FakeYeezyBoosts’ Emotional Brain Dump
The Meme-Maker on Compulsive Online Behavior and the Importance of Lil B
- Interview: Adam Wray
- Images/Photos Courtesy Of: FakeYeezyBoosts
I’m standing next to a skatepark in East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park, trying to look out of place—I want my interview subject, who I’ve never met nor seen a photo of, and whose real name I don’t know, to notice me. I send him a quick DM, and as I pocket my phone I see someone striding toward me, waving. From across the skatepark someone else yells, “Oh shit, is that FakeYeezyBoosts??!!?” Evidently, I’m being clowned. I get it. I’m here to formally interview a dude about the memes he makes, which represents a strange slippage between online and meatspace. But the boundaries between URL and IRL are all but eroded, and the meme might be the definitive expressive form of the 2010s. Viral. Participatory. Endlessly and confoundingly referential. It encapsulates all the creative currents of our micro-era.
If the meme itself reflects the structures of our era, FakeYeezyBoosts—real name Cam—reveals some of its content. Since starting his account in December 2016, he’s built a body of work locating the banal minutiae of a particular strain of youth culture within a broader expression of ennui. He rips on hypebeasts and high fashion victims with the bullseye specificity of someone who’s spent way too much money on sneakers, highlights the relationship between technology and mental health with discomfiting accuracy, and examines the fine line between partying and substance abuse with deceptive gravity. It’s all presented in a visual style that leans heavily on already-absurd stock imagery.
After I spoke with Cam, we asked him to make some custom memes for SSENSE.
What differentiates a meme from a joke?
I don’t know if I would necessarily consider all memes jokes. A lot of what I’ll produce, I personally don’t even consider funny.
Right. There’s an element of self-deprecation in a lot of your posts. I feel like that’s a humorous device used a lot by our generation.
Definitely. It’s self-analysis, in a way. If I’m making fun of someone for spending however much money on a pair of sneakers, it’s because it’s something I’ve done before in my life. I was definitely the kid who was trying to buy all of the Jordans. After a point it becomes like, what am I really getting out of this? It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with wanting to have the coolest gear, or to be fly, or whatever, it’s just to give people another perspective and consider a different angle.
A lot of the discussion around memes is centered on how big companies steal the formats and use them for their advertising.
As far as corporations wanting to tap into that pure sense of creativity and sort of corrupt it, I don’t know that it matters. They’re always going to be one step behind, really.
One thing I think is really cool about meme culture is that the speed at which it operates makes it basically impenetrable to anyone who isn’t actively participating. Most of the meme formats that go super viral, I can’t imagine someone in 15 years being able to explain what they meant.
No, probably not. A lot of the content that goes viral is really only aimed at a maybe 15-to-25-year-old demographic. I definitely I think it’s an impermanent thing. But that’s one thing I appreciate about it, to be honest. I see it more as a journal than a portfolio. This is just a moment in time, and maybe it will all get deleted or disappear. I’m cool with that. The internet is really a direct conduit from your brain. If you have an idea, you can just pump it right out. You can make a meme on your phone in, like, 10 minutes—at one point you needed Photoshop to do any of the stuff that you’re able to do now on an iPhone. I think about when Lil B first started coming out with his Based Freestyles and put out hundreds of freestyles. That’s really dope to me, to just be able to put out everything that’s on your mind, all of your thoughts. Maybe it’s a compulsive behavior…
Definitely. And I think pretty much anyone who is consistently posting on social media who says otherwise is lying. Of course there’s a reward system there—it’s built in. Likes are validation. I don’t know if being conscious of that even makes a difference.
I deleted my Twitter account for a minute and I was a little shocked to discover how addicted I am to sharing my bad opinions. I would have a thought that wasn’t even that funny and feel compelled to do something with it. Like, who can I text this dumbass thought to that I otherwise would’ve just tweeted? Who can I poison with this?
I definitely feel the urge to share, to create, to put something out there. And I definitely feel the validation. I’ll wake up in the morning feeling like, "You need to get something out there, to publish something—it makes you feel better." And then of course the rate of return gets worse and worse. I mean, it’s no different than taking drugs or drinking. Or, it’s kind of the same thing. I’m not an addiction specialist or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re somehow linked. If it’s hitting those dopamine receptors…
Likes are validation. I don’t know if being conscious of that even makes a difference.
If you took all your posts and read them as a body of work, do you think you would see a perceptible arc through them?
There are similar themes that come back—music or fashion, partying or drugs. But what I can see is a map of my emotions. I guess that’s an arc of some sort. If I look at five, six, 10 posts in a row, and they’re all sort of along similar subjects, I can tell if I was feeling shitty or if I was hungover on a particular day. Usually my process is that I post something within 30 minutes of making it. I usually don’t sit on anything. 99% of it is that I’ll have an idea right then, so it’s going to be reflective of whatever I’m going through that day.
I feel like it’s the kind of format where if an idea can’t get itself done in 30 minutes, maybe it’s not the right idea. I have a question about the name you picked—why did you go with that?
I think it’s catchy, first of all. You know how you see ads for fake Ray-Bans on social media? It’s kind of like that. Like, “Oh, fake Yeezy Boosts, this is going to be a page selling fake sneakers online.” And it ties in with youth culture. Kids growing up on hip-hop, the awkwardness that young people that go through, that I know I went through. That identity crisis where you’re trying to do things to fit in, or you don’t even know where you can fit in. That’s the whole identity of the hypebeast, isn’t it? Just trying to fit in?
Right. I find the 350 Boost to be a weird, untouchable object. I actually really like the design, but even if I got a pair for free, I wouldn’t wear them, because I’d be embarrassed if people assumed I waited in line for sneakers.
And plus, you can make money off them, as well. [Laughs]
- Interview: Adam Wray
- Images/Photos Courtesy Of: FakeYeezyBoosts