HookahRev - if you've been remotely involved in the hookah scene over the last few years, it's likely a name that you're familiar with. Jake "HookahRev" Jacobson was one of the original reviewers - and certainly the first person to bring hookah reviews to the mainstream, through the power of the internet. He might not have been the first reviewer, but he was the first reviewer to gain any sort of major notoriety, and even a following. Every reviewer that you've watched, in some way or another, was inspired by Jake. Even if they themselves weren't a fan of Jake and his work, they were likely inspired by someone that was inspired by Jake. Though it's been a while since Jake has been a reviewer, he's been an active member of the hookah industry every since, where he still remains today. To get a better perspective on him, and his views on the industry and community, I was lucky enough to sit down with Jake, and interview him on many of his hookah related views. So, without further ado, here it is!Wade: So first off, I want to start by thanking you for joining me today, and more importantly, thank you for paving the way for reviewers like myself to come up in the hookah scene. For those who may not know you, could you give yourself a brief introduction?
HookahRev: Thanks for having me Wade. It’s an honor to be seen in that light because it really feels like it was just yesterday that I was doing HookahRev videos! I suppose that leads me into a brief introduction.. I’d say I’m best known as Jake Jacobson, a passionate YouTube reviewer who feel far too deep in love with the hookah industry and turned it into a profession.Wade: Where has your passion taken you over the years? In other words, what all have you done in the hookah industry?
HookahRev: It all started when I saw an opportunity to introduce my hookah lounge into the Las Vegas area using my experience gained to appeal to smokers just as passionate as I was. It wasn’t long after I opened that when I started doing projects for Starbuzz which ultimately led to my executive roll over there up until 2017. What a great experience that was. Fast forward to current time, I operate several businesses outside of the hookah industry, but the passion remains since I operate a wholesale distribution center, the Starbuzz Hookah Lounge, and most recently Hookah Expo Worldwide. Its truly an industry that has a special place in my heart which I don’t think I’ll ever part from.Wade: And you would say that it's all because of your passion for the community, and your active participation via reviewing?
HookahRev: It certainly played a roll but I can confidently say I’ve always been genuine about my intentions and agendas which I do know lead to the popularity of HookahRev, and I’d say that’s applied in all of my projects ever since.Wade: And in your tenure in all that you've done, what are you most proud of, so far?
HookahRev: That’s such a hard question for me to answer because whatever I engage in, I choose to get involved because I believe in it so much. If I had to pick one accomplishment though, it would be the HookahRev channel. It’s a platform built from scratch, where the content was its only driving force and came to fruition through the magic of the supporting community who watched.Wade: I would argue that that's the success that has helped people back you for all of these years - your passion and love for what you were doing was evident then, as it is now. And that leads me into my next question: you very obviously had a pretty large impact on people wanting to do hookah reviews of their own. Many I've spoken to, when asked who or what inspired them to want to review, most have cited you. So I want to ask you: what do you think of how hookah reviewing has changed over time?
HookahRev: There were so many channels I was rooting for to take over the momentum that built right around the time I stepped away, but sadly I haven't noticed as much growth as expected. Factors such as the change in how the general public receive information has undoubtedly effected the popularity of YouTube. Outside of that, it's so easy to fall victim into your day to day responsibilities meaning keeping a review channel consistent is not an easy task for any individual. Consistency is key and there's not much more to that. I've seen a few channels do well for a little while, then get busy and fall off. It's not an easy job to do, especially when you're doing it as a service to your community.Wade: I can personally attest to that, I've been probably one of the most inconsistent reviewers over the last few years, sadly. Do you think consistency is the most important thing when it comes to building a channel?
HookahRev: Definitely. If a channel doesn’t generate content regularly, viewers lose interest and move on. What’s your favorite TV series Wade?Wade: My favorite TV series? I can't say I find myself watching much traditional TV, however I'm partial to "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" as of late.
HookahRev: Got it. So let’s say they released an episode whenever they wanted with a lapse in release ranging up to 6 months. Would you care any more?Wade: Hmmm that's hard to say. I'm personally one to binge watch shows for the most part, so I tend to fall off with shows and watch a lot at once to catch up. However, I think I understand what you're getting at, if I was someone who liked watching shows on a weekly basis, I would get upset if the show didn't come out when it was supposed to
HookahRev: Exactly.Wade: And do you think that's part of what made HookahRev so successful?
HookahRev: Most definitely. Don't get me wrong, I had my fair share of down time between videos, however at my peak, we were reviewing products before it even hit shelves.Wade: Absolutely. So, say your career hadn't ended up going into what it did, and imagine you were still running HookahRev today: what changes do you think your channel would have undergone by now, and would you still be proud of it?
HookahRev: I would evolve the platform based on the modern delivery of used. If that meant creating a mobile app, beefed up website, or any other convenient and popular method to share content.Wade: So basically, you would've evolved the platform to stay current?
HookahRev: Yes.Wade: Definitely. So during your time working in the industry, there was a sort of "dark leaf revolution", during which things like Starbuzz Vintage, Trifecta Dark, and Alchemist KFC have released. What are you thoughts on the dark leaf craze that has swept on the enthusiast market? Is it a good, bad, or just a thing?
HookahRev: The Dark Leaf revolution was really exciting to watch. Around the time Starbuzz introduced Vintage, I feel it was that sweet spot in time where many blonde leaf smokers were looking for just that little bit more complexity to their smoke. The recent wave of dark leaf that came soon after, I believe was testament to the demand for such a category in the market placeWade: Do you think that the Dark Leaf revolution was the industries answer to how successful Tangiers was?
HookahRev: I think it was a carve out with a whole new set of preferences.Wade: And do you think there will be other things like the dark leaf revolution in the future, as the industry naturally progresses?
HookahRev: Without a doubt. I hope to see far more from the industry leaders to continue innovating and evolving with new concepts.Wade: Absolutely! So in the same vain of evolving with new concepts, the US hookah industry is really fighting an uphill battle right now. With how accessible and popular vaping has become over the years, do you see that as an opponent to hookah, in so much that they have to battle for the same space? Or do you see them as totally separate things?
HookahRev: The largest effect I saw was right around 2014-2015 when vape initially hit the market. There's no contesting how convenient vaping is, and it certainly transitioned many hookah smokers. Nowadays I don't think the two industries effect each other.Wade: That's a fair statement. We're starting to wrap things up now, so I just have a few more questions to you. First: What are your top three deserted island flavors?
HookahRev: Nakhla Two Apple, Starbuzz Mighty Freeze, and Al Fakher Mint. I know, I'm a dinosaur.Wade: Hey, there's nothing wrong with liking the classics. What's your go to setup?
HookahRev: My serial#8 preproduction Starbuzz USA Enterprise ;)Wade: Oh wow! That's impressive! If you ever want to let go of it, you know where to find me!
HookahRev: That one and my Km trimetal heart of the lion as well as my original Al Fakher medium solid I believe all belong in a hookah museum by now LOL.Wade: And that about wraps it up! Again, thank you so much for joining me today, it's been a pleasure to chat with someone as well versed in the industry as you are, and I look forward to seeing what you do next!
HookahRev: Much appreciated Wade, thanks for having me!
I want to once again thank Jake for joining me for this interview, it was a wonderful opportunity to get inside the mind of one of the founders of hookah reviewing as we know it today. But what did you think? Were all of you questions answered? Did you have any burning topics you wanted me to talk about? Let me know! As always, thank you guys so much for reading, and happy smokes!