From the School of Starbucks: A Q&A with 'Arlington: The Rap' Star Remy Munasifi

June 12, 2009


IT’S BEEN 24 HOURS since Remy Munasifi uploaded his latest video on YouTube. And if you’ve got a Twitter feed or a Facebook page or a Gmail account, you’ve probably already seen it: It’s a rap lauding the 28-year-old’s Starbucks-laden, Whole Foods-hoppin’ ‘hood: Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington: The Rap,” which sings the praises of Crate & Barrel and notes the ubiquity of brown flip-flops, has jumped from 300 to 30,000 YouTube views in less than a day. We caught up with Munasifi to quiz him on his, uh, Clarendon street cred.

» EXPRESS: What makes Arlington so hardcore?
» MUNASIFI: It’s populated by straight-up thugs. Really, seersucker is a fabric, but it’s really a fabric that holds the town together. I was on the Metro and I saw a guy with brown flip-flops and seersucker shorts and I said, ‘Yes! This is a video that needs to be made.’

It’s a unique place — that’s why I moved here. I like it a lot. There are a lot of individuals, unique personalities, creative people. It’s kinda artsy. Everybody’s real nice, too. It’s not something that happens completely up and down the East Coast.

» EXPRESS: The video has gotten a lot of traffic in just 24 hours. Has response been crazy?
» MUNASIFI: That’s cool. Now I’m just worried that folks are going to get sick of it; it’s only been a day. I’m just happy that folks liked it. I put other videos out there — about something general. But this [song] was about a two-mile radius, so I didn’t think it was really going to do [well].

» EXPRESS: Where did the idea come from?
» MUNASIFI: I live in Clarendon now, just a couple blocks from the Metro. I just moved here a few weeks ago and I thought that would be kinda cool to introduce everybody to my new ‘hood. I really like Clarendon; I didn’t land here by accident. It was like a celebration. I got a couple e-mails yesterday that folks liked it, and I was content with that. So far today it’s been more of the same.



» EXPRESS: Where’d you move from?
» MUNASIFI: I moved from McLean in the suburbs — also an essentially rough neighborhood. I’m all about the Metro now. It’s life altering.

» EXPRESS: Do you have a day job?
» MUNASIFI: No, I’m actually full-time on YouTube. I’m one of the content partners. So most of my video is ad supported, so far so good. As long as folks keep watching, I’m OK.

» EXPRESS: A lot of local folks are getting introduced to you for the first time, but some of your other videos already have millions of page views. How do you come up with new content?
» MUNASIFI: It’s like anything else I guess, something will just occur to you and you go with it. One time I was ordering eggs at the IHOP. I told the lady I wanted my eggs over easy. I just sort of started a song, then it got stuck in my head. Then I had a song about eggs over easy. It’s completely silly. You never know when it’s going to strike you.

» EXPRESS: When did you shoot the Arlington video? You had the newly opened Walgreens in there so it must have been pretty recently.
» MUNASIFI: Good call. That was on Saturday. I was running around Wilson, got a lot of weird looks. I actually got an e-mail today from a guy who said, “I saw you running around Whole Foods crouched up against a wall. I thought you were crazy.” Now he thinks I’m marginally less crazy.

» EXPRESS: You had a video question during last year’s Democratic debate. Is that when things started picking up for you?
» MUNASIFI: I wouldn’t say there was a single moment. I don’t have any video I would say is like a viral superstar big hit. I think the thing with my channel is consistency. Folks seem to like the videos, each thing leads to the next. Obviously being accepted into the partner program was great, but obviously getting the views and support of fans and everything like that to pay the bills. I got featured on the homepage of YouTube for a video I made for the holidays. It was called “Happy Holidays.” That introduced me to a lot of new viewers.

» EXPRESS: Are your friends jealous?
» MUNASIFI: No, my friends are real supportive and are quick to lend a hand. This Arlington video is case and point. That’s a friend who will stand there in front of a camera while you yell in front of a lot of onlookers.

» EXPRESS: Were there crowds of onlookers or was it more of a duck and run scenario?
» MUNASIFI: There’s nothing impressive of my set-up when I’m filming. I don’t have a lot of high-tech equipment. Maybe if I had a cameraman with large lights it might draw a crowd. I just get odd looks.

» EXPRESS: Some people walk around singing, so maybe a guy rapping …
» MUNASIFI: I was thinking about it. I live in an area where there’s just a dude who walks around yelling out loud. You walk by him and you don’t think anything of it. You’ve forgotten about it by the next day.

» EXPRESS: Right! On Highland Street.
» MUNASIFI: Yeah! So I’m like that guy, no one will remember this tomorrow.

» EXPRESS: Maybe, maybe not. Where are you looking to go with this?
» MUNASIFI: I’m perfectly content being on YouTube. This is what I set out to do. I’m fortunate to have the support of so many people that this is my life. I’ll always have a YouTube channel as long as people are kind enough to support it and watch.

» EXPRESS: Any Arlington corridor haunts we could find you at?
» MUNASIFI: I’m still trying to find my way around. I went and ate at 3 last night. I like that place. I like the rooftop at the [Clarendon] Ballroom.

» EXPRESS: Yeah that’s thug life at the Clarendon Ballroom.
» MUNASIFI: Yeah, it gets pretty rough. I saw some dude with a Smirnoff Ice who was looking like he was going to start something, but fortunately they calmed him down.

Arlington: The Rap

Happy Holidays: The Rap

McDonald’s: The Rap

Photos courtesy Remy Munasifi

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