Steve Osborne, AKA Black Ninja, is the first in a generation of YouTube content creators who tried to carve out their spot in skateboarding through the untraditional route of daily vlogs, trick tips, skits, and other related content. For many kids, YouTube is their first look into skateboarding, and while old heads will urge them to watch Baker 3, it’s far more likely they’ll find someone like Black Ninja first.
If you do stumble into one of his 2,000+ uploads on YouTube, you’ll find a loud, goofy, over-the-top, opinionated skateboarder rocking clothes that were popular in the mid-2000s. It may not seem like it anymore, but in the early days of skate YouTube, Black Ninja was pulling in millions of views every month, creating iconic moments like rapping over his own video parts.
Given the nostalgia I hold for the early days of skate YouTube, I wanted to talk to the OG, and what followed was an interesting conversation about some of his most iconic moments, the challenge of staying relevant, and adapting his comedy style throughout the years.
You posted your first video in 2011. Did you get a response right away or was it a slow burn building up your channel?
I was a part of a Youtube channel before my Ninja Lifestyle account that was called Vegas Skating, and we had already established that channel. I think that might even be where “Pop Shuvit Late Flip” came from, which was an early viral video for the time. When I started my own channel I was lucky enough to get a push from my old one. For a lot of people getting your first thousand subscribers is a big hump, but it wasn’t a slow burn for me. It was off to a really quick start.
What was your motivation when you started posting? Did you go into it with the idea of becoming a skate personality?
I had big goals for it. Before me, skateboarding revolved around video parts where you work for six months, get your video part, and then that’s that. I wanted more day-in-the-life style, and I was one of the first guys on YouTube that set out to do daily videos.
I used to watch a lot of gaming videos, especially Call of Duty, and these guys were uploading seven days a week, sometimes even more, and YouTube was buying into it. These guys were becoming celebrities for playing Call of Duty every day. I thought skateboarding could use something like that. I also saw that there was no comedy bad guy in skating at the time, so I tried to do that for a long time. I figured it would fill a void that was there, but I’m not really a douche all the time. A lot of people never get to see that.
How much of your on-camera presence is persona and how much is truly you?
It’s all comedy, right? I don’t wake up every day and think about how much I hate Nyjah, I could go out there and talk to you guys about what I’m actually passionate about but then I would sound like a broken record.
Listen, I’m 36. I’m not able to skate handrails like I used to, but I can still really piss somebody off online. That skill’s never going to depreciate.
Who would win in a “hate-off” and who would win in a game of skate? You or Gifted Hater?
Gifted and I have completely different skate styles and different commentary styles. I think it would depend on who’s choosing the winner
Have you ever seen someone in person that you clowned online?
I got to meet Chaz Ortiz many years ago at the X Games. I went to his house in Chicago, and got to hang out. He recognized me because I had a video where all I did for ten minutes straight was talk shit about him. He goes “Dude, I saw your video, it was hilarious.” My first thought was, “Thank you for understanding.”
When I was younger that was an easy way to make friends. You go to the skate park, you make fun of somebody’s shoes or you make fun of somebody’s hat, and then they make fun of you back and you become friends. I think a lot of it gets lost now because either I’m really good at hiding the sarcasm or people are just more happy being mad. I could put on a clown nose and make balloon animals and people would still think I’m dead serious if I mention Ryan Sheckler.
Is that the only time you ran into someone that you talked about online?
Well, I was never the industry guy, but I did get in well with Revive and Braille and all the YouTube guys because I’ve been around for so long. It’s impossible to try to do a skate show and not make fun of those guys all the time, but none of them seem to care. I think part of it is they’ve seen me in real life, but as far as meeting people that were mad, I’ve never had a bad experience.
“I could put on a clown nose and make balloon animals and people would still think I’m dead serious if I mention Ryan Sheckler.”
Seeing that your current content varies from gaming to cooking to skating, how many people visit your channel and still only expect skateboarding content?
I have this conspiracy that I’m shadow banned on YouTube. Either that or the world is against me. I don’t know if it’s because I went on there shooting guns or because years back my language was a little more loose, but there’s no way that only 1% of my audience is still clicking on my videos. Our Lord & Savior YouTube has been fucking me.
A lot of people don’t expect anything from my channel. They think I quit. I get comments today that go, “Hey, why did you stop uploading?” Well, I’ve uploaded three videos a day for the past nine years. I know I’m not the only person to ever complain about YouTube, but I also question myself, like, maybe I really did fall off and no one thinks I’m funny. Nah, there’s no way that’s true [laughs].
Now that I’m having a little bit of a resurgence, as far as the hating skateboarder, I get a lot of newbies saying, “Well, I bet this four-eyed nerd can’t skate,” and I’m like, “BRO, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I DID! I’ve been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive and I’ve been good at it for a while too.” I’m always leaving links. “HERE’S ME IN 2005, BITCH!”
You are clearly a little bit annoyed by YouTube, so what keeps you posting consistently?
I know a lot of people would just give up, but it doesn’t take that much effort. There are a lot of guys out there on YouTube putting in huge effort with 20-minute vlogs every single day, doing merch, doing their board sales, and running a company. I just review some kid’s video who sucks at pressure flips and then I go out and I land one flat ground trick a week. I can balance that with the other things that I do. It doesn’t take me very many calories to get up in the morning and yell at some kid who sent me their video on Instagram.
Have you ever thought of doing a full rebrand into a genre or topic completely removed from skateboarding?
I would have to do something that I can fully branch out on. The reason I started my second channel, Steve Hates Skating, is because, if I’m going to stand behind this conspiracy that YouTube is against me, why not start fresh and prove it? I put out one video on T-Funk already and it got more views than my channel with 250,000 subscribers. Although it’s not making money, I just want to get the attention back. I want to make people laugh and just think I’m cool again.
I used to be able to be cocky, like nobody eight years ago could tell me I can’t skate because I could skate really fucking good. Now I have to rely on my personality and try to evolve. Honestly, I see Gifted Hater doing well and I don’t know what he has. Maybe he just has the it factor, but it’s kinda hard to figure out what’s going to fly.
What do you think that “it factor” is?
I hear that guy talk and he’ll be like, “Well that guy rides for this company and this guy just quit this company.” I’m like, “Dude, how can anyone keep up with this stuff?” There’s so much. He’s really knowledgeable. Maybe that’s what I’m lacking.
People come at me like, “You haven’t heard of this guy’s name?” I’m like, “What the fuck? I could name somebody from the 90s that you don’t fucking know either. That doesn’t make you any more special.” I don’t have TikTok, asshole. I don’t watch dumb shit like that. I get it. He put his foot on the ground and wore a goofy hat. Oh, amazing.
“I could name somebody from the 90s that you don’t fucking know either. That doesn’t make you any more special.”
I saw one of your most viewed videos features Andy Shrock’s son dancing. Can you predict what videos go viral?
Okay. So if I go outside of my norm, it might blow up for a day or two. Yes, I have a video of Andy Schrock’s son dancing when he was five years old. That video got three, four million views, but I can only make so many videos of my friend’s son without eventually being weird. Also once he’s done dancing you’re stuck with skateboarding again. I think those one-off videos just blow up for no reason, and in the long run, they don’t help that much, but I could be wrong. I’m not an analyst like that.
Did you ever think of pursuing skateboarding professionally, like a traditional core route?
Yeah, I used to be really good, dude. Somewhere on YouTube, I have my 2006 sponsor tape. I ended up going to college, but I wish I would have skipped it because I think I could have stood a chance.
I rode for a lot of different companies over the years. I was flow for Zoo York for a little bit. I rode for Circa, éS, and DVS at different points. At one point I rode for World Industries shoes. I rode for every local shop in Las Vegas, which Vegas at the time wasn’t as big of a skate town as it is now. The whole scene has changed quite a bit. But if I wanted to do that, I should have just gone to California and tried, but I just didn’t.
Do you think doing tricks like late flips and roly-poly’s pulled you away from the core skate scene and into the YouTube sphere?
I think I always did the goofy tricks to be goofy, and then once YouTube decided that they were memorable I felt like I had to keep doing them. Pop shuvit late flip had been done before, but I put out a pop shuvit late flip video and it gets a hundred thousand views. I guess I’m doing a pop shuvit late flip in every video for the rest of my life.
I know you repair slot machines, but how much time do you spend in the casino, and do you gamble?
People forget you can gamble in the grocery store here. The gas station. Liquor stores. Airport. Everywhere. So I throw a $20 in every week or so. My biggest win is $1,400 but we’re going to beat that this year hopefully! I gamble a bit more when my internet skater friends visit.
Looking back on the glory days of your YouTube career, were you making a lot of money?
Oh, I was rich, man. I was making like $9,000 a month.
Damn, that’s a lot of money.
Yeah, it was great. Now I’m probably going to make $400 this month off my YouTube channel. Complete garbage. Luckily I have all these other side projects to rely on, but yeah, the glory days was the perfect word.
“Now I’m probably going to make $400 this month off my YouTube channel.
How long did $9,000 a month last?
Maybe a year. It’s one of those things where it gets lower and lower and lower and I’m always optimistic. I’m like, “Oh fuck, we’re down to $4,000, now we’re down to $2,000. Don’t worry, next quarter it’ll pick up. It’ll pick up around Christmas.” Then when it doesn’t, you’re like, “Oh well fuck, here I am.”
I’ve never had that type of money before. You think it’s never going to end. Luckily I didn’t make any frivolous purchases. I’m glad I didn’t go out and buy a nice car or something, but I had so many plans. I was going to buy something like a skate shop and make that into my Ninja Lifestyle offices with a mini ramp and a little green room.
Did you make any stupid purchases?
I used to upgrade my camera more often, but that’s it. I’m still in the Corolla. I’m frugal, so when I got my money from YouTube I wanted to put it back into YouTube. That’s always how I’ve been with everything. I’m still like that, like on Twitch I destroy furniture. That’s one of my bits that does pretty well. I’ll buy a table from the store and if you donate enough money I will jump through it. I’ve broken like 40 tables, but all that money goes right into some new software or a new webcam.
Something that I find iconic about you is the white shoes and puffy green laces. How’d that start?
I rode for a skate shop called Area 702 and their logo was green. Everything was green and I think that’s when it started. I tried to be on brand with them. I don’t think I was the first branded skateboarder, but let’s say back then it was rare. Now you get people that only wear one style of shirt, only wear one style of pants or whatever, like Nyjah. You could give me a silhouette of Nyjah and I’m going to know who it is without even seeing his face. I know that that’s some Nyjah outfit. So I don’t know, I’m not gonna say I started it, but I definitely reaped the benefits because there’s a lot of people who would be like, “I didn’t know if that was you, but then I saw the laces.”
When did the Vegas chest piece happen, as well as the “Shred and Destroy” tat, and do you regret them at all?
I got the Las Vegas tattoo maybe eight years ago. It was done by Cleen Rock One, winner of the TV show Inkmaster. Him and his kids all skate. The other tattoos were done by Dave Deluna, big time pool skater and DIY spot creator here in Las Vegas. They’re good tattoos done by good people.
Seeing that you’ve had an online presence for about 15 years, are there any parts of your life that you’ve purposefully kept off-camera?
I pretty much put my whole shit out there on blast, if something went bad this week or good this week. Last week, I did a whole episode because I thought I had bed bugs. A lot of people wouldn’t want to be sharing that information because it’s weird and gross. Turns out I didn’t have them.
I think it gives me a little more power. There’s nothing that makes me laugh more than when someone talks shit to me and won’t even put a picture of themself on the internet, like their profile picture is SpongeBob or something. I put my whole life out there because I’m not afraid of any of you guys poking fun at me. That’s part of it. That’s how a “content creator” should be.
Did you ever go through a time when comments and online hate were bothersome for you?
There was one situation where I almost turned my channel into subscribers only because I got so annoyed.
Basically, I did a fundraiser for me to get a GoPro. It cost like $250 and another YouTuber, Josh Katz, paid 95% of it. He just bought me a GoPro, so I get it, did my video, and then I got a bunch of comments saying, “You better make vlogs all the time because we paid for this.” I’m like, “WE? WHO THE FUCK IS WE? ONE PERSON PAID FOR THIS, AND IT’S NONE OF YOU. Collectively all hundred thousand of you put in $15. I don’t owe you anything for this.” I got so mad because I read that comment over and over again, “We got him this. He wouldn’t even have the GoPro if it wasn’t for us.”
If somebody calls me fat or four eyes that’s great. I love those. That can never bother me. It’s the ones where people make it about them and they think they know everything.
“If somebody calls me fat or four eyes that’s great.”
Where did the idea to rap over your video parts come from?
I don’t know. I’m not musically inclined and I never rapped. There was no big plan to do it and a lot of those videos I don’t even like to watch. I think they’re lame. I think the music’s lame and the editing is kinda stupid. People call me out all the time because I sit here and I have this whole series where I talk to people about how to film and how to edit, and then you go back and watch all my videos. I break all those rules, but guess what? I didn’t film those and I didn’t edit those. I don’t like them either.
Also, if no one knows, I have the one and only rapping trick tip where I rap the instructions on how to do the trick as I’m teaching you the trick. That’s never been done. Somebody has to appreciate me at some point.
Do you think that your comedy style has aged well?
No, dude. I think a lot of my videos did well back in the day, but I think I’ve changed. I don’t even like to watch my old videos because it’s just dick jokes and being obnoxious. Everything you see on TikTok now, the yelling, the pranks, being a dick to people, I did it back then and it was really successful. I watch that now and I compare that to something like my podcast and I go, well, my jokes, my timing, it’s better. I’m not just yelling about a big dick anymore.
I like to think I evolved into something more mature. But I don’t know, it’s not really for me to say. Like I said, as far as YouTube goes, the audience decides if you’re good, not you.
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