From Thugz to Glamour

JC Adams
As the adult biz moves lock, stock and barrel onto the Internet, the commonly received wisdom has been that niche companies are best positioned to take advantage of their position in the new neighborhood.

But the truth is that niche companies, such as those catering to the all-black, Hispanic or Blatino markets, have always filled a need by staying lean-and-mean and rarely straying from their stated purpose. It’s just the bigger companies, particularly those aiming for a broad swath of the market, are feeling the pinch of the recession and realizing with acute clarity that there is gold in niche markets. Now everyone wants a piece of that action. A lesson can be learned in how the gay adult all-black/Blatino market has come to thrive in this intensely competitive marketplace.

Pitbull Productions, in just five years, has shouldered its way to the top of the heap by catering specifically to the “thugporn” lifestyle — strict, aggressive and well-hung topmen dominating pliant bottoms, and a bare-bones technical aesthetic.

Earlier this decade, “there were not many companies making black and Latin gay adult movies,” says Pitbull house director and CEO Jalin Fuentes. “I felt that there was a niche of real-life ‘thug bois’ that no one else was capturing. Since I’m young and understand that genre, I decided to concentrate on ‘thugporn.’ In fact, Pitbull has a registered trademark for the term.”

Pitbull’s marquee star is performer-director Tiger Tyson, and together they’ve built up a library of more than 60 titles. “Tiger represented the Latin market and I understood the black, urban market,” Fuentes says. “It was a good fit. We now have an extensive library and have built up the Pitbull/thugporn brand. Buyers now associate the word ‘thugporn’ with our company and products.” Rival companies and labels in this sub-genre recognize their success and have sought to exploit fan interest in the thugporn lifestyle, such as Atlanta-based Black Rayne Productions.

Others seek to appeal to fans of the sub-genre by importing a certain style of aggression and no-frills fucking — for example, performer Ty Lattimore’s eponymous label — while veering away from the trappings of thugporn.

Rock of Rockafellaz Entertainment follows this formula. An up-and-comer in the all-black/Blatino market, he considers his audience to be “anyone that watches gay porn.”

In fact, he counts a contingent of lesbians among his company’s fans. “It’s all about what is being brought and presented,” he says. “I can’t think of a simpler way to put it. I keep bringing them what they want.”

Similar to Pitbull’s gangsta aesthetic, Rock cultivates the image of a Mafioso and his underlings. He makes an effort to brand his company through a rigorous schedule of personal appearances.

“I don’t come off as the stuck-up, asshole-type star. What a lot of other entertainers in the gay adult film industry don’t realize is that if it were not for the viewers, they would not be as big as they are,” he says. “You have to be watched by the consumer to be liked by the consumer.”

A company that has capitalized on the black/Blatino niche market in a major way is Flava Works. The Miami-based studio achieved success by emphasizing glamour and old-fashioned star power through magazines, calendars, webcam sites and DVDs. Flava Works is essentially a lifestyle brand, whose adherents buy the movies, shell out for the paysites and hang calendars featuring their favorite Flava Works perfomers on the wall. It’s not exactly thugporn, but the details of the lifestyle are just as specific.

In fact, the formula is so successful that upstart studios, such as the PureFCUK line from Street Royale Media, spell out their mission statement up front by noting the label was founded “to portray ethnic performers in a genre that is more in line with how they individually identify — non-thug."

That kind of personalized identification is key. Rockafellaz strengthens its brand by emphasizing “family, a unity of adults,” Rock says. “All the models are part of Rockafellaz Entertainment. Think back to the Mafia days and how strict and unified those families were; in porn, that’s what we do. We get together and create a force to be reckoned with.”

Whether the focus is on Flava Works-style glamour, or Pitbull’s gansta ethic, or even the no-frills attitude taken by such outfits as the popular Latino Fan Club, a through line is their dedication to the very specific interests of their target audience. Big City Video, for example, is known for their humorously titled fuck flicks — “Dirty Sexy Papi,” “Nuttcracker,” “Spanish Boys Taste Good” — but the action is aggressively hardcore.

“We’re not putting our actors in cowboy or war movies,” says Fuentes of his Pitbull lineup. “We’re shooting thugs, with other thugs, in real-life situations. We make the kinds of movies where the person who buys it can actually visualize himself in the same situation."