A common misconception about generating acclaim and popularity online is that success comes quickly, that you’re only a viral video away from becoming the next internet sensation.
Yet, if you ask those who have actually achieved a certain level of notoriety, they will tell you that becoming mainstream is not that simple.
Instead, to build a subscriber base, it takes time, commitment, and most importantly, great content.
Hafeez Baoku is one of the founders of The Roommates podcast. Along with his friend Chris Below, the two have spent the last four years tirelessly working to build a profitable brand by appealing to men of all demographics.
To show men the right way to live.
It should be noted that none of the content the duo produces is disingenuous or used as a platform to sell.
They don’t inundate their viewers with plugs for get-rich-quick courses or lecture about how to get more matches on Tinder.
For Baoku and Below, their main objective is simply to inspire men to be the best versions of themselves: physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Baoku tells me, adding that “a lot of people don’t understand the fullness of the story. A lot of people don’t understand how this has been my life.”
“Some people want to be a motivational speaker, they want to be an author, an individual who helps people, but I never wanted to be that; I just was that.”
This is because throughout his life, Baoku has been a man of action, intent on realizing his potential by undertaking a path that few have the bravery or fortitude to endure.
Again, none of what Baoku does is self-serving. For him, the journey toward success has always been about helping others along the way.
“My whole life I’ve always had an uncanny ability to rally the people around me, especially my peers. When I was nineteen, I developed a passion to help mentor young guys, give them guidance and direction. After college, I became a teacher and filmmaker because that’s what I value, is giving back and helping people transform their lives,” Baoku explains.
Even though Baoku has always made his life’s work about helping others, it wasn’t until 2018 that he began to build a national audience through The Roommates podcast.
He says there were two pivotal moments for his brand.
First, in 2018, The Roommates podcast hosted legendary entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. The video itself did not catapult The Roommates podcast into the stratosphere of shows like The Joe Rogan Experience, but it proved that they were able to work with legitimate influencers and provide value to a wide audience.
Then, in 2020, they interviewed another popular influencer, Alpha Male Strategies (AMS).
“What the AMS interview did was introduce me to the audience that wasn’t previously aware of our content,” says Baoku. “I knew there was a large community of men who the content would resonate with, but I had to find them, so I’m really grateful to a guy like AMS who gave me an opportunity by coming on my show. It obviously was mutually beneficial, but it opened my brand up to a whole new audience.”
Beyond hosting interviews with an array of successful people, The Roommates is also praised for their Pepe Soup segments.
Simply put, the Pepe Soup clips are all about giving people the unadulterated truth, no matter how painful it may be.
In a recent segment, Baoku delivered a few words of encouragement to a woman from Ohio who was looking for relationship advice.
This clip, featured below, involved Baoku dismantling the woman’s misguided perception of herself and the type of man she felt she deserved.
While the comments section of this video is littered with critics who interpreted Baoku’s forwardness as brash and offensive, Baoku insists that his communication patterns are genuine, and not an attempt to garner views from people searching YouTube for dramatic content.
“It’s the Nigerian in me,” he says, in describing the natural way he conveys information. “In western society, one thing we have lost is healthy direct masculinity. What direct masculinity entails is, for example, when Dad sees you doing something wrong, he’s not going to smile to your face. He’s going to tell you that what you are doing is wrong and needs to stop.”
“I had an amazing father and one thing he wouldn’t do is lie to me. If there was something that was wrong, he would tell me it was wrong, and that’s because he loves me.”
Baoku is adamant that an unfiltered style of communication doesn’t have to be interpreted as toxic. Of course, there will always be individuals who aren’t programmed to handle intense scrutiny, but for those who can absorb the initial sting, the opportunity to grow awaits.
“Someone once said the opposite of love is hate, but that’s not true,” says Baoku. “The opposite of love is apathy. When you don’t love someone, you don’t care what they do.”
“And look, I know my type of advice is not for everybody. Not everyone can digest it well, so I’m never going to be mad at someone for not being able to take it, but when I give people advice, I’m giving them something that isn’t filled with BS.”
In addition to having a strong father figure who was unafraid of being critical, Baoku also harkens back to a key conversation he had with his pastor many years ago.
“One of the most pivotal moments of my life happened when I was twenty years old, and my pastor told me that one of the most difficult things a man can do in his life is go up to the seven people who are closest to him and ask for a raw, honest assessment of who he is. Receiving this advice and being able to apply it to my life helped transform me, so when people want the truth from me, I feel that I should do the same for them.”
For as much advice as Baoku shares with others, he admits that he still has a long way to go in his own development process, calling his journey toward complete emotional fulfillment a never-ending work in progress.
“What people have to realize is that my style of communication is not directed only at the audience. It’s also directed at myself. If you think I’m harsh on other people, you should hear how I talk to myself because I hold myself to extremely high standards and I fall short, a lot,” Baoku reveals.
“In that sense, being kind to people is something I have to work on.”
Through hosting entertaining podcasts and meeting other cerebral intellectuals off-air, Baoku continues to evolve.
Consequently, the same will happen for The Roommates podcast. Baoku mentions he would love to one day host the iconic Jordan Peterson on his show, but until then is more than content to continue commiserating with other accomplished professionals who have amassed a dearth of knowledge throughout their careers.
“Anyone who has that GOAT level of knowledge,” he says of who The Roommates typically pursue for interviews. “To talk to them and get that information is worth $10,000. To be able to sit down and talk to people who are millionaires and their time is really valuable, having an hour to talk to them about whatever I want, I cherish that.”
Beyond The Roommates and the various opportunities that platform creates, Baoku also adds that his future will include more than just hosting podcasts. This goes back to the giving nature he has always employed.
When asked what type of ancillary goals he hopes to achieve in the coming years, Baoku is quick to mention his desire to optimize the maturation process for boys.
“Throughout the world, we’ve lost the rituals of manhood. Young males of all different ages, skill sets, and ethnicities have a path to manhood, and I want to streamline a path so that guys from sixteen years old to fifty years old have the content, tools, and resources to become better,” explains Baoku.
“The biggest thing is making it simple. A lot of information that we give to people is made too complicated, and with my content, I try to make it extremely simple because I want people to actually apply it to their lives.”
This much is clear:
At this rate, one can only imagine what kind of successes await Baoku and The Roommates podcast.
Either way, no matter what heights Baoku’s popularity reaches, we can fully expect that he will always remain the same passionate yet humble man that he was raised to be. QS
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