I’m going to do something I really hate to do: admit I was wrong. In Gonzo Culture, I wrote:
The term itself [clouthouse] is in the process of genericiding: becoming a generic catch-all for predecessors like the Team 10 mansion as well as the inevitable copycats. (Collab house is to facial tissue as clouthouse is to kleenex.)
I’m revising this claim, hype house won:
The term itself [hype house] is in the process of genericiding: becoming a generic catch-all for predecessors like the Team 10 mansion as well as the inevitable copycats. (Collab house is to facial tissue as [hype house] is to kleenex.)
When I first heard about the phenomenon of TikTokkers and YouTubers moving to McMansions in the Los Angeles and beyond to make content together, it was October 2019. I got a DM from a stranger on Instagram. It was Blair Chapman, a then-student at USC. He liked an article I had written about The Rise and Fall of the Millennial. We ended up chatting over the next couple of days. During the course of that, he asked me what I thought of clout houses.
It was a record scratch moment: “What’s a clout house?” Google wasn’t turning up much. There was the actual Clout House where the Clout Gang (FaZe Banks influencer collective) lived in the Hollywood Hills. Blair suggested I watch Jawline (2019) and Shane Dawson’s 8 part YouTube documentary Inside the Mind of Jake Paul (2018) if I wanted to get a better understanding. (For this and many other contributions, Blair is credited as a researcher on the Gonzo Culture report.)
Both deal with clout houses: Jawline’s main subject, Austyn Tester lives in rural Tennessee, but the contrasting plotline in Los Angeles follows Bryce Hall (now a member of Sway House), Nick Champa, and others as they live in what we would now call a hype house, under the thumb of Gen Z talent manager Michael Weist. Dawson’s web series tours Paul’s Team 10 House, which exemplifies the trend to a tee: somewhere unspecified in the Valley, the mansion’s model is something like frat meets studio meets agency meets influencer collective. Additionally, Dawson pays a visit to the actual Clout House, itself (where ex-girlfriend, Alyssa Violet then resides).
Fast-forward to 2020, and Jake Paul claims:
I create the first content house Then there’s 500 content houses I start boxing Now every influencer is a boxer What’s next? Y’all gon get raided by the FBI on purpose?
He is 100% correct. The trend has taken off like a rocket. Since The New York Times covered FaZe Clan (Note: their abode is called FaZe house not Clout House in the article) in November and popularized the Hype House in January, imitators have cropped up in Spain, the UK, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. They have variously been called “collab houses,” “TikTok mansions,” “content houses,” “clout houses,” “creator houses” and so forth and so on. There’s probably an alternate history where Team 10 House and Clout House, the two earliest adopters of this model had a better PR strategy and “team houses” or “clout houses” did became the common nomenclature. But here in this timeline, a quick Google Trends search reveals the term “hype house” is already crushing the competition.
Why hype house? At first glance, it’s alliterative and less diagnostic than its competitors. We’re discussing common usage in pop culture, not precise terminology in a sociological or marketing sense. Second, hype (like clout) is a constituent element of the digital realm, much like earth, fire, water, or air here in reality. Third, the Hype House (unlike the Clout House) was tied to the most discussed social media platform of 2020: TikTok. The gamer collective of the Clout House, would’ve been better suited to become the stand-in for the general trend if it was just taking off now. I predict 2021 will be the year the media obsesses over gaming (see: Gamerbait and this The New York Times article from yesterday).
The Hype House won out as a neologism because sat at the intersection of an exciting new cultural form (TikTok influencer collectives) and as in most instances of genericide—it’s just more fun to say. Why call them cotton swabs when you can call them q-tips? Why call it a collab house when hype house rolls off the tongue? A quick scan of Twitter reveals this to be the case:
Now that the common name feels settled, the next conversation inevitably gets down to brass tacks: who can take credit for the trend? After the naming, comes the claiming. This is why Jake Paul is up in arms (see: his tweet above). It’s also why he uses the term “content house” rather than “collab house” (the term put forward by The New York Times last January)—or “hype house” (the most commonly used term and subject of said NYT article). In Paul’s mind, to use either term is to give them credit—not him.
As the press explores the genealogy of the hype house and who “really invented it,” a number of media Easter eggs are being unearthed. Who knew all the most precocious NetRoots bloggers lived in a shared DC rental in 2008? See “blogger house” coverage: here. In case anyone forgot, when Vine was a thing, creators lived together in this pun-themed apartment building. Dean Kissick’s year in review for Spike points out the obvious art historical precedent for the hype houses, Ryan Trecartin:
Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch used to have a house in Los Angeles for filming, where friends and collaborators could stay and hang out, and party, I heard, and drink and take drugs and hook up, and really inhabit their characters; all those things you might do in a streamer house today. So not only did Trecartin anticipate how we communicate now, through a collage of language and images and tones and identities, he also invented the modern L.A. streamer house. Streamer houses are art collectives for the entertainment industry.
It’s hard not to agree. The new crop of Zoomer internet personalities look like Ryan Trecartin characters:
As a fellow RISD grad, there’s something deeply funny about all this. I began art school in 2005, the fall after Ryan had graduated and met him at a warehouse party the summer after my freshman year. He had something of a hype house in Rhode Island, too. It was called the Pink House (even the naming conventions are the same) and was located in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence. The storytelling then was slightly different. Ryan had taken the antics of the DIY warehouse scene in Olneyville, a post-industrial wonderland on the West Side of town and brought the theatrics and group creativity to a more domestic space on the wealthier, more residential East Side, where student housing clustered near RISD and Brown.
You can see other Trecartin-esque features among the YouTubers’ output. Take the glitchy, digital-effect laden editing style of Emma Chamberlain’s vlogs. Chamberlain and Trecartin’s aesthetics are not entirely unalike—but I wonder if this is influence or parallel evolution? As video editing tools went from professional to prosumer to just consumer, you don’t need to be avant-garde to fuck around with your footage. There’s something similarly direct about artists living and working together. It was bound to be institutionalized for the new streamer class at some point or another. Maybe this is the ‘everything is turning into crabs’ moment for digital output…
My hope is that Ryan invites some of these digital creators to his new Ohio house so we can finally find out :^)
This is the last newsletter of 2020. (I’m taking Christmas off.) Special thanks to everyone who has subscribed! And a happy holidays to all the ballers! See everyone in the New Year 🎄
ICYMI: Last week, I wrote about brand vs. lore. The week before, I dove into the history of coolhunting. If you’re interested in either, please subscribe :^)