Tay Zonday talks 'Chocolate Rain' on its 10th anniversary

Robert Ballantyne for Artsculture
Viral sensation Tay Zonday celebrates the 10th anniversary of his music video, 'Chocolate Rain' Robert Ballantyne for Artsculture

April 22, 2007. It was a landmark day for YouTube as University of Minnesota graduate student, Adam Bahner &mdash going by the moniker "Tay Zonday" &mdash decided to upload an original music video titled "Chocolate Rain."

​Ten years later, "Chocolate Rain" has garnered over 112 million views and still receives comments every few hours.

But why?

His video was quirky and hypnotic. Zonday’s baritone voice belied his young appearance, and he bobbed in and out of frame like he was dodging something or someone.

 A scene from Tay Zonday's 'Chocolate Rain' where he subtitled '**I move away from the mic to breathe in' and it became an internet meme
A scene from Tay Zonday's 'Chocolate Rain' where he subtitled '**I move away from the mic to breathe in' and it became an internet meme Screen Capture

And then there are the lyrics​.​

Every second line of the song refrains “Chocolate Rain," which Zonday has confirmed is a metaphor for institutionalized racism. In between, there are some serious references to the GDP ("dirty secrets of economy"), genetic predestination ("the bell curve blames the baby's DNA") and something about how "Chocolate Rain cleans the sewers out beneath Mumbai."

found out how serious Zonday remains when it comes to his viral masterpiece. He took some time this week to move away from the mic to​ breathe in and discuss "​Chocolate Rain" in celebration of its ten-year anniversary.

Where did the name Tay Zonday come from?

Tay Zonday I invented it. In early 2007 I wanted to create an artist name. I entered "Tay Zonday" in Google. It got zero results. I knew, then, that it would be mine if I claimed it. So, I did.

​​When you uploaded "Chocolate Rain" that fateful day, what did you think the outcome would be?

I uploaded "Chocolate Rain" with the same motive as all of my YouTube content in 2007. I wanted feedback on my music. I didn't know what would happen beyond an opportunity to receive feedback.

The lyrics to "Chocolate Rain" are poetic and political, but the overall effect of the video was unintentionally hilarious. Did it frustrate you that you weren't taken seriously?

Is any artist taken seriously? What does that even mean? Most artists who create art about serious topics are not received in that light. Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us" didn't catalyze massive criminal justice reform. Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" didn't catalyze structural reform to obliterate poverty. If everyone who heard John Lennon's "Imagine" voted to support pacifist international Utopianism, the world would have very different political leaders. No song is taken seriously. The artist just makes the song like a parent makes a child.

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