Last week, ASAP Rocky released ads for Yams Day 2021 where he’s seen running up to random New Yorkers and humorously interviewing them on the street along with other members of the ASAP Mob. The commercials included cameos from New York internet celebrities such as Spider Cuz—a living, Henny-guzzling incarnation of those “Deadass Spiderman” memes—and BKTidalWave, aka “The Queen of Brooklyn,” aka that Jay-Z fan from Brownsville who vowed to destroy ISIS herself in the middle of Union Square.
Anyone who’s been lurking on Instagram these last couple of months likely noticed that ASAP Rocky was hosting his own episode of @sidetalknyc, a popular Instagram show that’s like New York Nico’s Instagram page colliding with Billy on the Street. Sidetalk’s minute-long episodes consist of man-on-the-street interviews that have highlighted some of the funniest, eccentric, and most controversial characters found on the streets of New York. Some of their best episodes have covered New Yorkers’ impassioned reactions to the plastic bag ban or the saying that “New York is dead.” Others have highlighted odd characters like Lil Agz (from the “oh, say less” meme), a Brooklyn-based rapper who looks like he just graduated fifth grade and claims he’s “your rapper’s favorite trapper, trapper’s favorite rapper.”
“We just meet so many people every day,” says Trent Simonian, the 19-year-old NYU student who started the show last year with his producer Jack Byrne. “A lot of the times, we just see someone who we can tell will be good for the camera. We go out to them and they are good for the camera.”
Since Simonian and Byrne launched Sidetalk as freshman college students last year, their page has garnered over 170,000 followers. The show has greatly reminded us that even in the middle of a pandemic, New York is still filled with people who are just on a different type of timing. We interviewed Simonian about how he started his one-minute show, how he linked with Spider Cuz, and what have been his craziest experiences hosting the show so far.
So how did this collaboration with ASAP Rocky and the ASAP Mob come together?
The guys from ASAP Mob reached out because they really liked the energy in our videos and how authentic it was to New York. They tasked us with making the announcements for Yams Day and helping them announce the Yammys which is their version of the Grammys. It was just really cool because we didn't just get to include the ASAP Mob in our videos, but our actual characters who make New York so special. We got Blakk Stakkz, who's a character from Sidetalk. BK Tidal Wave, who's the famous "ISIS killed Biggie" girl. It was really fun because we had to track some of these people down, find them, and get them all in the same spot.
How did you even find the ISIS girl? I didn't even know BK Tidal Wave was her name.
We had to track her down through Instagram. It took two weeks to try and get her to come out to Union Square, and we finally got her to show up. ASAP Rocky showed up and she was right there with him. She was so hyped to meet him.
What was it like filming those ads with the Mob? Was Rocky chill to work with?
It was so dope working with Rocky and the rest of ASAP Mob. They literally treated us like family for the past few weeks. They were so nice and fun to work with. It was genuinely so fun just to run around the streets of New York with a microphone. They were really just a pleasure to work with.
How old are you, and how'd you start doing stand-up interviews? I've heard you been doing this since you were a high school student in Los Angeles.
So I'm 19 years old. And like you said, I originally started doing these street interviews in high school because my high school had a little TV show. It was similar, where we would go up and talk to teachers and students asking them funny, random stuff. I was the host, producer, and editor of that. So it was pretty much perfect practice for Sidetalk. I was good at it, and people really enjoyed it. I was like: “Well, I'm going to college in New York next year. I might as well bring it to the big stage and do it in New York City.”
So you're currently studying film at NYU? Did you have any connection to New York City before moving here for school, or was New York something that was completely new to you?
Yeah, I'm a film and TV major at NYU. I hadn't lived in New York before. I really wanted to. It's the coolest place in the world, especially after living here, and it's just great to be here. It's so different than anywhere else, especially LA. It's the opposite, and it's the best here.
So this was your first year in New York, basically. What do you like more about it than your hometown in LA?
Just the whole energy here is completely different. It's so easy to just step out and do so much in a day here. As opposed to LA, you have to plan your days out and you can only do one thing per day. Also, just the culture here. The biggest thing is the culture here. There's pretty much no culture in LA compared to what it is here.
When I first saw Sidetalk, the first thought I had was that it's like New York City's All Gas No Brakes. Were you influenced at all by Andrew Callaghan's show at all?
First off, Andrew's my homie. We just hung out recently and I went suit shopping with him for his brand-new suit, so that's funny. And funny enough, I actually didn't know what All Gas No Brakes was before starting Sidetalk. I had been planning out Sidetalk for probably a year and a half before even the first episode dropped because I wanted to do a spinoff of what I was doing in high school. But I do love All Gas No Brakes. I think it's hilarious, and Andrew is amazing.
I feel like you two are creating your own genre of comedy/journalism.
It's hilarious because All Gas No Brakes and Sidetalk are both similar in the sense that it's a guy with a microphone, but they're completely different in their own way. He's traveling around to events and finding all these crazy people at these events. Ours are one-minute interviews in New York where we're finding these interesting characters and personalities.
So every episode is about a minute long. How many interviews do you typically go through before figuring out which ones are the best to use?
Originally, before the pandemic, it was a lot of me going up to strangers on the street and just using the funniest clips of that. But after the pandemic, it's gotten a lot harder with less foot traffic to go up and get energetic answers from people. So after the pandemic, we kind of switched up the style of the show. Rather than me going up to a bunch of strangers, it's more focused on highlighting one character now.
Speaking of highlighting one specific character, I think one question that we all have is, what is the origin of Spider Cuz?
So I found Spider Cuz on a meme page called Welcome to Zoo York. Originally, he was just dressing up in his Spider-Man outfit, just going to protests and dancing in his apartment. So I hit him up when he had 200 followers, [and] I was like, “Bro, we got to link up and make a video. This will be viral.” So we linked up, filmed an episode, and he's doing his classic "Fuck Batman," all of that. And it just really took off. Everyone started being like, “Who is this guy? Why does he hate Batman?” And then all of a sudden he became a legend in New York in a month. He literally went from 200 followers to 80,000 followers.
What's it like chilling with him?
It's insane walking around with Spider Cuz. We always say it's hilarious because it's like walking around with the most famous person in the world. Everyone recognizes him. You’re walking on the street and someone from across the street is like, “Fuck Batman” And they're just like, "Oh my God, Spider Cuz." Literally, he gets stopped five times for every block we walk on.
Does he actually drink all the Henny he carries with him?
He does and drinks it through the mask. It's legendary.
Aside from ASAP Rocky, you’ve featured some notable New York rappers on your show—Leeky Bandz from the Lower East Side and ABG Neal from Brooklyn. Did you just run into them on the street or was that planned?
Yeah, so a lot of the time these guys just genuinely like our videos ’cause they're authentic and we accurately portray what the culture is like here in New York. So it’s just really cool because now people like ASAP Rocky are even starting to fuck with us. It’s really cool to see how it's taking off.
What rapper do you personally want to see on Sidetalk in near future?
I'd love to have Fivi on at some point; I think seeing Fivio [Foreign] and Spider Cuz together would just be hilarious.
Isn't Spider Cuz in his videos?
Spider Cuz has linked up with a few of his friends, but I don't think the Fivio and Spider Cuz link has happened yet.
We need that for the culture.
Yeah, the streets need that one.
Personally, I think my favorite rapper on Sidetalk has to be this dude, June Cancun. How did you meet him?
Yeah, so it's really funny. If you look at our second episode, called “Making Friends,” June Cancun is the star of that one. So he's really been there from the beginning. My producer, shoutout to Jack Byrne, knew June Cancun because Jack is from New York and has known June for a while. June used to just sell CDs on the same corner in Soho, and he's just a legend. He's so funny, outgoing, and hilarious when he grabs that mic. So we finally went up to Harlem and did an episode with him, and I think it's literally one of my favorite episodes yet. It's hilarious because he performed his song in that episode and everyone's like, “Bro, you've got to drop that song. Where's the song?” All the comments on his YouTube channel were like, “Bro, where’s the song? We need it.”
We’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff on Sidetalk, from you crashing Hasidic Purim parties in Williamsburg to covering these anti-masker rallies in Washington Square Park. What’s the craziest experience you’ve had so far making this show?
I would say the craziest experience was the election party for Spider Cuz, because the park was already so crazy enough after Biden won. And then we had announced that Spider Cuz was going to be in the park that night. It was just insane. We had to get security to get us through there. We had to sneak him into the park. People were fighting. People were pushing each other just trying to get to Spider Cuz. So we had to get in and out of the park several times through security. It was a crazy night.
How long were you guys out there for in the park?
We had to go in for five minutes, leave for five minutes, and then go back in for five minutes because it literally was insane. It was the most insane concert you would ever go to or anything.
One thing your videos have proved to me beyond reasonable doubt is that Penn Station is filled with weirdos—Riff Raff lookalikes moving packs from Oregon and, of course, Crystal. To the best of your knowledge, who is she and what the fuck is all this “Jezebel’s children” shit she keeps talking about?
Crystal, we gave her the title of the Queen of Penn Station. And, honestly, we just found her one time in one of our videos. She just wilded out, and was talking about Jezebel's children, which is apparently from the Bible. And I don't know, everyone loved how she was just freaking out and talking about random nonsense. So she became a legend on our page. Where we just randomly, we'll be filming on 34th Street or Penn Station. And if we see Crystal, it's like, “Oh, let's go. We found Crystal. Let's see what she thinks about Jezebel's children today.”
Crystal is really a find. How'd you end up finding all these crazy just characters in New York City? I mean, you have that Jesus guy, Lil Agz, Blakk Stakkz. Do people ask you, “Yo, can I get on Sidetalk?” or do you really just stumble on them?
My cameraman, Jack, and I go out to film literally almost every day. So we just meet so many people every day. We randomly met Jesus one time. We randomly met Crystal while we were filming. A lot of the time, we just see someone who we can tell will be good for the camera and we go out to them, and they are good for the camera. And now that we're more popular with people like Lil Agz who already have a reputable following, we're now able to set it up through Instagram to meet up with them and make an episode for them.
Yeah, Lil Agz really surprises me. How old is he, like, 11 or 10, 13?
Apparently, his age is not disclosed, but I'm very curious as well.
How did you come across Blakk Stakkz, exactly?
We were walking around with Leeky Bandz one time in the Lower East Side and he just brought us to his neighborhood. He introduced us to this guy who was just very funny and outgoing off the bat. He later came to be known as Blakk Stakkz, and we knew he was perfect for Sidetalk. He's authentic, funny, and full of New York energy. We started filming with him that night and he became a legend. Everyone just loves how he's doing his thing in the Lower East Side. And he just hosted Yams Day, so that's so dope.
So you just approach people on the mic randomly, right? Have you ever pissed off someone by just shoving a mic in their face? Have you ever gotten yourself in a situation off that or it's been pretty cool so far?
Ninety-nine percent of the time, everyone's super chill. And one thing that we do is we always say, we don't mess with people. We just kind of talk to people. But early on, when we started filming, there was one time we tried to mess with someone by tapping on their shoulder and then going the other way. That ended up with us getting chased six blocks through Times Square. Other than that, we've been good. We don't mess with people. We just like talking to them and having a good time.
Has Timothée Chalamet ever hit you up?
Not yet, but I think that link-up needs to happen, definitely. That Daily Mail article is hilarious.
What has this show taught you or revealed to you about New York City, I guess, in the past year you've been doing it?
It's just really shown how cool the culture is here. Just so much of this stuff, my friends from LA have no idea. They're like, “What is, ‘We outside’ mean?” I'm like, “It literally means, we outside. We’re out here.” And just all of this New York lingo, culture, characters, and everything is just so unique to New York. It's just very cool to go outside and just discover that and show that to people who don't know what New York is really like.
What's your big-picture vision with Sidetalk? What would you like to see beyond Instagram and YouTube?
So my partner, Jack, and I, who I run Sidetalk with, we see this as our building block or our first step. We definitely want to do more stuff in the future where we can showcase interesting people or interesting personalities and just make a bunch of cool shows, projects, and eventually even movies.