The world of rap is full of drama, so it’s no surprise the scene has produced its fair of controversial rappers.
This list covers a selection of rappers who have caused upset or serious harm, ranging from violence, to sexual abuse, to racism, and transphobia. Understandably, such actions have seen a number of these rappers ‘cancelled,’ with many of them losing respect in the public sphere.
Let’s jump in and learn more about ten of the most controversial rappers of all time.
During his short lifetime XXXTentacion built a cult following, and his fan base has remained strong since his death. However, the artist had a history of run-ins with the law, and further issues came out after his death.
During his youth, X spent almost a year in a juvenile-detention centre for a gun possession charge. In 2015, the rapper was charged for committing robbery, home invasion and aggravated battery according to court documents.
However, X’s main controversy surrounds his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and a recording in which he admits to domestic abuse.
“I put my source of happiness in another person, which was a mistake initially, right?” the artist said in the recording. “But she fell through on every occasion until now. Until I started f**king her up, bruh. I started fucking her up because she made one mistake. And from there, the whole cycle went down. Now she’s scared. That girl is scared for her life. Which I understand.”
Three years later, XXXTentacion was shot by two armed men who blocked his SUV and gunned him down.
9. Tom MacDonald
Tom MacDonald is renowned his overtly right-wing views, and is often noted as a controversial rapper for that reason.
The Canadian rapper, also a former professional wrestler, has been described as ‘one of the most divisive personas hip-hop has ever seen.’
It is often argued that MacDonald’s fanbase aligns with him primarily over his politics rather than his musical output. Some of his controversial songs include, ‘Fake Woke,’ ‘Snowflakes,’ and ‘No Lives Matter.’
“I’ve also done a lot of stuff that’s not politically charged.” McDonald has claimed. “But that doesn’t seem to get digested and championed the same way, for obvious reasons.”
To that end, many in the hip-hop community have largely dismissed his technical abilities as a rapper, and somewhat disowned him.
6ix9ine has been the subject of a wide range of criminal charges over the years, earning him a reputation as one of the most controversial rappers on the scene today.
As well as being hit with federal racketeering and firearms charges, the rapper was mostly in the spotlight due to accusations of domestic violence which first emerged in early 2019. This included detailed testimony from his ex-girlfriend (and mother to his child), claiming that he beat her over a seven-year period.
After his release from prison in 2020, the rapper came out and publicly admitted to abusing his partner in an interview.
In one interview, the rapper stated: “It’s the worst thing ever. But I’m not going to sit there and lie to you. I’m telling you, I did it. I admit to it, and I apologize. I don’t owe the world an apology, the person I owe an apology to is Sara Molina. She got that apology. That’s where it matters.”
7. Travis Scott
In late 2021, there was a fatal crowd crush during the first night of the Astroworld Festival, a music event held at NRG Park in Texas and founded by American rapper Travis Scott.
The festival had already seen crowd control issues the previous day. On the evening of Scott’s concert, eight people died and two more lost their lives in hospital during the days that followed.
Twenty-five people were also hospitalised and more than 300 concert-goers treated for injuries at the festival’s field hospital. Many audience members filmed the incident and posted videos on social media.
Travis Scott was widely condemned for his handling of the tragic incident when his lacklustre apology video went viral – even becoming an internet meme.
Scott later posted an update via an Instagram story saying “I just want to send out prayers to the ones that (were) lost last night. … You know my fans … really mean the world to me and I always just want to leave them with a positive experience and any time I can make out anything that’s going on, I stop the show and help them get the help they need.”
Lawsuits were eventually filed against Scott himself and numerous other parties involved with the Astroworld project including its promoters and organisers.
The remainder of the festival was cancelled and no further Astroworld concerts have been held since. In June 2023, a Texas grand jury decided not to indict Scott or any other party involved.
6. R. Kelly
One of the highest profile news stories of 2022 was the dramatic downfall of R. Kelly. The rapper was convicted of three child pornography charges and three charges of enticing a minor.
Kelly was sentenced to serve 31 years behind bars and is scheduled for release in December 2045.
“Stop it. You don’t quit playing. Quit playing. I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my … life!” he told CBS’ Gayle King during a passionate interview back in 2019 amidst the allegations. “Y’all killing me with this …! I gave you thirty years of my career! Thirty years of my career! And y’all trying to kill me? You killing me, man!”
Significant campaigning against R Kelly has happened over the years, including the ‘Mute R. Kelly‘ movement.
5. Chris Brown
American rapper Chris Brown has a long history of domestic violence. He and former-girlfriend Rihanna once became involved in an argument that escalated which left the singer with visible facial injuries and caused her to be hospitalised.
Brown accepted a plea deal of community labour, five years’ probation and domestic violence counselling.
Billboard reported that he later posted to Twitter about the domestic violence counselling saying, “I have enough self respect and decency to be proud of accomplishing this DV class. Boyz run from [their] mistakes. Men learn from them!!!”
The rapper has also been arrested for his involvement in a “physical altercation” with two men outside of the W Hotel, and he also reportedly smashed his mother’s car window with a rock.
As a result of his sordid past, Chris Brown’s work has been banned in numerous countries, and he has often been criticised publicly by music fans and critics on various forms of media.
4. Lil Darkie
Lil Darkie found notoriety on platforms including SoundCloud, Reddit and TikTok, portraying himself in videos with a controversial animated character that has sparked accusations of racism.
In the past, he has displayed words like “HOLOCAUST” (also a title of one of his songs) and depictions of black cartoon characters in Nazi uniforms on his social media accounts.
Critic’s have commented that this character resembles the Hawley and Hazel toothpaste mascot known as “Darkie” – which also shares a likeness to white actor Al Jolson in blackface.
When asked about the character, Lil Darkie explained it was entirely coincidental and that there was categorically no racist connotations behind it.
In a series of since deleted tweets, Lil Darkie has previously said “plenty of art is offensive, that doesn’t mean it should be censored” and “I shouldn’t have to water down or censor my perspective just to stay on a website.”
The controversial rapper explained in an interview that although he is a mixed-race Indian American, he didn’t identify with a particular race.
“Race is not real,” he tweeted. “F**k you shut up, I’m really f***ing tired of it.”
From problematic personal issues to risqué lyrical content, controversy has always followed Eminem throughout his long career.
As early as 1999, his mother, Deborah, filed a lawsuit against her son, demanding $10 million dollars for slandering her name in some of his prominent hits and high profile interviews.
Eminem has also been accused of speaking badly of victims of sexual violence, with campaigners biting back at the rapper for essentially normalising rape.
During his verse on the track ‘Medicine Man,’ Eminem says: “Ain’t no one safe from non-believers there ain’t none/I even make the bitches I rape c*m.”
The hip-hop superstar has also been previously sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Despite many attempts by audiences to cancel him, Eminem has still proved incredibly popular and made a musical comeback in 2021 with his album Music To Be Murdered By – which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 279,000 ‘album-equivalent units’ in its first week.
2. Kodak Black
Kodak Black rose to fame alongside his 2014 single ‘No Flockin’ whilst achieving success with four of his five albums charting in the top ten of the Billboard 200.
In 2015, he was arrested for marijuana possession and a few months later charged with sexual battery. He allegedly assaulted a young woman and was also charged with criminal sexual misconduct.
Kodak Black was then sentenced to 46 months in prison for federal weapons charges where he served his sentence at a high-security prison in Kentucky.
But President Trump commuted his sentence as part of a wave of clemency granted during his last moments in the White House. The rapper has been a vocal supporter and praised the former leader in various media ever since.
“I feel like these people on some other sh*t,” Kodak said, about Trump releasing him. “So they know like, they gon’ try to get Trump out the way ’cause Trump a stand-up n-gga, he a real n-gga. He’ll let a bitch do anything … Trump a real n-gga, man, a soldier.”
The former president’s press team suggested the rapper’s past charitable donations justified ending his prison term early.
American rap superstar Kanye West, also known as Ye, has long been surrounded by controversy. It will be no surprise to most people that we’re ranking him as the most controversial rapper on this list.
Some of the earlier allegations against him include being accused of “sexually harassing behaviour” while collaborating with Adidas on his Yeezy shoe line. He allegedly showed pornographic material to Adidas staff members during meetings.
Yet perhaps his worst offence was his use of antisemitic comments, which resulted in his Twitter and Instagram accounts being restricted. Kanye continued with his comments which immediately ignited conversations about him finally being cancelled.
Kanye also wore clothing featuring the slogan “White Lives Matter” at a Paris fashion show, sparking further controversy.
The artist’s agency CAA dropped him, along with fashion house Balenciaga and GAP.
Yet perhaps the most high profile consequence of Kanye’s actions was the termination of his partnership with Adidas.
During a tirade against Jewish people on a podcast, Kanye previously insisted “I can say antisemitic s*** and Adidas cannot drop me.”
The company hit back, saying his comments were “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous.” Adidas later said they violated the company’s “values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”
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