Welcome to Influenced, where we interview creators of all kinds about the gear they use to do their job — and their advice for aspiring influencers. This week, we caught up with Raheem “Mega Ran” Jarbo, a prolific hip-hop artist known for his gaming-inspired songs who has been leveling up his Twitch setup to better connect with his fans around the world.
Here’s the cool stuff Mega Ran does
- A veteran rapper who infuses his hip-hop with gaming and geek culture influences, Mega Ran has four albums that have cracked the Billboard Top 200 list and more than 64,000 monthly plays on Spotify.
- Has been featured on ESPN, ABC, NBC and wrestling promotions WWE, ROH and AEW.
- Holds a Guinness World Record for most commercially available video game songs.
- Author of “Dream Master: A Memoir,” which chronicles his music career.
- Host of the “Random Encounters” and “Mat Mania” podcasts.
When he’s not making music at his local studio in Phoenix, Arizona, Jarbo streams video games, DJ sets and live podcasts to his many fans on Twitch — something he’s been stepping up lately during his extra time at home. The teacher turned rapper has been steadily upgrading his setup with new gadgets, cycling through a multitude of cameras, microphones and green screens in order to make things look just right.
“I learn something literally every day, which is the best part of this time at home,” says Jarbo. “I’d already been meaning to get more involved with my Twitch and with streaming, and it gave me that time to do that.”
Here are some of the key pieces of Jarbo’s current Twitch setup, as well as his advice for anyone looking to jump-start their own creative career.
Mega Ran’s favorite gadgets
For looking crisp on camera: Logitech C922 Pro ($99.99; logitech.com)
Finding the right camera has been a journey for Jarbo, who “purchased probably four different webcams” to figure out the best one for his setup. He uses a number of different webcams to provide multiple camera angles and hop into Discord calls while streaming, but he’s currently rocking the popular Logitech C922 as his main shooter.
“I went expensive, I went cheap. I got a Sony A7. It overheated on me every time,” says Jarbo. “I kept trying to upgrade and upgrade, but I think that the Logitech has done the best job for me thus far.”
The Logitech C922 is an upgraded version of our best webcam pick in the Logitech C920, which we love for its excellent 1080p picture quality, handy companion software and affordable price. The C922 takes the same core design and makes it more streamer-friendly, with a 60 frame-per-second recording option for extra-smooth video as well as three months of XSplit Premium broadcasting software.
For more immersive streams: Fudesy Green Screen Backdrop ($179.99; amazon.com)
Tune in to one of Jarbo’s Twitch streams and you’ll often see him seamlessly overlaid onto whatever game he’s streaming, or standing in front of a snazzy virtual background when performing one of his DJ sets. That’s thanks to a Fudesy green screen, which allows him to superimpose himself onto any visuals of his choosing without any background clutter to distract from his retro gaming sessions or old-school music marathons.
“It works well for me when I’m DJing, because I’m stationary and I could set it up behind me when I’m doing a live [show],” says Jarbo, who notes that this green screen is a big upgrade from the simple green fabric he used to depend on for seamless shots.
“I used to just literally have a fabric, a green fabric, and I would just do my best to just hang it somewhere,” says Jarbo. “When I watched my earliest streams, I’m like, oh, wow, it’s rough.”
For simple, great sound: HyperX QuadCast ($139.99; amazon.com)
As a musician, Jarbo is “very obsessed with getting the best sound” he possibly can at home. The HyperX Quadcast microphone has helped him achieve that during his frequent gaming streams, providing a simple and clean plug-and-play solution for chatting with fans (and dropping the occasional bars).
“The ease of use of the HyperX QuadCast helped me out a ton,” says Jarbo. “Just being able to tap the top for muting or running all of my sound through that was very, very helpful for what I was trying to do.”
The HyperX QuadCast S (an upgraded version that features RGB lighting) very nearly made the cut as one of our best microphone picks, impressing us with its great overall sound, four recording modes and striking design. Jarbo has recently switched over to an Audio-Technica AT2035 so that he can use the same mic for both streaming and music, but he credits the QuadCast as a crucial piece of gear that allowed him to up his Twitch game early on.
For bringing the stream to life: Elgato Stream Deck ($149.99; elgato.com)
Nearly every content creator we talk to swears by the Elgato Stream Deck, and Jarbo is no different. After first buying one to pull off some fun music tricks, the rapper and streamer continues to discover the near-endless possibilities you can make happen within Elgato’s versatile stream management keypad.
“I initially just got it to trigger sounds. I just wanted to be one of those cool DJs that trigger some air horns,” says Jarbo. “Then to be able to control it, to go to my second cam from there, to pause the stream, to send out a tweet that I’m live. There’s so many things you can do with the Stream Deck and I think I’ve probably barely scratched the surface of its full potential.”
The Stream Deck is one of our favorite gadgets here at Underscored, for many of the same reasons Jarbo lays out above — you can use this keypad to manage a multi-camera broadcast, control your music playback, open apps and so much more with a few quick taps. Just make sure you pick the right version for your setup; there’s a six-key Stream Deck Mini ($79) for beginners, a 15-key Stream Deck ($149) for the average streamer and a 32-key Stream Deck XL ($249) for power users.
As a former educator, Jarbo says the best thing you can do to succeed as a creator is to watch and learn.
“In any vocation, really, if you want to be good at something, you [have] to watch the people who do it very well and find out how to make that work for you,” says Jarbo. “So before you ever hit record, hop on Twitch, watch people’s streams, ask questions even and pick up enough knowledge to go out and do it.”
Once you’ve acquired that knowledge, Jarbo recommends trying different types of gear before settling on what works best for you.
“Many of these companies have pretty loose return policies, so buy a thing, check it out,” says Jarbo. “If it doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to send it back and try something else.”
Finally, as we’ve heard from creators in all corners of the internet, Jarbo says to just get started with whatever you have handy — the rest will come with time, practice and lots of trial and error.
“My first streams were probably on the PS4, on the PS4 cam and just doing my thing. Then I was like, wait, why can’t I get my thing to do all that cool stuff? Then I started learning some more. Then I’d stream on a Mac, and I was like, wait, why can’t I get my things to do all these other things? And I’m like, oh, because streaming on a Mac sucks. Then you move to a good PC.”
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