From music to fashion and more, hip hop culture is a force to be reckoned with, and Mass Appeal, the graffiti-mag-turned-digital-media-company, has grown into an outlet for hip hop at large. Their video series Rhythm Roulette was named an Honoree in the 21st Annual Webbys—a distinction awarded to only the top 17% of the 13,000 entries received last year.
The series presents renowned music producers and DJs with a novel challenge: Select 3 random records while blindfolded in a record shop, and then create beats from them. With nearly 2 million total views on YouTube, Rhythm Roulette has built a powerful cult following online. According to Mass Appeal CEO Peter Bittenbender, they’ve hooked their audience by staying true to hip hop’s roots.
“We’re trying to be the premier voice for urban culture,” he says. “We want to be telling the best and most authentic stories.”
Rhythm Roulette is a perfect example of that focus. Conceived by Director of Content Development Matt Lubanksy, the show came about in the early days of Mass Appeal’s rebirth as a digital publication, when the creative team was asked to come up with “the wildest, coolest ideas,” says Bittenbender. They ran with the off-the-wall premise behind Rhythm Roulette, and fans loved it. “It immediately built a groundswell,” he says.
Rhythm Roulette is essentially run like a passion project: The Mass Appeal team makes things they and their fans want to watch. That means featuring producers whose work they like, and also reaching out to artists that fans suggest in the comments on previous episodes. And once filming starts, they keep things simple. They bring a small crew, shoot in their featured artist’s studio and record shop of choice, and resist the urge to “art direct or change things,” says Bittenbender.
Aside from its cult following, Rhythm Roulette also won accolades from IADAS judges, and Bittenbender points to their Webby Honoree recognition as a huge plus for the team. “The Webbys is a really well-respected creative organization, so it just sort of validates the work,” he says.
The series is now approaching its 100th episode, and Mass Appeal is planning a big launch before the end of 2017 to celebrate. Bittenbender predicts hundreds more episodes, too, all adhering to the same winning formula.
“We didn’t really have to do anything but exactly what we wanted to do,” he says.