BY ANDREW BULKELEY
For the past eight years, Damond "Westbred Diamond" Collier has been working to make it as a rapper. He's paid to have his videos on WorldstarHipHop and will be self-releasing his second album in January on CD Baby.
Lately, though, it seem like he's got much brighter prospects as a fisherman.
It's an unlikely story, but after you've seen his show, Niggas on da River, you'll understand.
In November, Collier and his brother, Keevin, launched a YouTube fishing series. The show's got a little of everything: weed, satirical discussion of the 18th-century trans-Atlantic slave trade, Mesozoic Era sturgeon.
Their stated goal was to raise awareness of Portland's aquatic wildlife. On one hand, anyone with a Cabela's card could do it: Two guys in a boat reel in trophy fish while doling out tips. In just three episodes, the Colliers have hooked sturgeon, salmon, coastal Dungeness crab and more than 500,000 views.
The secret? They came up with probably the first-ever urban outdoor show.
"If we did it like everyone did it, we'd just be like everyone else," says Damond, sitting at a North Portland brewery after filming in Puget Sound. "It's introducing a lot of the urban community to the outdoors. We're like the urban [Alaskan] Bush People."
The novelty of two black men starring in a TV genre dominated by white men serves as viewer bait, but what ultimately makes Niggas on da River so watchable is having two very knowledgeable buddies teaching you how to fish.
With several more episodes already in the can, Damond and Keevin (aka Crappie Killer) are now in talks to make the YouTube-to-TV transition. The infectious first episode opens with the Sanford and Son theme (with the blessing of composer Quincy Jones) and includes lots of cursing and tips for baiting a hook with sand shrimp.
The Colliers say they grew up casting and have always dipped their rods in anything with a promise of fish. When Keevin relocated to Portland in 1994 with their mother, he says he had no idea what the wilds of Oregon promised. "We were fishing in golf courses at first before we found out where to fish," he says
Keevin dove into his hobby and learned all he could. And, along the way, he says he discovered fishing was a predominantly white pastime. Wardens always checked his tag first, and people carefully watched him and his friends unpack their gear on every dock.
"I done been kicked off a lot of rivers," he says of an action caught on camera at the end of the third episode. Keevin has had the "Crappie Killer" moniker for years, and even has a tattoo of his favorite freshwater fish. But he can't eat them anymore—or any fish, for that matter. About a year ago, he discovered he was allergic.
The title and the show have garnered some criticism online, including the usual white-boy complaints about using a racial pejorative as a term of endearment. The Colliers have also been accused of coonery, or pandering to black stereotypes.
More than criticism, the show has received plenty of praise. Dozens of outfitters have contacted the Colliers about fishing or hunting trips, and clothing and fishing companies have promised free goods. Shaq Fu Radio, Shaquille O'Neal's online music site, even gave them kudos. And WorldstarHipHop, the online bastion of all things urban, offered the Colliers a regular slot—a bitter offer for Damond, who's paid to have his rap videos featured on the site.
"We're just being ourselves," Damond says. "We get out there and show people we're out there doing this."