There probably aren’t too many people who can stake claim to having their breakout role be a rapping Adolph Hitler. But for rapper and comedian Lloyd Ahlquist, it’s just another day at the office. Ahlquist, better known to the world as EpicLLOYD, is the co-creator for the enormously successful YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History, which is now entering its third season.
But Lloyd hasn’t stopped there. At the same time he has been putting out original music on his own channel and created another popular series called Dis Raps For Hire. As the name implies, EpicLLOYD takes suggestions from viewers who are having issues with others and formulates a verbal smackdown in their defense.
Lloyd was awesome enough to chat sit down for a quick video chat to discuss all of his various works. So without any further ado, here we go:
Originally I was going to leave Epic Rap Battles alone for this and focus on your solo work, but… I just read that as of [the date of this interview] that the ERB channel has hit seven million subscribers, and not six weeks after it hit six million–
–which is huge, so I have to ask you for a reaction there!
My reaction is like: Yeah! It’s really cool, dude. It’s like… that’s a lot of people. I’m from Chicago which has a population of -I think- three million people? It’s a staggering amount of people to me. I just feel lucky, you know?
And season three is just starting to film?
Yes, we’re back filming [now] and premiering October 7th!
So are there any teasers we can get for that yet?
You may see some fan favorites come back. You may see some more special guests that people will be really excited for. We try to keep that stuff pretty tight to the chest just because it makes everything better I think, but I don’t think anybody will be disappointed at all.
Excellent! Well let’s talk a bit about your music, because you’ve been putting out some great singles on your own YouTube channel for about two years now. When did you start getting into rapping?
The very first time that I started getting into rapping at all was right around the same time that I got into doing improv comedy. This was in college back in 1999 and we would freestyle. We would do our improv and then do these like cypher free-styling circles that kind of went hand-in-hand. Then from there we would just freestyle at parties, pull people into corners at the kegger and start beat-boxing. Then I sort of went away from it because we started touring with the comedy.
But, after a few years of the comedy I was looking to do something else that was not as funny. So I started doing this one man show that was like a hip-hop/poetry open mic, but I played all the characters. That was an alternative to the comedy thing for me. I never really did funny songs [in the show]. I mean some of them were funny but not like parodies or anything like that. So then when the Epic Rap Battles started happening it was this perfect combination of all these things that had been going on.[Rapping] was always something I had in my back pocket and once the Epic Rap Battles took off, I had venue with my own channel. It was a really great example of how YouTube and the online community is a great way for people who wouldn’t normally have the ability to do things like music to do it. I don’t gig out live yet, I’m trying to start doing that now, but I don’t come from that background. It’s nice that I had the opportunity to show what I can do.
So you’re looking to start doing shows and touring then?
As we go into the Epic Rap Battles season things get really, really hectic, but one of my next goals is to put together a live show and an EpicLLOYD CD and start doing that type of stuff. The problem with me is that I like it all. I like the comedy, I like the Epic Rap Battles, I like the Dis Raps, I like original music, I like everything. I try to hold myself back from doing too much all at the same time because then you’re a jack of all trades, master of none. But that is a goal for me to do live shows.
So let me ask you about your series Dis Raps For Hire then. Where did the concept for that come from?
Once the Epic Rap Battles hit, I started to look around more and learn about YouTube, figure things out. Like, this is what a successful show online looks like: Its easy to understand what it is, even just from the title. I had things swirling around my head. What I am I going to do with my own channel? I need to figure something out for my channel. Then this kid left me a comment that was like “Hey man, my brother is picking on me. This is some stuff about him. Can you write a rap destroying him?” It was this kid writing me and I was like: Boom! There it is! Dis Raps For Hire!
So I did the first one and it went really well. It was a really easy transition. If you like the Epic Rap Battles, you’ll probably like Dis Raps For Hire. It was almost like a cool spin-off and now its grown into its own thing. EpicLLOYD has kind of become this Hulk character that I love.
Now the flipside of the fun of that series, especially with the last couple of episodes, there has been a couple major instances of bullying. There was one entry this season where a kid had a broken wrist and I can only imagine that between the requests that you’ve done and the other requests that you’ve received that you’ve seen some fairly serious issues come through.
Yeah. They do. I get some pretty serious stuff on the channel. At the end of the day its a fine line between it being entertainment, it’s supposed to be comedy and it’s supposed to be good, but once you open that can of worms… It just makes selecting the next suggestion a little bit more challenging. There’s a good range of people who are just like “My buddy stole my sandwich!” and other things where you’re like “Man you need to call the cops!”. So its a matter of finding that balance between what’s actually appropriate to do a song about. I did start putting in the descriptions of the videos [essentially] that if you’re having an issue that takes more than a rap song to solve, here’s some numbers. I felt obligated to do that because some of the comments are pretty intense.
Did you have any experiences dealing with bullying growing up?
Very little actually. My older brother was bullied a little bit for personal things about his lifestyle and sometimes I found myself in between standing up for him and getting in trouble in terms of stepping up to protect him. I also found myself sometimes in situations where I would overhear things and not say anything about it. I would feel a little bit powerless and guilty that I didn’t. I was never bullied personally, but I think that’s why I try and help these people [now]. I was an athletic kid. If someone tried to bug me or bully me I would usually stand up for myself and you would usually get into some kind of sixth grader fight or you’d just scream at each other and usually it was over. That was really my only experience. More so it was seeing what my brother went through. Knowing what a good person he is and being like “What the fuck, man. Why would you do that?”
So what else is coming down the line then for EpicLLOYD and Dis Raps For Hire?
I have a song called “Cheap Beer” coming out that I’m really excited about. I’m working on the video for that. This is season two for Dis Raps and I just had Zach Sherwin [who we interviewed here] guest in the last video and I think in this season I’m going to open that up and have more guests and do more interesting things. Lots of cool things coming. Oh, then there’s that little show I do on the side. That side project, Epic Rap Battles of History.
Anything else you’d to say to the audience?
What up to Canada! I love it up there! Thanks to everyone for watching!
Many thanks to Lloyd for joining us, and with that, I’ll sign off. Be sure to check out more EpicLLOYD at the links below.