Culture

Who is RiceGum? An Interview with One of YouTube’s Most Notorious Clout Chasers (EXCLUSIVE)

According to Urban Dictionary, a clout chaser is an individual “that only hangs with certain people or starts beef to gain popularity.” Acquiring clout, this intangible but crucial resource, brings success, money, fame and glory. With enough of it, you can drive across Europe in a Ferrari, date supermodels, live in a mansion or start an online empire.

Een from Nerd City, known for commentary and criticism videos that reach millions on YouTube, defined “clout” to Newsweek as “a metric of social influence; the amount of immediate attention you can get, which can be judged by views, likes and the connections you have.”

RiceGum is among YouTube’s most notorious clout chasers. Decked out in designer labels like Gucci and Supreme, RiceGum records himself shopping in high-end boutiques and travels to exotic locales; all while claiming that he isn’t “flexing” (or bragging about his wealth) on his fans. With nearly 11 million subscribers, he has been a formidable force on the platform for the past three years, inserting himself into the center of some of the site’s biggest scandals.

"If you know anything about YouTube, I was at the top of the game of YouTube last year and everyone and their mom tried to make a vid about me.”

“Maybe I could be a better role model to kids, but I'm just a dude who makes videos,” RiceGum told Newsweek. “You watch me to be entertained, that's that. If you want to see me as a role model, so be it, but I'm not going to change the way I act for anyone.”

In December 2018, Mystery Brand paid RiceGum upwards of six figures to make a video promoting its website. The site allowed users to spend real money, anywhere from $2 to $1,300, for a chance to buy real-world loot boxes with potentially valuable physical goods inside. The RiceGum video showed him purchasing boxes and winning Apple AirPods. But Mystery Brand is not as generous to its cloutless customers. Online reviews for the site have been poor, with some claiming they never received the goods they were promised weeks after inputting their information.

Because RiceGum has a young, impressionable audience, content creators and media outlets criticized the endorsement of a company seen by many as a scam. Ethan and Hila Klein, who run YouTube channel h3h3productions, likened it to promoting gambling to kids in exchange for a paycheck. In response, RiceGum made a video about h3h3, calling Ethan “grandpa” and insulting Hila by calling her “boring” and “Monotone Monica.”

“He attacked me first. I never said anything first," Le said. “You try to make it look like I'm trying to get someone's attention. If you know anything about YouTube, I was at the top of the game of YouTube last year and everyone and their mom tried to make a vid about me.”

Bryan Le created RiceGum’s aura of decadence, fueled by beefs with some of the largest influencers, like Jake Paul, Jacob Sartorius and dozens of others. Diss tracks, insults and jokes fill his back catalogue, making him one of YouTube’s biggest heels.

So, Who is RiceGum?

Growing up in Las Vegas, Le fell in love with the Call of Duty franchise and its in-game chat system. His crude jokes delighted his friends, encouraging him to be more venomous. "The people I grew up around, certain roasts and jokes are just that," Le told Newsweek.

Le sees the internet as an intrinsically dysfunctional place, and says he’s only following the lead of others. “A good percentage of the internet is very toxic. They come onto the internet to be entertained by being mean to people,” Le said. “About 50 percent of everyone's comments is something mean or negative. There's no rules or punishment for telling someone to go kill themselves. There's no filter, so people go crazy.”

At 15, Le started posting on the RiceGum YouTube channel, a shortened version of his online moniker Rice Flavored Gum. “I’m really funny and I like to troll people,” Le said in that first video. By the next year, he was broadcasting himself playing Call of Duty on Twitch before moving over to the now-defunct streaming platform MLG.TV.

“There is little stuff I do to get drama, but I don't see anything wrong with it, because everyone else does it"

Uninterested in going to college after high school, Le streamed on Twitch for about a year before moving back to creating edited videos. “I started to see money and growth a month or two into doing YouTube officially," Le said.

He broadened the scope of his content, realizing that he could get more views by “trolling” others in videos. "For someone random with no following or faith, the only way to make a name for yourself is to do something new and unique,” Le said. “I would find random topics or things online that I could talk negatively on, I would crack jokes and stuff. I was trying to stand out and be different.”

RiceGum’s first YouTube viral hit was “THESE KIDS MUST BE STOPPED,” where he watched and cringed to videos of 11 to 13-year-old children singing on the currently defunct Music.Ly app. With 14 million views and multiple follow-ups (each with millions of views), Le says this is the content he’s best known for.

“I did one video where I was joking, clowning around and that one video performed better than the rest,” Le said. “I'm not just going to go back to the Q and As and ignore the data.” The RiceGum persona, which consisted of Le making jokes at the expense of others, had officially been born.

RiceGum has found an audience of mostly young children, who enjoy his mean-spirited content. “Everyone has kid fans,” Le said while on Logan Paul’s “Impaulsive” podcast. “Kids consume YouTube.” Over the four years he’s been on YouTube, he’s managed to maintain that younger audience, who flock to his bravado and humor. “All of YouTube is young and they understand this stuff,” Le said. “They all be cursing and saying the craziest things."

With an audience as young as RiceGum’s, some would argue Le has a responsibility to create more age-appropriate content. He disagrees. He doesn’t see himself as a role model, just a random kid who makes videos. “It's not my fault that people look up to me,” he said. “There are other options if you don't like me. I know there's an audience out there that likes my content.”

Le doesn’t see what he does as malicious. “I was cracking jokes and being funny, but some people saw that as negative.” Le said. "There are people on the internet that take it too seriously. Certain people are going to get offended by certain things, and those with tougher skin, or who understand the internet, won't.“

RiceGum Got Beef?

One of the staples of the RiceGum brand is engaging in beefs with other content creators. These virtual fights often have the frenetic back-and-forth energy of a tennis match. Someone talks about Le. He posts a video response. They respond to his response. And so forth. Le’s fond of “diss tracks,” rapping his insults at a targeted content creator.

His most successful diss track came as response to the viral, meme-worthy music video “It’s Everyday Bro” by Jake Paul. Le dropped “It’s Every Night Sis” in June 2017 and quickly blew the internet apart. Mocking Paul and rapping alongside the vlogger’s ex-girlfriend Alissa Violet proved to be internet catnip; the video garnered 164 million views since it was posted and peaked at number 80 on the Billboard Top 100.

“There is little stuff I do to get drama, but I don't see anything wrong with it, because everyone else does it," Le said.

Another aspect of RiceGum’s success is his ability to capitalize on internet trends. Whenever a new “challenge” or interesting concept pulls in a million views somewhere online, it won’t take long for a RiceGum variant to pop up. His thumbnails have pictured him taking his girlfriend to the worst-reviewed restaurant in his city, getting stuck in an elevator for 24 hours and pretending to pee on his best friend for a prank. Riding a wave can make you just as successful as starting one yourself.

To further his brand, RiceGum rented a house in Los Angeles and formed the “Clout Gang” group, along with YouTubers FaZe Banks and Alissa Violet; it was a jab at Jake Paul’s “Team 10.”. FaZe is an esports organization and influencer incubator that hosts over 60 of most successful online influencers, totaling hundreds of millions of followers over Instagram, YouTube and Twitch. Banks is one of the oldest members and leaders of FaZe, Violet is his girlfriend. The trio vlog their lives, from a normal trip to CVS to adventures like the car-racing Gumball 3000.

The CEO and co-owner of FaZe, Lee Trink, believes controversial content creators aren’t necessarily a bad thing for his company. “It's difficult to separate out the things you may not like as much from what you like,” Trink told Newsweek in October. “It's not a butcher shop where you can pick your cut of meat, you take the whole cow as it is. Sometimes there are people who are really compelling and excel at certain things that are complicated and it’s worth dealing with those complications.”

In late 2015, the RiceGum channel had just 50,000 subscribers. One year later, it had reached 5 million subscribers, and by March 2018 that number had doubled. RiceGum cemented himself as one of the top content creators on the platform, appearing in a Super Bowl commercial for headphone manufacturer Monster. Over the next 12 months this momentum slowed down, in large part due to the YouTuber’s poor upload schedule and tendency to court controversy.

In June 2018, Le visited China. He posted a video where he asked locals where he could eat some dog and “where the bitches at?” Chinese social media did not appreciate Le’s sense of humor. He apologized in a response video, but continued posting content. Three months later, his reputation took another hit thanks to The Mystery Brand controversy. But he still maintains millions of loyal fans, even though he can’t explain why.

"I can't read people's minds,” Le said. “I'm not hyping myself up, but if you look at other YouTubers around, I'm not the biggest in the world. They just like me ‘cause they like me. Go ask them."

Who is Bryan Le?

Le has perfected the art of the YouTube algorithm. His catalogue of videos is a living history of the trends that dominate the platform. Bryan Le understands why RiceGum works on YouTube, and those who understand Bryan Le see him as much more than his on-screen persona.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things from other creators about their interactions with Bryan off-camera,” Een, from channel Nerd City, told Newsweek. ”That surprises me, but I’m willing to believe he’s not a scumbag in every situation.”

Trink agrees. “RiceGum has a public persona, nobody created it for him, and it is who he is,” he said. “When that camera turns on and the lights hit him, he is that guy. Privately, he's much more reserved.”

Chad Roberts, known as Anything4Views to his millions of followers, spent 10 days in the “Clout House” during the summer of 2018. Roberts was initially skeptical of Le, knowing only RiceGum’s online reputation. But after a house-wide drinking game of “Mafia” and long discussions of past World of Warcraft expansions, he warmed up to Le. By the end of his stay, Roberts was hanging out in Le’s room with FaZe Banks, sitting on a beanbag chair and chatting every night.

“He didn’t wear designer around the house, he was just a normal dude in an oversized sweatshirt and sandals. He stayed in his room and played Fortnite all the time,” Roberts told Newsweek with a laugh. “He’s just some closed-in nerdy kid that sits at his computer playing games all day and puts on a persona for the money. I don’t think he has a bad bone in his body, I think he’s just stupid.”

If you ask Le, he has an entirely different take than the rest. There’s no separating him from RiceGum. "I'm already putting my life online, that's already me on camera,” Le said. “People think Rice and Bryan are two different people, they’re not."

Join the Discussion

Editor's Pick