Eleven-year-old Ruairi’s deeply earnest reviews of some of today’s hottest rap albums might be the best thing on the internet.
If you’re not one of the more than 33,000 people who subscribe to his channel on YouTube, you’ve still probably seen Ruairi’s face somewhere on the internet over the last few weeks.
The middle-schooler’s expressions have been immortalized in reaction gifs, clips from his videos have gone viral several times over, and last week rap icon Lil Yachty retweeted a video of Ruairi which garnered nearly 7 million views.
Ruairi’s YouTube videos feature him sitting face-to-camera in front of a bookshelf against a green painted wall talking about the latest and greatest in hip hop or cutting-edge music. The majority of his videos, and the format he has become best known for, are “react” videos featuring his father.
“React” videos are a massive trend on YouTube where a vlogger films themselves reacting to something, usually a movie, video game, TV show, music video, or song.
Ruairi probes his dad about what he thinks of the album, explains nuances of the lyrics, makes jokes, occasionally rolls his eyes, and occasionally goes on hilarious tangents.
Despite his growing attention on social media however, Ruairi himself has remained incredibly elusive.
Unlike most YouTubers, Ruairi’s channel features obscure cover art and no avatar or logo. The name on the account is simply “PF,” and his real name, location, and contact info is impossible to find.
Streams of commentors on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have posted, wondering about who this enthusiastic child is and how on earth he came to produce such a hilariously charming channel.
In an internet awash in snark, Ruairi’s videos are a breath of fresh air. He’s so honest and innocent that it’s hard not to inherently want to protect him from trolls.
“He’s so pure,” wrote one commenter on Twitter in reaction to one of Ruairi’s latest videos.
Swarms of people regularly reply to his content with terms of endearment like, “my child” or “my son.” In fact, so many people on the internet have claimed to be Ruairi’s parents that tracking down his actual father was a difficult process.
Anthony Fantano, a popular YouTuber known for his own entertaining music reviews, who has also called Ruairi his son, praised his YouTube music reviews. When reached for comment Fantano told The Daily Beast that Ruairi is “a ray of light on a dark Internet.”
“I’ve been watching his videos on and off since he did that video with his dad reacting to Death Grips. He’s great,” Fantano said. “I hope he keeps making videos.”
Part of Ruairi’s appeal is the simple react format and watching his father grapple with today’s rap music. The two have undeniably great chemistry and watching them interact is entertaining. But Ruairi himself is a natural comedian. He’s excitable, eccentric, and deeply versed in internet and meme culture.
Ruairi consumes music and culture with a rabid intensity that only tweens and teens possess. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, rappers, sneakers, and streetwear fashion and one thing many viewers notice upon first viewing Ruairi’s videos are his unique outfits.
Ruairi, who wants to be a fashion designer when he grows up, said that he’s learned a ton about the fashion world from YouTube videos, specifically “hypebeast type videos where they go and spend like $2,000 at Supreme.”
While he could never imagine spending that much money at once on clothes himself, Ruairi said that discovering more about fashion and culture through YouTube has upped his aesthetic game. “I used to wear a lot of stuff from Target,” he said. “Now I’m getting more into streetwear type stuff.”
Sneakers are of particular interest to Ruairi. He can explain every major sneaker company’s latest collections and collaborations in detail and even designs his own shoes, intricately noting the price and amount of stock he will produce for each product.
But Ruairi said he initially started his channel because he had always dreamed of becoming a successful YouTuber.
“I used to watch random YouTube accounts like PewDiePie and big YouTubers and be like, I want to be like them when I grow up,” he said. “At first when I started my channel I was just showing my friends. I had maybe 100 subscribers. But eventually it took off.”
Since his channel has become big, he’s even become known around school and his peers have begun to frequently talk to him about his videos.
To the larger public, however, Ruairi has remained incredibly private.
Part of the mystery surrounding Ruairi’s identity comes down to age. At 11 years old, Ruairi is technically not old enough to establish his own user account on most social platforms, and his parents still heavily monitor his YouTube and Instagram accounts.
Ruairi’s channel is so stripped down primarily because it’s still attached to his father’s work email address.
His father, Paul, said that when Ruairi first asked for a YouTube channel, Paul used his work email address to set it up because it never occurred to him that it might be an issue.
Tens of thousands of subscribers later, that account is still irrevocably tied to his dad.
“When he started doing it I just did it on my work google account and that’s why the channel is very vague,” his father, Paul, told The Daily Beast. “I’d rather separate it out but I can’t. Once you get it going it’s impossible to switch without him losing all his followers.”
Paul said he never imagined Ruairi would garner so many followers on YouTube, especially when he first agreed to participate in his son’s “dad reacts” series.
“We were sort of reticent to let him do anything on YouTube at first,” he said. “We were worried about exposure, comments coming in, and haters. I was also a little concerned about the type of music because of the language involved. I have tried to make it clear in the videos that the language in many of these songs is a problem.”
Paul said that in the channel’s early days a psychologist actually posted in the comments saying that exposing kids to more type of language and subculture is good if it’s managed and he took that advice to heart, allowing Ruairi to produce more videos.
Since Ruairi began posting regularly about 8 months ago he’s racked in over 1 million views, an astounding feat for what is considered somewhat low-budget content.
Every time a new album or song enters his radar, Ruairi will head home after school and record a video using his father’s iPad. He props the device up, filming himself, or himself and his dad, and begins talking to the screen.
When he’s finished recording, he edits the whole thing on iMovie, a process he said he’s getting faster and faster at.
Several fans have written in encouraging him to learn Adobe Premiere, the preferred video editing software of vloggers, and invest in a nicer camera, but Ruairi said he doesn’t care. iMovie and the iPad have worked just fine for him so far. The low-fi quality of his videos is also what makes them so appealing and his father speculated that a higher production quality could take away from the organic nature of the content.
After the videos go up Ruairi promotes them by posting screenshots on Instagram under the handle @dad_reacts.
When it comes to long-term plans, Ruairi said he doesn’t think he’ll be doing dad react videos forever. If anything, he hopes that the channel might be able to help propel him into a career as a shoe designer.
“I want to be a fashion, or most likely a shoe designer when I grow up,” he said. “But I want to have enough money. I don’t want to be broke making shoes. So I hope to make more money than I use or I’ll go into bankruptcy.”
He already has his own clothing brand that he’s designed himself called “Twag” which is short for T-shirt swag. “I hope to make stuff that really catches your eye,” he said.
In the meantime, he has some advice for all the other kids like him out there who want to get big on YouTube: Stay grounded and don’t worry if your channel doesn’t look perfect.
“I think when you’re making a channel you just need to be yourself and always do what you want to do,” Ruairi said. “And as DJ Khaled says, don’t play yourself. That’s just some really good life advice.”