The Nelk Boys are the YouTube brat pack. Through prank videos and scroll-stopping stunts, this group maintains their reputation as the ‘bad boys’ of social media through partying videos, arrests, and challenges that have created their own mantra “full send.”

The group has amassed a following of over 6.6 million subscribers on YouTube as of July 2021 and have created a multi-million dollar media empire with its own line of seltzers and merchandise. They have also strangely found their way into politics. Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey referred to the group as “knuckleheads” while the next year, they met with Donald Trump aboard Air Force One. Their viral campaigns have landed them a feature in the New York Times by blue-checkmark distributor Taylor Lorenz. All of this, and they make no money from YouTube.

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The group was demonetized on the platform in 2020 when they broke COVID-19 protocols and hosted house parties in different cities throughout the US. The Canadian-formed crew has pushed the limits on what YouTube is willing to tolerate on their platform, all the while gaining a group of dedicated followers who are willing to spend upwards of $70 million on merchandise alone. How did they do it? Every generation loves a rebel, and this time, in a weird Jackass-meets-the-Paul brothers style, they have managed to fill a void for those looking for conflict and danger within the confines of their own computers.

Birth of a Brand

The Nelk group was first founded in Toronto, Canada in 2010 by Kyle Forgeard while he was a freshman in high school. The name derived from the first initials of the original group of creators: Nick, Elliott, Lucas, and Kyle. Their virality hit when they played a prank on several cops by leaving Coca-Cola in the back seat of their cars in the hopes of being taken out of context. The video resulted in two arrests, but ultimately drove in over 40 million views and remains their most watched video to date. Quickly the group monetized the ad revenue from YouTube which was upwards of $5,000 a month in 2014.

The group has continued to add members to their crew throughout the years. Steve Deleonardis, known by his online reputation SteveWillDoIt, was added in 2018 after being discovered on social media. Salim Sirur joined along with Cousin Jay in 2020 after Forgeard stumbled upon his accounts.

In 2020, the group also established itself as a corporate enterprise with two leading companies Nelk’s Inc. and Full Send Entertainment.

Full Send

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The president of both brands was announced as John Shahidi on Logan Paul’s podcast Impaulsive. Shahidi is also known for being the founder of Shots Studios, a YouTube-based network known for representing Lele Pons, Jake Paul, Hannah Stocking and Floyd Mayweather, all known for bring in large sums of money through cultural notoriety.

In addition to both brands, Shahidi is also a co-founder behind the Nelk boy’s hard seltzer company Happy Dad Hard Seltzer which launched in May of 2021. The birth of the beverage was plagued from the get-go when the Nelk boys launched their Instagram page, only to have it deleted almost immediately. They group got the page back and up to 100k followers in just two hours according to their Instagram post.

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Instagram isn’t the first platform to interfere with the Nelk brand. In September of 2020, the group went to Illinois State University and performed a 200-person flash mob, breaking the COVID-19 regulations at the time. YouTube announced a decision to demonetize the channel shortly after, citing their Creators Responsibility Policy, which prohibits creators who have expressed potential harm “towards their users, community, employees or ecosystem”. A week later, another gathering took place with almost 2,500 people at a house in New Jersey.

Arrests and Politics

One of the first instances of institutional consequences came in 2019 when Sebastiani was arrested while performing a prank in a Barnes and Noble that involved blood and “disorderly conduct”. He was charged in Columbus, Ohio and found guilty, but was suspended of a fine and court costs, the judge acknowledging it as a “humorous attack”.

In May of 2020, Forgeard, Deleonardis, Sirur and other members of the group were arrested for disturbing the police while filming another prank video in a Target. The crew was released on bond during an outpouring of hashtags now popularized as #freenelk.

The arrest that signaled the demonetization of the YouTube channel occurred in September of 2020. The police announced an investigation into a flash mob at Illinois State University. The group responded by going on tour and encouraging protests throughout campuses under the guise of “Open up Gyms” resulting in the eventual arrest of 8 different fans.

The Covid chronicles resulted in the Governor of New Jersey calling out the boys in the Seaside Heights community. He referred to the gathering as, “extreme knucklehead behavior” and told the group to leave.

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In 2020, the group also attended a Donald Trump rally in Arizona, participating in the excitement contributing towards his election campaign. Whether the demonstration was satirical or not remains a mystery with the Canadian prank crew.

Fear and Loathing in Newport Beach

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The group continues to post content from their Newport Beach and Santa Ana locations. Their content is aggressive, but humorous and pokes fun at the establishment while still being an intrinsic Canadian block in the US capital market. With multiple businesses under their belt, they’ve already surpassed the cross-platforming and moved into the Venture Capital stage, on par with their TikTok counterparts the Hype House.

Their merchandise and new beverages fund their YouTube content which in term keeps building revenue for their products. The cyclical business model seems to be a sustainable one, so long as the Nelk crew can keep putting out viral content. The signs are positive as 2021 has already provided the crew with videos averaging 2-5 million views each.

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Steve Deleonardis is quietly emerging as the rising star of the group with over 2.8 million followers on Instagram. He recently shared photos with stars ranging from Steve-O to 6ix9ine and Machine Gun Kelly. He has created a separate account, SteveWillSendIt, where he gives away varying amounts of money in his challenge videos format. His prank videos have subsided, replaced with images from him and Mr. Forgeard in private plans with captions related to business deals.

With a tight crew, viral acclaim, a business model that exists outside the volatile structure of YouTube and other platforms, and one of the most successful presidents in the social media industry, if you haven’t acknowledged the presence of the Nelk boys in culture, you might want to dive straight in, or in their words, full send.

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