Zachary Stoner was known for interviewing and promoting a number of up-and-coming Chicago rappers via his “ZackTV” YouTube channel, which boasted over 170,000 subscribers and featured thousands of videos, some with millions of views. He also interviewed Chicago gang members and highlighted the city’s infamous gun violence problem.
Stoner was credited with giving some of Chicago’s most controversial artists their first on-camera exposure, including then-teenage drill music pioneer Chief Keef. He also posted clips showing young men from rival gangs flashing guns and threatening each other.
Stoner described himself on Twitter, where had had over 14K followers, as the “best interviewer in the world” who took his faith in God and his camera to “some of the dangerous hoods in America.”
Eerily, one of his last tweets posted just hours before his murder was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “death” of rapper Drake as a result of his beef with Pusha T.
ZackTV said in an April interview with the Chicago Defender that he wanted to show an alternative view of Chicago and its residents with his YouTube channel, which was often nicknamed the “Hood CNN.”
“I wanted to show the world the other side of Chicago. Back when I was growing up, we had Common and Kanye West. Those are great brothers and great entertainers, but I didn’t think they represented Chicago the way that I’ve seen Chicago,” Stoner said. “I wanted to show the world what the other side of Chicago looks like … our culture—the way we dress, what we eat, how we talk, how we walk.”
The Defender wrote that Stoner “documents what others neglect and repeatedly interviews personalities who many had hoped would never grace a camera. His videos are not fluffy, glitzy, and sentimental documentary shorts; on the contrary, they are more like visceral punches to the gut that can leave you either inspired for change or disturbed by reality.”
“A lot of people respect what I do. I’m the ‘Hood CNN,’” Stoner told The Defender. “A news station is one-sided. They’ll get your full interview, but they will cut and edit and put whatever they want out. Whatever you say to me will get put out in full no matter if it’s positive or negative. I show both sides.”
Two of ZackTV’s most popular interviews were with friends of Kenneka Jenkins, the young woman was who became the subject of a viral story and public investigation after she was found dead in a freezer at a Chicago hotel.
In one interview, Zack spoke with Jenkins’ friend Irene Roberts, who also went viral on social media in connection with the case after her Facebook Live video showing the hotel party was dissected by internet sleuths in an effort to determine what happened to Jenkins.
Another interview was with two men who were also at the hotel party before Jenkins was found dead. Both interviews were published in November 2017, two months after Kenneka’s death, which was ultimately ruled an accident.
Just three days before Stoner’s murder, Jenkins was remembered on Sunday (May 27) during a tribute at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois where she died. The celebration of life marked what would have been the Chicago teen’s 20th birthday, ABC7 reported.
ZackTV’s most recent interview was posted on Sunday (May 27), featuring Drake of Chiraq discussing the recent shooting death of Chicago rapper Mubu Krump and King Yella being in federal prison.