The “Corny” Rapper Debate

A quick Google search will give you a definition
of corny that reads this: “Trite, banal, or mawkishly sentimental.” In other words, something that’s cliche, empty, or fake deep. In a hip-hop context, this
isn’t far off from how many fans and critics use the word
corny to criticize artists who they see as either
dishonest in their lyrics, fake in their persona,
empty in their value despite their ability, or some
combination of these factors. While it doesn’t always
harm a rapper’s ability to sell records, the corny label can severely limit the
respect an artist gets outside of their fan base. A great example of a talented artist that has suffered greatly from
the corny label is Hopsin. Hailing from L.A., Hopsin
had a very promising start to his career, being signed
to Ruthless Records in 2007 and forming his own record
label Funk Volume in 2009. In late 2010, he released his
first viral hit Sag My Pants, an ode to his delinquency
and skateboarding background. In the song, he pokes fun at many of the year’s hottest mainstream rappers including Soulja Boy, Drake,
Lil Wayne, and Lupe Fiasco. While the song demonstrated
Hopsin’s obvious gift for rapping and witty takes on
hip-hop culture at the time, people lost interest in
the act very quickly. In 2011, he dropped the first
of his eight-song series, Ill Mind of Hopsin, in which
he dissed Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future for making what he thought was random and negative content. Tyler responded saying he
thought Hopsin was talented, but leaning too hard on
dissing Tyler for attention. Hopsin got a similar response from Soulja Boy later that year where he said Hopsin was dope,
but not worth responding to until he was more famous. While Soulja Boy did respond
with a diss track in 2012, the beef was no longer
very relevant by then. In an interview with
District Magazine in 2018, Hopsin even expressed
disappointment in being pigeonholed as a rapper who wants beef and drama, saying that he wishes he
could make normal songs without being slept on. To many rap fans, and by
Hopsin’s own admission in the interview, Hopsin
put himself in that hole, which could be interpreted
as the corny category, by spending much of his
time in the limelight criticizing rather than
adding to the game. Essentially, Hopsin’s
most memorable moments in his first years of fame were spent using his exceptional rapping ability to mock and criticize the most
famous rappers of the time instead of telling his own story. Since he was never responded to, it never amounted to more clout. But what about the A-Listers? While many talented
rappers are deemed corny for lack of originality
in their perspectives, there are rappers considered corny because they’re seen as less talented than their status suggests. These are the kinds of
corniness claims rappers such as J. Cole, Drake, and Big Sean have faced given their
huge mainstream success. With Cole, it’s a lighter version of the criticism Joyner Lucas faces where instead of being seen
by fans as a complete hater, he’s just the young
uncle who’s not as cool as he thinks he is. Many of his fans, particularly women, were quick to point out that Cole has many
mediocre misogynistic bars that people ignore because
of his conscious image, with No Role Modelz being a go-to example. Drake also faces this criticism
throughout his discography, with Hotline Bling being
the most popular example, and genre or culture-hopping, which continues to toe the line between appreciation and appropriation. While Drake has forced Toronto’s
insane multiculturalism into public knowledge, he’s
also noticeably picked up the use of the UK roadman
talk and Jamaican accents in social media posts and his
music the last several years. Whether a fan finds this corny or not depends on if they believe
it’s genuine or not, with many people saying it isn’t. Cole and Drake are both known for the occasionally mid-grade
or simply trash bars, which wouldn’t be a huge deal if they weren’t GOAT contenders. Cole lines like, “I let you
feel like you the (bleep), “but you can’t out-fart me.” Dollar and A Dream 3, Sideline Story. And Drake lines like,
“Key chain go jangalang, “I wanna do major things,”
9 on the album, Views, are examples of what fans would point to as evidence of
their corniness accusations. And whereas Cole and Drake
are more quietly roasted on forum sites such as
KanyeToThe and Genius, major publications such as Complex and much of hip-hop
Twitter have field days whenever Big Sean releases a project because despite the A-list status, he’s widely viewed as having some of the laziest bars in the game. Rather than being called corny
for criticizing the game, some of today’s most popular
positivity-pushing rappers such as Logic, Macklemore
and Chance The Rapper are called corny for just that,
being excessively positive. To fans, the artists are
thorough in their messages and are an example of
hip-hop’s power to spread love and acceptance without having
to tear down other artists. To critics, Macklemore
and Chance are rappers cashing in on a family-friendly image not many rappers can successfully
curate for themselves. While the musical resumes of each artist speak for themselves, successes such as Macklemore’s
Best Rap Album win at the 2014 GRAMMYs and
Chance’s pivot from the vivid, unfiltered Acid Rap to the
heavily gospel-influenced Coloring Book have made
some fans take a second look at these artists with skepticism. The unfortunate part
about the corniness debate is that it only involves
the most successful rappers in the game today. This discussion focuses so
much on those at the top, it’s easy to overlook the
most common types of artists. For example, despite the over-saturation of bubblegum trap artists and the mid-level sing-rap crooners, many run-of-the-mill mainstream rappers do not get hit with the corny label as much as their more
lyrical or conscious peers. This is mainly because
their personas and messages are not as ambitious or
different from the norm. While artists of the
sort may be less unique or controversial, they’re
easily acceptable in the game, meaning they can duck serious criticism of their authenticity more easily. But under the same microscopes that we place big-name
artists such as Drake, Logic, J. Cole, and Joyner Lucas,
it’s no secret many rappers of lesser status would have similar or even greater flaws in
their personas and bars. But what about the non-corny rappers? With so many of our favorite rappers being viewed as corny one way or another, which artists can we view
as models of non-corniness? Many neutral fans would
point to Kendrick Lamar as an example of an
artist who is not corny. As a rapper who tackles major
social and cultural issues, Kendrick has very little room for error. But not only has his sound
evolved and challenged listeners with each album, it’s widely
agreed that he’s been able to say meaningful things
about the rap game and the state of the
world and still maintain a high level of original rapping without sounding self-righteous. When he made the highly
political, funk-influenced album To Pimp a Butterfly, it was a masterpiece. When he made albums with
more commercial appeal like the Black Panther
soundtrack and DAMN., he managed to hold onto his
conscious West Coast roots while making songs that
everyone can enjoy, such as King’s Dead and Humble. Along with Kendrick, a long
list of the greatest street and trap rappers in recent
memory including The Game, 50 Cent, T.I., Jeezy, and Gucci Mane easily avoided the corny label
because their discographies are firmly rooted in their experiences and their voices were one of a kind. Pioneers of sounds and flows
such as E-40 and Too Short with the Bay Area sound,
or Rakim and Slick Rick as pinnacles of inventive flows in the late ’80s and early
’90s are also artists never thought by the masses as corny. Many of today’s hottest women rappers are also widely viewed as refreshing. What they rap about, how
they rap, and the skill level of rappers such as Noname,
Tierra Whack, Rico Nasty, Megan Thee Stallion, and
Rapsody are all familiar enough to vibe with yet not so different as to what the top male artists have collectively been offering the game over the last few years. With a variety of unique sounds
and new, confident, takes on topics such as sexuality,
identity, and the come-up, this wave of heavy-hitting women sets a new standard in originality. In conclusion, as there are
levels to artistic influence, there are levels to corniness. Some artists are seen as
uninspiring wave-riders who jump on trendy sounds once they hit their creative peaks. Other artists are deemed
artistically corny from the start. Some artists are only
corny in their persona or opinions on a certain topic, while other artists display unoriginal and cynical critiques of society and the rap game in a number of areas. If anything, this discussion proves that it is very difficult
for a hip-hop artist to remain 100% refreshing and unique throughout their career. At some point, the vast
majority of rappers do something or have a period in their career that can be considered
corny by the masses. If not, it’s a huge accomplishment. But if so, your favorite
rapper being labeled corny is not always a full-on
attack on their ability, worthiness, or significance to their fans and the way they play
a role in the rap game. This has been a HipHopMadness Original. Make sure to stay tuned
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100 thoughts on “The “Corny” Rapper Debate

  1. Can’t watch this had to be made by a white guybut chance and big Sean ain’t corny rest of them niggas are for sure and you

  2. J Cole fan base & Kendrick Lamar fan base acting like their the best rappers and calling them King.
    😩The fuck, Illmatic better than all these niggas career 😂 so STFU

  3. Corny:
    Sometimes j cole
    Sometimes big sean

    Not corny:
    Benny the butcher
    Asap rocky
    Westside gunn
    Earl sweatshirt
    Schoolboy q

    It's simple

  4. Corny is what street dudes call you when you’re not dumb or ignorant like them. If you come off as intelligent and not shallow and stupid you get called corny. If you come off as super preachy and like your shit don’t stink. Lupe Kanye and Chance and a Logic come to mind.

  5. First of all, the Keychain bar was dope, chill. He was feeling himself on that track. Dont offend me like this again. I’ve never paused a YouTube video so fast in my life. That line was not corny, chill.

  6. Lemme get this straight…….

    You did a whole ass 9 minute video about corny rappers without mentioning Vanilla Ice, Will Smith, Lil Bow Wow/Romeo or Kid from Kid n Play?

    Gucci-He’s got a fucking ice cream on his face.

  8. “Less unique” shows pictures of Young Thug gtfoh lol

    I fw Kendrick heavy and I’ve heard people call Kendrick corny

  9. HipHopMadness gonna have to create another one of these just to talk about how much Chance loves his wife and their Big Day….

  10. Moral of the story. You'll get hate or Criticism no matter what you do. So take the legitimate criticism and keep doing what you do. That's honestly the best way to handle it.

  11. Its not their fault that pill pushing and lean drinking is now considered cool instead of positivity and happiness…

  12. I fucking hate how everyone in the rap scene is so fucking judgemental and dumb asf who tf cares about someone being corny, the opinions these fans make about artists being corny is cliche as hell and fake because they want a specific image that is usually basic asf this vid made me realize how stupid people are and 70% of rap is already fake you might as well call Kendrick corny because his lyrics are too real for rap fans

    I think 30% of fans are actually much more in tune with what makes rap and hip hop true , and by the way yes when you call an artist corny it makes others not want to listen to them

  13. Rappers that get called corny when they’re small are usually the same rappers that those same fans would suck off once they get big.

  14. Chance is excessively positive but has also lost all the things that made him interesting. He is so clean and straight edge now.

  15. Tis video is pretty accurate,i sometimes listen to Drake/Big sean/J Cole but i will never deny that they aren't Corny

  16. This was REALLY well done man, great work and great job picking this topic apart, Ive been waiting for someone to address the wave of cornyness thats been invading the rap industry.

  17. Rappers like young thug aren’t getting called corny cuz they aren’t corny. Logic is called corny cuz he does corny shit in his music. It’s not a position in rap thing

  18. This the exact reason why Will Smith is never mentioned in GOAT talk, even though his longevity supersedes almost everybody relevant today..

  19. I feel like you are considered corny if 1. You aren’t hood/hard/intimidating 2. Aren’t riding popularity waves ( juice world, uzi, yachty) 3. Don’t have the Kendrick personality if I’m gonna say whatever tf I want and Idgaf if this album flops or goes platinum.

  20. I was a rap fan for most of my life. Now that I'm in my late 20s all rap is pretty corny, even the shit I used to listen to.
    Some of you will experience this as you age.
    oh well

  21. Don't preach to your audience

    Many people seem to forget that strong emotional relatability with lyrics and meaning via preaching isn't always the thing a person is looking for on a daily basis when listening to music. A lot of these people can act self-righteous as if they hold a higher position of virtue by doing so. Eminem being the one of the greatest rappers still cannot grasp this concept and as a result, it is why mumble rappers still succeed him in the numbers game today.

    Think about it like this. Many people listening to music for fun and do not want the heavy weight of deeply expressive content seemingly putting a burden on you by these issues like you need to do something about the situation. You could be having a bbq or driving your car or just drinking beer with your friends somewhere. In these type of scenarios, the last thing some people want is to be preached by these artists about social issues or the state of rap, that is what Kendrick Lamar gets right he doesn't fucking preach he expresses what he thinks and feels with originality while also keeping it fun. Something you can play at a party. "Humble" or "King Kunta" are great examples. "I'm not a racist" or "ISIS" isn't party material.

  22. I just do not agree with this… people calling Joyner, Cole and Chance “Corney” are just haters.. even Kendrick has an odd line here and there and remember one of the GOATs used the line “half man, half mammal” no disrespect to Jay

  23. Dude really must not know much about hip hop considering Kendrick and cole are both lyricists and the opposite of corny they’re real artists, put actual corny rappers on the list

  24. corny is one of the worst words used in hip hop
    its a lazy argument used by haters to demean talented rappers thst are trying to put genuine messages in their music

  25. I’m sorry I loved T.I. growing up that nigga corny and this new Gucci corny too lmao preciate y’all for leaving my bro Lupe out

  26. I really dont get how rappers like Kendrick, who can have some corny, old man lyrics himself..or women "rappers" who talk about their pussies are any different or less corny than anyone else you named.
    It's clearly preferential treatment. Only way I see Kendrick as not corny is in how he raps about his lifes experiences, however his choice of bars isnt always NOT corny. Women talking about gender inequality/sexual preferences is no different or more original than Macklemore, Queen Latifa, or Lauryn Hill. Yet theyre hailed as groundbreaking and refreshing.
    Disregarding popular opinion, since one minute they like its deemed "corny" any rapper REALLY not corny? Even Eminem has been labled dad rap in recent years for his choice of word play and never changing cadences. Also his ability to still be angry even tho the last 15+ years has been better to him than any of us.
    Almost makes you feel bad for artists/rappers..seems you cant do ANYTHING right if you stay in the limelight too long.
    Case in point: only reason the artists you mentioned who have gotten by without being declared "corny" also havent put out music or anything relevant (outside of production of others' music) in decades or longer.

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