The Black Hokage is officially joining XSET. We dove into a wide-lens interview with the content creator, covering everything from spirit fish and navigating the gaming industry as a Black streamer, to his plans with the new org.
XSET call themselves “the world’s most diverse, innovative, socially conscious esports ‘set.’” Corey “The Black Hokage” Smallwood’s tagline is “who your GOAT considers their GOAT.” They obviously share high standards and them partnering up makes more sense than a vending machine.
As TBH joins his new org, we got a chance to talk about his journey, his interests, and new team. But first, some quick facts.
- Favorite color? My favorite color’s green ‘cause I like to make money.
- Favorite food? My favorite food is pizza, but I don’t eat it no more — that stuff makes you fat. I recently lost over 100 pounds so I stay away from the carbs. I had my Uncle Iroh moment.
- Favorite hobbies? Exercising, reading, anime. I’m weirdly obsessed with just improving myself as a man. That’s what I try to preach as well.
- Favorite animes? People know I like Naruto. But it’s not my favorite, my favorite anime is Code Geass. Naruto‘s just a gateway drug. Then, Hunter x Hunter, 91 Days, Drifters, Gangsta, Black Clover — those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
- Favorite animal? A lion. That’s kind of how I view myself, I just want to be at the top, the cream of the crop.
- If you were a fish, what kind of fish would you be? I would go with a shark, ‘cause those are the lions of the ocean.
Streaming & Gaming
The tagline is “who your GOAT considers their GOAT,” so who are among your inspirations?
“When it comes to content creation, I watch a lot of people, study, and take little bits, but I don’t consider anyone in gaming a heavy inspiration. My heavy inspiration comes from stand-up comedy, that’s what I love. So Dave Chappelle, Paul Mooney, Bernie Mac — a lot of my inspirations are classic stand-up comedians. And I try to implement a comedic style into my content and commentary, where I give a little bit of the medicine and the candy.”
As a streamer with a lot of cultural discussion and viewer interaction, how would you describe your community to newcomers?
My community is level-headed, open-minded, loves to joke; they’re quick to roast you when you make mistakes. Oftentimes your community is a reflection of who you are and things that you allow, so I think it often is a reflection of me.
- Read more: SuperEvan joins XSET: “something to prove”
My chat always jokes ‘we don’t watch you for the gameplay.’ I’m okay at games, I’m an above-average player, but I’m not a pro player, dude. I’ve recently kind of rebranded myself, ‘cause I kind of started off as joking content and — the jokes are still there — but I’ve kind of rebranded myself as everybody’s big brother. Every time I learn something, every time I learn a new lesson, I bring it to the stream and it creates a dialogue and… that’s what it’s about.
— Holiest🌐 (@HHoliest) July 28, 2021
As far as games go, you stream a lot of Apex Legends. Is that your favorite and why do you prefer it over Warzone?
Warzone’s full of hackers and also I’m just not a big Call of Duty fan, they just camp and stuff. Apex, I feel like people pull up more and I’m ‘bout that action — especially in the Arenas. But in BR, just learning the mechanics and how the different characters coincide with one another and how you can complement one another, I think the teamwork is what appeals to me the most.
But I play a lot of single-player games too. I do game reviews on YouTube, so I just beat Ratchet and Clank. I’m playing Mass Effect 2: Legendary Edition, that’s my favorite game of all time. I actually grew up as a single-player gamer. I play Apex because it’s my go-to multiplayer game to play with friends, but in all honesty, my best streams are when I play single-player games; that’s when I start going on tangents. (I am looking forward to Battlefield 2042, when it comes to multiplayer, though.)
I low key enjoy when @TheBlackHokage plays single-player games more because he tells hella stories lmao.
— TheFroWhoKnows (@thefrowh0knows) June 28, 2021
Inclusivity in gaming
Shifting gears, XSET emphasizes diversity and you have an important perspective as a Black creator. Considering how long gaming has felt like a white-dominated and discriminatory space, have you noticed any progress?
I’ve been around for a really long time and I’m starting to see progress maybe in the last three to five years. But it’s been a long time coming and I still think we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s about accessibility, people just don’t know that we exist. A lot of times I’ll meet other content creators at events and I’m often actually the biggest content creator in the room… and they have no clue who I am. And then they wanna be your friend once they see your social media following.
But it’s because the world is a big place and a lot of times we operate in our own little bubbles and echo chambers, so you just don’t know. I think as long as we keep continuing to talk to one another, things will improve, but nah, it’s not where it needs to be — it’s just recently started to improve.
Given that vantage point, as someone who’s grinded through the industry, do you have any advice for aspiring Black (and minority) creators?
Closed mouths don’t get fed and don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder. I think that actually stunted my own growth. I feel like in the last maybe three years, I’ve really accelerated and started to put my name out there even more.
And don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually had situations where I’ve gone to events with very prominent companies, my name would be on the VIP list, and they told me ‘you don’t look like you’re supposed to be here.’ I’ve had some foul shit said to me, dawg. And that shit does exist, but what I will say is there are a lot of really good people and I feel like I’ve blocked my own blessings by walking around with that chip on my shoulder, assuming that everybody was judging me.
A lot of times I would walk in the room and I’m the only Black person — and people stare at you. And the way I would interpret it is ‘oh what’s this Black person doing here?’ But it’s really just genuine curiosity: ‘you’re different from everybody else.’ And then you find out, when I talk to people, oh we have gaming in common and they’re really not being judgmental, they’re just curious.
So once I stopped walking around with that chip on my shoulder assuming that everybody was judging me, I made a lot more connections in the industry. I think the truth is in the middle. There’s problems, but then there’s always ways you can improve yourself too.
TBH x XSET
What about XSET makes it feel like a strong fit?
The reason it appealed to me and what was presented was: they really want to put diversity on the forefront and not as just some talking point. They want to lead that way. I like how when they first announced the team, they said that ‘gaming needs to clean up.’ So the fact that they’re leading that way and they just wanna be positive and put out dope shit, they’re giving opportunities to people who might not have gotten it before. I think that’s what appeals to me the most. It feels like inclusivity is not something they are checking off, it’s a part of the program.
What kind of content are you excited about down the line?
I can’t get into the specifics, but I’m looking forward to being able to produce higher-grade quality content. They’re gonna be giving me tools and assets that will allow me to present myself in a way that I previously wasn’t allowed to.
And it’s going to be focusing a lot on pop culture and lifestyle, not just gaming. That’s the way things were presented to me and I was like ‘yeah, that’s what I like.’ Because I always preach ‘don’t just be a gamer.’ A lot of times, gamers get trapped in the idea of this identity, ‘oh I’m a gamer and that’s it,’ and you should be a multi-faceted person and it feels like that’s where XSET is going. They’re focusing on being multi-faceted and that’s dope to me.