Viral sensation and theoretical rapper Boonk's eyes are tired and sad. A half empty bottle of Crisco rests on the faux marble countertop behind him. "PaidClub.org, know what I'm saying?" he asks as he fans out a stack of bills. In his previous videos, these bills were hundreds. Now they are twenties. "PaidClub.org," he repeats eight more times.
This isn't the chorus to a song. No, this is the underwhelming sales pitch for an online survey site that promises to make you as rich as Boonk. The fact that they selected Boonk, an Instagram personality best known for stealing donuts, as their spokesperson should tell you all you need to know about PaidClub.org's legitimacy. But go ahead and Google their name if you doubt me.
So how did Boonk, the most celebrated donut bandit of his generation, manage to descend into self-parody, jump the shark, and completely sell-out in only a matter of months? It took 30 years for Steven Tyler to end up on American Idol, but in a world accelerated by technology, Boonk's redemptive celebrity third act should happen by December at the latest.
If you're over 30 or don't care about Instagram, you can be forgiven for not recognizing the name Boonk, a viral reality star who amassed nearly 5 million followers in a few months by posting short videos in which he'd steal shoes, haircuts or meals. Many suspected the videos were fake, but at least one was real. That video -- in which Boonk stomped over the counter of a Dunkin' Donuts and stole an entire tray of glazed -- propelled him to Internet super-stardom.
But it also led to one of Boonk's many arrests. In prison, he happened to cross paths with Joker305, another local wannabe viral star whose schtick was getting his face tattooed to mimic Heath Ledger's Joker make-up. Boonk, who was released from prison earlier, immediately co-opted Joker305's gimmick and decided to get his face covered in Joker tattoos too. This led to the most pathetic beef in the history of rap, as the two skinny nerds from Florida took to social media to argue about which one got comic book tattoos on his face first.
But by that point, Boonk didn't need the Joker gimmick or a public beef to get attention. His obnoxious prank videos were amassing millions of views around the world. Boonk's name became a synonym for stealing. It can be found in the the Urban Dictionary.
Boonk's massive Klout was due to a mix of genuine of fans, curious onlookers, and obsessed haters. Any one of these planks is strong enough to support a reliable social media brand. But all three create a perfect storm that can turn people like Cash-Me-Outside Girl into rappers like Bhad Bhabie. Or trolls like Donald Trump into the 45th President of the United States. Even if people tune in to hate, they're still tuning in. YouTube totals don't subtract for hate-viewing. Google search analytics don't measure irony. That's why a rapper like 6ix9ine can have seven Billboard hits off his first mixtape, yet be totally unknown to anyone who listens to the radio or watches TV.
Music's success used to be measured by the number of people willing to open their wallets and pay for it. Now it's measured by how many people are willing to YouTube it while taking a crap. As such, record companies like Atlantic have adapted and survived by reverse engineering music to meet the demand of whatever's being Googled. So when Boonk's name became hot, it was only a matter of time before an extremely knowledgeable team of entertainment professionals put together some beats and lyrics to create a rap-like product they could brand with Boonk's name.
But unlike more successful viral/rap crossovers like the ironically amazing Bhad Babie or the un-ironically amazing Cardi B, Boonk's talent was thin and his branding was overbearing. Bhad Bhabie's managers were thinking long-term when they decided not to call her Cash-Me-Outside Girl. On the other hand, Boonk's management went all-in on the word "Boonk." It was in every chorus. It was ad-libbed constantly in the background. One of his early singles attempted to launch the "Boonk Walk" as a viral dance craze. Then they actually released a song called "#BoonkGang" with an honest-to-God hashtag in the fucking title.
But despite aggressively branding on the term "Boonk," they seemed to have missed the the very meaning of the word itself. Boonk's initial appeal was in a skinny doofus trying to act tough while he stole donuts. He didn't take the money in the register. He didn't threaten anyone. His only weapon was his camera. The clerk didn't looked far more bored than afraid, which only made the video funnier. Boonk was obnoxious, but ultimately as harmless as Lil Tay pretending to smoke a hot dog blunt.
However that wasn't the same Boonk his management team chose to present to the world in a series of mind-numbingly generic trap songs about gangs, guns and drugs. It sounded like IBM's Watson was programed to write 20 Migos songs using only 20 words. Exclusively promoted on WorldStar Hip Hop (who also paid for their logo to be tattooed on his face), the videos have racked up millions of views. And millions of comments from people continuing to click on his links so they can continue to argue about how much Boonk sucks. His streaming figures (which are weighted more heavily in the Billboard equation) are far less impressive. On Spotify his songs struggle to crack 100,000 plays.
Ironically, the bigger Boonk's fame grew, the harder it became for him to continue boonking. On probation and facing mounting legal fallout, it was now impossible for him to post videos of of himself boonking at the local malll. Instead, he took to flexing on Instagram with machine guns and drugs, which in a hilarious case of self-snitching, led cops directly to his Calabasas McMansion where they arrested him for having machine guns and drugs. He's now on house-arrest and facing a multitude of very expensive court cases.
Though Boonk's Instagram remains hugely popular (at least in terms of followers), all its content has been erased. On some days, he posts a link to his latest music video in the bio. But most days, Boonk posts a link to PaidClub.org, accompanied by another short video in which he repeats "PaidClub.org" over and over again with sad, tires eyes. Comments are always disabled so followers can't mock him for spamming on behalf of a scam site. And by the next morning, the video will be erased.
It only took Boonk four months to turn his name into a verb. It only took another three for him to inexorably change that verb's meaning. Boonking used to mean stealing. Now it means selling out. But in the future, it will probably refer to the act of intentionally boonking oneself.