Ratboy Genius is one of the most brilliant channels on YouTube.
The channel is run by the one and only Ratboy Genius, a 3-D–animated yellow rat whose head looks like a drum key made out of clay. Ratboy Genius has many friends, including Happymantx and Little Summer Solstice Baby, who all live together in a kingdom made out of Minecraft blocks and other animated things. Ratboy Genius and his friends go on epic adventures and often play music together. In their thoughtful stories and splendid music videos, Ratboy Genius and his buddies capture the mystical and fuzzy feeling of having a fairy tale read to you as a child, with the visual stimulation overload that characterizes the “Internet aesthetic.”
The most classic Ratboy Genius video is called “Potato Knishes.” It seems creepy at first, but throughout the video, Ratboy Genius is actually very warm-hearted. He sings in a minor key about a machine in his cellar that makes potato knishes. The cellar is made out of beige bricks, and there are tons of contraptions in it, like pulleys and conveyor belts. The graphics in this cellar are reminiscent of the iconic maze screensaver that once came with Windows ‘98 machines. As Ratboy Genius flies around in his cellar, he is sometimes perpendicular and other times parallel to the floor, his neck extending outward in all directions like an elastic band. The motion of Ratboy Genius and all of his contraptions creates a sensation reminiscent of those dank dreams where you might not be able to move your limbs properly. This, combined with Ratboy Genius’ songwriting expertise, makes for a viewing experience that is sublime even after repeated viewing.
Many Ratboy Genius videos have deeper and more complex storylines than the one in “Potato Knishes.” One of my favorite tales is called “RBG Presents: ‘The Wonders of Palace Life’ from Jakata Tales.” As the video’s title suggests, it is an adaptation of another story. Although not a Ratboy Genius original, the way in which the story is executed is memorable and tear-jerking. In it, one monkey introduces to his community of other monkeys the lifestyle of men, after which the monkeys learn a chilling lesson about the capabilities of man and themselves. The music in the video has the classical-style harmony and MIDI instrumentation of other Ratboy Genius music, and produces warm, cozy, Internet feelings. The monkeys are animated in a cute and textured way, like the figures on the uncensored cover to Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” I would have never heard this touching story were it not for Ratboy Genius, which says a lot about how well he adapts classic tales into the modern world.
A friend of mine once lamented to me that creative genius just gets funneled into advertising these days. He is both right and wrong. Ratboy Genius stands as an example that creative genius still exists in pure form these days—you just have to look a little harder to find it.