Every month I will highlight a Black artist, form of entertainment, business, or social media personality to help to spread awareness of Black Excellence. Be sure to check here on the 2nd of every month!
As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, it's the perfect time to try some new things. You can never be sure how these things will work out, but this month's spotlight are all living proof of the fact that sometimes, it's important to step out on faith (and fate). BurKenRodTV is an entertainment conglomerate (look it up) that is the brainchild of three friends: James Burt (the Bur), Kendall Harris (the Ken), and Roderick Brown (the Rod), who all wanted to create a platform that encompasses many forms of media and entertainment in a fresh way. Together the three members of BurKenRod sat down with me and we talked about their goals, their journey, and how their platform and what they have done has changed and shaped all of their lives. Check it out!
M. Haynes: Hey guys!
M. Haynes: This group interview is something new for "The Ratchedemic". Congrats on being the first ones to try this out and being trendsetters!
Ken: Well thanks for taking the time out to work with us and want to interview us. We are proud to be the beta testers (laughs).
MH: So I would like to start with just a quick little rundown of how you guys met, and just a little about yourselves. How did this relationship between you three come about?
Ken: Well we all met in college, joined our fraternity and became lifelong friends. After Lane we all sort of went our separate ways to Wisconsin, Alabama, Tennessee, and sort of came back together last summer and had an idea to try to make a commentary on camera. On September 11th of last year we made our first video and we've been together ever since. We got a huge response from that first video we made, even though it was just a tester, and we've been doing this ever since.
What all forms of entertainment does BurKenRodTV encompass?
Ken: We have a website, a web series, vlogs, Facebook live videos...I think we were the first people in our area, the southern network of Tennessee, to really start that trend of doing Facebook live videos, all by accident. We just wanted to create a news platform, because we still do news, in just a comical way. You know people in journalism have this saying, "If it bleeds it leads" and that's really depressing so we wanted to change that a bit.
What do you think makes your platform stand out? Is it just that comical spin you have on things?
Ken: People know our brand as being comically shadeful to put it in a nice way (laughs). I think we are so different from other news platforms is that we are an all male ensemble. Usually you would see a man/women or all women giving news, but I think we are a little different. The women have taken the lead with news reporting, and we want to be the young male panel that does comedy, commentary, and news.
Rod: And to get people involved. We want to have people involved in what we do.
And with creating that all male ensemble, especially since it's something fairly new, how do you all make that work?
Ken: It's all about gelling together and having that chemistry. Like Rev. Run and Tyrese had a show together, and that was a male duo that didn't go so well-
Burt: Well you had Rev. Run, for one.
Ken: -yeah. You have to have that chemistry, that connection, and know your audience. They were for two different age brackets and it didn't work. Same with The Real. Tamar made her exit and we see where the ratings went. We want to really use our chemistry to make it work.
Burt: I'm thinking of two of our quotes, "The best you is the authentic you" and "You gotta watch because someone is always watching you". Like both of these really are things that we keep in mind when we're doing what we do because you never know who is watching, so you always have to be who you are. Even when it's not the people you expect, because we had a lot of people who don't and didn't support us.
Ken: I think it's from jealousy. A lot of folks feel that because it's not them doing well or doing this or doing that, then they don't wanna support. They feel like it should be me doing that, it should be me in his shoes.
Rod: In other words, people assume that success happens overnight. They think it happens quick and they think that we got it. No, we're still building. We made it a year and we're still building; it doesn't come for free and it doesn't come easy.
Burt: As you can see we're inside of an Extended Stay, but people won't even know that. From our content you wouldn't even know that we live in an Extended Stay. And I say that to let you know that BurKenRodTV is here to stay. We are not letting anything stop us. So long as we are keeping God first and staying positive we can make it. Meeting nice and genuine people and being nice and genuine with them is going to keep us going.
Do you mind me adding this?
Rod: No, we are authentic. This is authentic. That's what makes us work.
Burt: We moved out here to make BurKenRodTV work. We came to California, where it's much harder to find apartments and stuff, so that we could grow. People need to know that work goes into this and that none of this comes easy.
Now that we're going into the work that goes into this, I want to ask another question. Were there any goals that you had in mind when you started BurKenRodTV?
Burt: When Kendall first started this we didn't even know how this was going to come about. We knew that we were going to move to California, but we didn't know it was for BurKenRodTV. Right now we're working on a few things, like with Rod and Kendall they're musicians, so we're working on an EP with Rod making the beats.
Rod: And that's what falls into BurKenRodTV being an entertainment platform. That's what we're about; we're universal.
Burt: We do it all: we do web series, documentaries, podcasts, interviews, it's a host of everything that we do and all we have is the three of us. Everything that we do we do ourselves.
I can't believe no one has approached you yet.
Burt: Well, we met a screenwriter the other day who actually wants to write for us. He was drawn in, but you know you don't wanna just work with anybody. You have to make sure they are good people.
Rod: I was just shocked that when we mentioned BurKenRodTV that he knew who we were. He said, "Oh, I've heard about y'all. My friend lives in Delaware and she loves you all."
Ken: Delaware. We don't know anyone in Delaware.
Rod: The word is consistency. Consistency is key. If you don't have consistency then you become complacent and stagnant. No one wants that. No one wants a brand that's complacent.
So I can definitely see how this is paying off for you all right now, but think back to your first videos. How did it feel to get that initial reaction? What were some of the kinks you had to work out?
Burt: Well like Kendall said the first video was just a tester, and after Rod-a lot of people don't know this but everything from the graphics, editing, designs Rod does. From all the stuff that Rod does outside of that and was still able to put together a video that people responded to positively was a shocker.
Ken: But let me tell you how faith works, or should I say how fate works. The software that Rod uses I had had since 2012, but never knew how to work it. When we came together and started trying to do this thing, I still didn't know how to use it, (points to Rod) but someone did.
Rod: Honestly I had never used that software a day in my life. (laughs)
Ken: Fate. We just said let's record something, tell everyone what we did and see what we created.
Burt: Even our name was something that we created that is of all of us. We had to come up with something that represented us. Like his name is Kendall, my last name is Burt, and he's Rod. We put them together and we became BurKenRod and we just added that first video. And a year later, we're still here.
So how do you all deal with the fame you have now? You've met people who know you from all over, how do you deal with being a part of the social media movement?
Burt: It's funny you said that. We actually just got an email about being social media influencers who would test out like apps and things. So, I personally feel like we are doing and handling it pretty well. We're seeing the trends we set catch on, more people from our undergrad are going live, creating brands, and everything. It's no hate, because we want everyone to rise, but it's just funny how some people want us to support them by liking their page and everything but they haven't done it for us.
Rod: It's still pending.
Burt: Right! Still pending. I mean we try not to be bitter about that but-
Rod: In order to receive support you have to give support. That's probably been our biggest thing.
Burt: And it takes nothing to share or like a post, but some people refuse to do that. Maybe because it's us, but whatever. Even with Trap Queenz, people think that we're mocking people or taking other people's ideas, but we write our own scripts-
Rod: Key word: write. scripts.
Burt: (laughs) -yeah we write and put our own spin on it. The characters are different: they're not housewives, they're not none of that. They're the Real Trap Queenz of the O.C. We just want folks to get to know us and see what we have to offer.
Okay. Last few questions. What are you're endgoal? Where do you want to see BurKenRodTV?
Burt: You know how you see OWN? That's what BurKenRodTV is trying to do. We want to be a network where we can have music, we can have acting, we can have-
Rod: -we can talk about fashion.
Burt: We can have everything.
Ken: We want our own conglomerate. We want to be our own entity. Black owned. And we want to assist others to reach their goals too.
Burt: Yes, bring people in under our brand. Just want to have a network that covers everything.
Ken: And beyond.
Do you have any last comments for the readers? Any words of encouragement for those who want to be where you all are?
Ken: I'm thinking of a quote..."In order to succeed your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." You cannot be afraid to fall, just pick yourself back up and keep pushing. Be fearless.
Rod: I say never let anyone deter you from your goals.
Burt: No one! Not even family! But I would say that for anyone following your dreams be humble, and always keep your mind on your dreams.