Chi Ali rubbed elbows with people who would go on to become music legends. A decade later Chi Ali would live out the lyrics to Biggie’s “Niggas Bleed”, after killing his baby’s mother’s brother, Sean Raymond. After over a year on the run and a couple of appearances on America’s Most Wanted, Chi Ali was apprehended, tried, convicted, and sent to prison. He was released after serving 12 years of a 14-year sentence.

In a recent interview with Vlad (his second), Chi Ali named the friend who was with him during the murder. The same friend who was aware Chi Ali had murderous intentions as he drove him to The Bronx to find Raymond. He revealed to Vlad that he had gotten into legal trouble in the years leading to the murder and was placed on probation. Weeks before his probation on gun possession charge was to end, he was arrested, putting his probation, and freedom, in jeopardy.

His probation officer at the time, covered up for him, allowing his probation to expire and freeing Chi Ali from further legal obligations. While he didn’t mention her name, it wouldn’t be hard to find out who she is.

In his description of the murder, the names, dates, and places involved in the saga, Chi Ali spoke in cold, matter-of-fact, sometimes gloating, tones about killing his daughter’s uncle.

Vlad TV’s Lowest Common Denominator

No Plug speaks about killing Bankroll Fresh
AR-Ab on inheriting his drug operation
Chi Ali talks about his baby mother’s brother murder

THE INTERVIEWER
Though not a Fed, Vlad is a purveyor of Black exploitation. As medium.com put it in a 2016 article, “outlets like DJ Vlad and others perpetuate conflict and negative stereotypes”. His modus operandi is to focus on the interview subject’s misdeeds, past and present.

Drama sells. VH1, Bravo and the like have made a mint dishing out ignorant, confrontational babble on Real House Wives, Love & Hip Hop, Flavor of Love, Baller Wives, Basketball Wives, and so on, for over a decade.

Those shows have an agenda and formula that relies on their audiences’ need to see conflict, regardless of how real or staged.

In a similar vein, Vlad, who views himself as a journalist, produces content that is conflict-entertainment dressed up as journalism. Vlad TV is the second coming of WorldStar Hip Hop where drama is center stage. Vlad’s line of questions don’t seek to elevate any conversation or bring the audience any viewpoint that does not center around drama.

Sitting in front of Vlad’s camera carries with it the possibility of negative real-world consequences. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Robert Alezi

Staff Writer, Music & Technology