Interview: Why the ‘Epic Rap Battles of History’ Creators Have More Subscribers Than Justin Bieber

By Devon Glenn 

Peter Shukoff (aka Nice Peter) and Lloyd Ahlquist (aka EpicLLOYD) are setting records with their YouTube series, “Epic Rap Battles of History,” in which the two comedians parody historical figures and pop culture icons from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bill Gates.

After reaching more than 1.2 billion video views and around 5.4 million subscribers on YouTube, ERB discovered that they had more YouTube subscribers than mainstream stars like PSY, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, College Humor, Nicki Minaj, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

In part one of our three-part interview, Peter and Lloyd explain their subscriber count, how fans influence their songs, and how to tell the two of them apart vocally. Here’s an edited version of that conversation.

Which one’s which? I’m recording this phone call.

Peter: I’m Peter. Hi. I have a slightly more Pee-Wee Herman-style voice.

Lloyd: And I’m Lloyd, the slightly more Danny DeVito-style voice.

I understand that you’re now more popular than Justin Bieber, at least in terms of YouTube subscribers.

Peter: That sounds silly, doesn’t it? I think what really happened is that the series we make is, at the moment, distributed pretty much solely through YouTube… that’s our main way of reaching the people. There’s more of the active YouTube community that wants to know when we make something than when Justin Bieber makes something…They have a unique taste and it jibes well with what we do.

How do they influence the rap battles that you guys make?

Lloyd: We choose the battles from the suggestions that the audience makes via the comments on Facebook or on Twitter, or whatever. At the end of every video, we ask, who’s next? And we always figure out who we’re going to do next by looking at what the people are posting.

That’s amazing. Do you have any idea who these people are that the viewers are requesting?

Peter: That’s the thing. It used to be really simple; it used to be really clear. Our first few battles, it was like, Chuck Norris, Abraham Lincoln, Darth Vader, Adolf Hitler…and now we’re starting to get suggestions for people where we’re like, I don’t really know who that guy is, but I’ve seen him a thousand times and it’s on us to look into it and see if it’s the kind of battle we’re looking for.

I was pretty excited about the Mozart one. Do you guys have areas of expertise?

Peter: No, but I think we’re trying to appeal to your area of expertise. We were aware when we did Captain Kirk versus Christopher Columbus that there were going to be some Star Trek fans and we better get it right.

(Part 2 of 3):  ‘Epic Rap Battles’ Creators on Snoop: ‘He’s an Innovative Dude, That Dude’

(Part 3 of 3): ‘Epic Rap Battles’ Creators on YouTube Success: ‘There’s No One Dumping Cash Into Us’