Internet phenomenon NOHUN on viral fame, racism and being his authentic self

Exclusive: Raurie 'NOHUN' Williams speaks to Attitude about social media stardom.


Words: Alastair James; pictures: NOHUN/@NOHUN

He's taken the internet by storm with his hilarious, insightful and often cutting social media takedowns of the UK government and their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

But who is the man behind the popular NOHUN account?

Raurie 'NOHUN' Williams recently sat down with Attitude to talk about how he got started making videos on TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, what's coming up for him and why he wants to put the phone down one day.

What got you started?

I started making Snapchat videos first and when lockdown happened TikTok became a big thing. And then I started posting more and more, but I'd been making the same sort of content and putting it on Snapchat and Instagram before. But it has really helped me reach a new and bigger audience.

What's been the key to your success?

I think the key is variety. Not just sticking to one thing. I do talk a lot about politics and Covid news. But then I'll show my normal life - going shopping or not being able to fit on the roller coaster. Being authentic as well, because that is the truest version of myself that people see on there.

Did you always want to make the political content?

I try and keep away from it as much as I can, but sometimes I can't hold back. I feel people are waiting for me to say it now, so now I feel I have a duty to speak out on certain things. I think it's important to be able to express myself, but I still try and incorporate humour into it to make it funny because I think it would be boring if it was just factual. I would find it boring; I wouldn’t watch it.


Bye love

♬ original sound - NOHUN

Has your relationship with it changed because people expect you to say things on issues?

I have to be more mindful now of what’s in the news and especially things that concern the government because I've been so vocal about them. I don't feel like I have to do it because if I didn't want to do it, I wouldn’t. It's a case of people have become accustomed to me speaking on certain things now. So, there's a little pressure, I suppose.

Is that pressure manageable? If you're out and about and something happens do you drop everything?

That doesn't faze me. I'll just do it wherever I am, and I've got no shame. If I'm in the supermarket or in the middle of a meeting I will literally just say 'I need to go do a video' and carry on. It just comes really quick off the cuff.

Is Birmingham your favourite city in the world or is it the best city in the world?

It's my favourite city in the world! It's not the best city in the world! I've lived here all my life, it's home. I'm proud to be from Birmingham. I love it! 

And what was it Birmingham Live also called you?

"Penniless and alone!" We’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship, me and Birmingham Live. They print about me all the time. They phone me for comments, and then they always end up printing it wrong!

I'll try not to do the same thing!

Or I’ll make a video about you!

I don't want that! On that, is there anyone you would spare or is everyone fair game?

Everybody's fair game, but you have to be careful sometimes. It's easy to target the government because not many people are big fans of the government and how they've handled things. But some figures or organizations are quite loved and respected by the general population.

What would you say to people wanting to be famous on social media?

I would say be prepared for an extreme amount of attention because if you do suffer from anxiety and things like that, it could be quite difficult to deal with. You have to understand that everybody is going to have an opinion on you and it's not always going to be good. And you have to accept that.

Just like I'm allowed to have my opinion and a lot of people do agree with it, people are allowed to disagree with it. And I think in the beginning, I found that really hard to deal with because I felt like it was an attack on me. But it’s just an opinion.

Also, authenticity is key. I've always been authentic to myself. A lot of people have approached me wanting to work with me on the condition I stop saying or doing certain things. I think you need to stay true to yourself and what you believe in. I've turned down jobs because of what they ask of me and it doesn't sit right with me to be able to do that.

Do you worry about being successful on social media?

Definitely. At the moment, for me, it’s going up. But I am bearing it in mind that everyone has their 15 minutes and at some point, it will start to decline. If I'm not ready then that will affect my mental health. People do well and then they don't do well, and that might not even be a reflection on you.

That might just be people aren't seeing your content, but it can make you doubt yourself and think that you're not as funny as you used to be or as popular as you were. So, I'm enjoying it now but I’m also planning for a future where it's not in my life anymore because I know that time will come. 

So, you don’t see yourself doing it forever?

I think for me it's now that I want to make the transition. I'm going on a stand-up tour next year and I will start scaling back my content. I'll probably just use Instagram like most people do to post a picture. I think I’m going to go out, do a tour and have a break, and live a quiet life. Two years from now I don't want to be doing this. I want to put my phone down and live life.

I think anyone would understand that. Congrats on the tour! Was that anything you had in mind when you started?

I never aspired to be a comedian. I was just doing my little videos and living a moderately peaceful life. I can't say what's going to happen in the future, I can only say how I want it to be. It might not go that way. However, if I'm doing what I love, then I'm going to be happy either way.

With social media, is there anything you want to do to make it a safe space?

Yeah, there are a few things I’d like to do. The first thing is on racism. It's been a big thing recently especially with the football. I think I speak on behalf of a lot of Black content creators who are having the same issue, but sometimes it does feel like we've been targeted by these large platforms when content is suppressed or removed when you haven't done anything wrong, or you've challenged a hateful ideology only to have your opinion removed but the hateful ideology remains. It is really, really disheartening and it does affect my mental health.


Make it make sense you cnts

♬ original sound - NOHUN

The second thing I want to do is stuff talking about kids in care. They are just forgotten by society and the same system that is supposed to protect them and especially vulnerable young gay men. As a child, I was in care and things happened to me that that shouldn't have happened because I was gay and a minority, so I would like to raise some more awareness on the issue.

The third thing is knife crime. I am going to do a massive campaign in September about getting knives off the streets and getting young people into creative arts. There's not a lot of opportunity for young people at the moment. So, it's about getting the funding and getting people on board so that we can create these opportunities for young people.

Have you ever had an issue as an LGBTQ creator as well?

I've never actually thought of it that way… It's a double-edged sword now because I've only been going at it from the viewpoint that I thought I was being targeted because I was Black, and I actually sometimes forget that I'm gay and that people do actually still target people because of their sexuality as well.

Wow! Now I'm thinking of other times I’ve had stuff taken down. Maybe I've made a gay reference and that video’s been removed because I spoke about being gay or… Now I think about it, it's quite alarming!

You mentioned your experiences growing up in care, with mental health and addiction. Is that stuff you’re going to talk about on tour?  

100 per cent. Especially addiction, because I know that so many people are struggling with it but won't talk about it because it’s taboo. People find me relatable because of the things I talk about, so I will always include those topics in everything that I do. I'll never be free of it.

And, it sounds bad, but I don't want to be free of it because it's shaped who I am. And I wouldn't be the person I am now if it wasn't for those things.

Are you working on stuff for the tour now?

I’ve got no material! I've got absolutely nothing! I usually come up with this stuff off the cuff. So, I think what I'm going to do is live a bit more, have some fun, do some stupid s*** that I'm probably going to regret and then make great material with it.

So that's the plan. I'm just going to go and live for the rest of the year and then come January write the script and hit the road. 

What’s your experience been as a gay rapper in what seems like a very straight dominated genre?

When I first came out as a gay rapper, I don’t think the UK grime scene was ready hence why I received a lot of negative backlash. The focus was solely on my sexuality rather than my talent. I don’t think attitudes have changed much and it is sad to see that there still isn’t any widely recognised representation for the LGBTQ community within UK rap.

You've also got your clothing range Bad Bear coming out at the end of July?

Yeah, 30 July. I've got the tour, and I've got some documentaries coming out with BBC Three. I'm definitely going to be putting some more music out there. I'm going to keep the videos coming as well but I’m going to try and move away from government and Covid related content because I'm getting sick of it now, and I think everyone else will be sick of it. I’m going to start focusing on light-hearted stuff and not take things too seriously because life is too short and too serious to have to worry about these things.

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