When you talk to Kevin “Kaze” Thomas and Karim “Bishop Omega” Jarrett about their weekly web show “Intelligently Ratchet,” they might give you a mini-episode of the show right there on the spot.
For nearly an hour, the pair sat at a table at the Carolina Ale House in Brier Creek, discussing the show which they transmit on Facebook’s video-streaming service, Facebook Live. For the past three months, at 9 p.m. every Wednesday, Thomas and Jarrett have propped an iPad on a tripod and just spoke about what’s going on in the world. “On the other networks, I see other people that are speaking – even if they’re speaking from an intellectual tone of, like, a minority perspective, they’re still doing it from a point of affluence,” says the Virginia-born, Durham-based Thomas, 39. “They’re still doing it from a point of, like, I make a hundred thousand dollars talking about the problems of the common man. And I wasn’t feeling like that was a real platform.”
Thomas, who previously did entertainment reporting for the WNCN show “My Carolina Today,” came up with “Ratchet” (which is another way of saying “ghetto,” by the way) right after “Today” got canceled earlier this year. “It just kind of left me, like, in this space where I was like, OK, I could go audition to be an anchorman or I could go be a TV reporter or something like that,” he says. “But it didn’t allow me to be myself, right? It didn’t allow for me to talk about the real – just different things that were going on in the world.”
Inspired by the deaths of African-Americans like Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and the growing unrest in such cities as Baltimore and Charlotte, Thomas wanted to do a show where real people talked about real issues. “The best conversations that I find that I have with people about politics and news, are like this: at dinner, smoking, a barbershop, having a drink, some type of get-together, playing PlayStation,” Thomas said. “Those are conversations, and they go undocumented. They always go undocumented.”
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Thomas, who is also a veteran rapper, got together with his old pal Jarrett, a comedian, an MC and an all-around interesting dude. Together, they decided to take the show to uncharted waters. “It was like, OK, everybody’s got a YouTube show,” says Thomas. “Everybody can do a podcast. What’s the best way – what’s a different, innovative way that we can interact with the people?” “It’s a new technology,” says the Philly-born, Durham-based Jarrett, 36. “No one is using Facebook Live in this way.”
“Ratchet” is not just Thomas and Jarrett ranting and riffing for a couple of hours. They’ve invited other notable people as guests, particularly Durham hip-hop artists: J. Gunn, Pierce Freelon, Toon and the Real Laww, Defacto Thezpian. And while they usually do the show from Kaze’s living room (aka “homebase”), they’ve occasionally taken “Ratchet” on the road, going to Triangle spots like Bull City Cigars, the Visual Art Exchange and Raleigh barbershop The Groom Room. “It’s good for the business owners,” says Jarrett. “When we did Groom Room, I mean, that’s my barbershop. I’ve known my barber for 10-plus years and he opened the space up to us.”
Adds Thomas, “It’s mutually beneficial for the show and for them, because it gives us a nice environment and it promotes the people. But it makes it a show of the people.”
Yes, “Ratchet” is a truly interactive experience. Not only can viewers online (whom Thomas and Jarrett refer to as “Ratcheteers”) watch and comment, but when the show is on location, they can show up and give their own two cents. As Thomas says, he wants everyone to join in on the conversation. “I was like, let’s do something where real people can get on and talk – people that are motivated or doing something with themselves, but are just everyday, tax-paying Americans,” he says.
“Ratchet” appears to be gaining a loyal, online audience, normally getting over a thousand views an episode. (Their episode at the VAE had up to 6,000 views.) The guys are looking to scare up sponsorship so they can get some income coming in for the show. (They are selling hoodies and T-shirts with their faces on them, so there’s that.) While previous episodes can still be viewed on Facebook, they are working to also archive them on YouTube, which they also hope to broadcast from live in the future. At the moment, these two men are keeping things – well, see their show title.
For more info, go to facebook.com/IntelligentlyRatchet.