Mippey5—or Luke Thompson, as he’s known in the world of flesh and blood—is clad in purple snow overalls, standing kitty-corner from First Avenue on a Tuesday afternoon with Dan Duehn, his videographer, and Jake Litecky, the “gangsterest person” he knows.
Thompson and Litecky are tossing out rhymes about passersby, and holding a sign that reads “Will Wrap for $.”
A woman with a black bag and a white coat walks past. “Woman with a black bag and white coat,” Thompson raps.
People are giving a mix of bemused smiles and blank stares. “Hell no,” says a dude with a backwards Phillies cap. “I’m confused—I want to give them a present and have them wrap it,” says a teen in a hooded sweatshirt.
They are bad at rapping, but that is halfway the point.
A YouTube Success Story
Thompson is a legitimate YouTube phenomenon. The Fridley resident’s aesthetic—a mixture of Minnesota bland and pop culture post-production—has earned him a large fan base, and his videos have received almost five million views.
His breakout clip, Minnesota Gurls, a parody of Katy Perry's California Gurls, has brought Thompson performance offers—he’s sung the song at the state fair and at a college football half-time show. When he goes to Minnesota Twins games, he gets recognized.
Since graduating in December from St. John’s University, he’s been trying to live off the money he makes from iTunes sales and participation in YouTube’s partnership program.
“That would be the dream,” he said. “To get into shenanigans like this and support a family or at least myself for awhile.”
He said his parents—whose roof he lives under—have been “super supportive.”
“My dad told me, ‘I don’t want you to have any pressure that you need to get a real job.’”
Thompson holds himself to a strict video-producing regimen and said he works up to 12 hours a day on editing, research and recording. He tries to put out two videos a week, getting help from 30 to 40 friends. He once stayed up all night editing his Chris Brown parody, Look at Me Now.
“I was just really pumped about how it was turning out,” he said.
Thompson tries to film one skit or concept video a week. The idea for the street rapping video came from a comment an anonymous viewer posted on his YouTube account denigrating Thompson’s musical abilities.
“Our whole goal is to make one coin from somebody who comes by,” Thompson said.
Three pretty college-age girls round the corner where Thompson and Litecky have stationed themselves and walk north on First Avenue.
“Three pretty girls walking by/They think I’m weird but really I’m famous,” raps Litecky.
No reaction from the pretty girls.
Thompson forgot to bring his microphone so from seven or eight feet away, their lyrics are unintelligible. Still, a lone driver sealed in his car gets stuck at a traffic signal and engages with Thompson and Litecky, hand jiving and semaphoring. The rappers get excited and start flailing their limbs and raising their voices, though it’s not clear the driver can hear them.
Then 10-year-old Carmen Mattson of Elk River appears at Thompson’s elbow and asks shyly, “Are you from Minnesota Gurls?”
“Yeeesss,” whoops Thompson, jumping three times. “Now you’re in our video.”
“Well, me and my friends love watching it.”
“Can you freestyle?”
“What does that mean?”