Konrad Dantas emerges from a row of squat houses with a tall black gate and no sign out front. The buildings are tucked down a side street in Tatuapé, a tough, working-class suburb on the outskirts of São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. It’s as unlikely a spot as any to find the headquarters of KondZilla, the most popular YouTube channel in Brazil -- and one of the top 10 in the world.
It was here that Dantas, the son of a construction worker and a city employee, set up his studio in 2012 and launched a YouTube channel featuring music videos he shot and produced, starring brash young singers from São Paulo’s marginalized slums, known as favelas. Although millions of Brazilians live in favelas -- including an estimated 11% of the 12 million people who call São Paulo home, according to the Center for Metropolitan Studies -- back then, Brazil’s music industry largely stuck its nose up at the songs coming out of them, favoring the danceable funk carioca of Rio de Janeiro. With his soft-spoken charm and natural talent behind the camera, however, Dantas won over São Paulo artists -- and set about trying to make them superstars.
“For a long time, everything that came from the periphery, from the favelas, was looked down on,” observes Dantas, 30. “We’re changing that.”