What came first: the rap fan or the rapper? It’s a question up for debate since hip-hop was first born in the Bronx during the rec room parties thrown by DJ Kool Herc over 45 years ago. For the love of music to even be created, it has to be the fan, right?
Rap fandom deserves its own scientific study; it’s that complex. There’s the casual fan, staunch supporter, extreme loyalist and super stan. When meet and greets happen at any artists’ shows, they get the unique experience of coming face to face with any one of these kinds of fans who buy their music, concert tickets and merch.
Whether at shows or via social media, many devotees show artists’ support by reciting their favorite song word for word while the stans take it a step further by going to the extreme with tattoos in honor of the artist they adore. And on a more serious note that usually involves legal action, the wild stans find where a rapper lives and try to enter their home uninvited.
Last year, Big Igibob, a 17-year-old inspiring rapper from Russia, inked his face with tattoos similar to those of 6ix9ine and Lil Xan—a big number 13 on his forehead and dripping under eye tat included. In March, Chris Brown had a wild fan experience when a woman attempted to sneak over the gate to get access to his California crib.
While those are the more intense and severe cases of fandom, there is the bright side of the positive experience, which makes artists appreciate their supporters more often than not. From Eminem to Playboi Carti to Nicki Minaj, they’ve got some of the most dedicated fan bases in the business. Check out how those three and some of the other rappers in the game fare when it comes to their fans.
Whenever the word “stan” is used, Eminem immediately comes to mind. The rapper’s two-times platinum-selling song details his biggest fan Stan, who becomes enraged when Em doesn’t reply to his letters so he drives into a river with his pregnant girlfriend tied up in the trunk. The word has even been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Since he’s one of the most revered rappers in the world and regarded as a G.O.A.T., Slim Shady has experienced his fair share of stans (his recent home intruder being one of them) but his sold-out shows prove the supporters that don’t go to crazy lengths to get his attention outweigh those who do.
Playboi Carti loyalists have been incessantly tweeting about his Whole Lotta Red album since he first teased the project two years ago. But even before then, when his hit “Magnolia” was steady on the Billboard Hot 100 for 20 weeks in 2017, he had his fandom in his corner.
Now in 2020, with a new song “@ Meh” and still no Whole Lotta Red, his fans are growing impatient by the day, but they’re not leaving the Carti castle anytime soon. His 5 million Instagram followers and 1.5 million Twitter followers are waiting for his next move.
While fans are waiting for him to reemerge and hit the road to tour once again too, it’s a good idea to stay off the stage or risk being thrown off by Carti’s security.
For better or for worse, Nicki Minaj’s Barbz ride for her through thick and thin. Any time she has beef, no matter who it is or what it’s for, the Barbz assemble on social media and seemingly plan their attack. Figuring out who is part of her army is easy, just look for the social media handles inspired by her name, albums and songs.
Whether it was her beef with Cardi B or someone talking crazy about her husband’s sordid past, her army defends her at every turn. If it involves Nicki, the Barbz are on high alert.
The legion of Lil Uzi Vert supporters posses two important qualities: patience and endurance. When Uzi first teased his Eternal Atake album in 2018, his team of soldiers never let up in begging for its release. Since his last album prior to EA was Luv Is Rage 2 in 2017, fans were likely thinking they’d actually receive EA in 2018, when the rapper first announced it. Two years later, he finally delivered on his most anticipated project yet, satisfying his fan army with a stellar release.
As for that endurance, just look back at the many times the Philly native has performed at festivals and decided to hit the grounds. Good idea in thought, but once fans recognize it’s really him, it’s a game of cat and mouse of epic proportions that involves intense running and climbing fences.
The Yeezy Mafia worship their leader from his days as The College Dropout to life as a Sunday Service-leading man of God. Many Kanye West fans are easy to spot because they’ve been changing right along with him, copying his looks as the Louis Vuitton Don, the shutter shades-wearing ’Ye and a sneaker connoisseur. Whether it’s his kicks or his Yeezy brand apparel, the Chicago MC’s supporters buy up everything and anything attached to his name, leading most of his releases to sell out immediately.
And that’s just the fashion. For a man whose creativity knows no limits, his talents as both a rapper and producer have resulted in nine albums, with many of them going No. 1 thanks to his dedicated fan base. Plus, his live show experience leaves the Yeezy Mafia in a trance.
His fan army could even earn him a push into the presidential race in 2024, when he plans to run. As polarizing as his support of President Trump currently is, that hasn’t knocked him down much in the eyes of his day one supporters.
A true Young Thug devotee is well aware of what “slaat” and “slime” means in Thugger’s world, but that’s just the surface level fandom. There’s a certain kind of fan that truly understands every rhyme that comes out of the Atlanta rapper’s mouth, which is a talent in itself at times since he has a magical way of warbling in his music. It’s like he has his own special slime language in communicating with his fans.
Since Thug emerged in 2010, and subsequently dropped his I Came From Nothing mixtape series, released his hit single “Stoner,” formed Rich Gang with Rich Homie Quan and Birdman, and launched his YSL record label, he’s built a staunch following along the way. Whether he’s beefing with Lil Wayne or wearing a dress on his Jeffery cover art, Thugger can do no wrong in the eyes of his fans.
While flexing his ’fits and flossing his diamonds are the norm, he showcases his human side at his shows when welcoming fans of all kinds to the stage to get their shine in the spotlight.
Rage is a lifestyle and Travis Scott‘s army has been living it ever since his Owl Pharaoh days in 2013. By now, it’s crystal clear the Houston rapper has a stronghold on the youth. From the sea of kids of all races at his sold-out shows to the throngs dripped out in his merch, La Flame’s following shows up and shows out for him.
His legion of fans have helped him earn consecutive No. 1 albums with Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight in 2016, and Astroworld in 2019, plus No. 1-selling songs like “Highest in the Room” and “The Scotts” with Kid Cudi.
The supporters also take rage to another level at his shows. From hanging off balconies to jumping into the crowd and breaking legs, Travis Scott’s fandom is on another level.
Dreamville stans are a different breed. Don’t dare tweet J. Cole is boring; they’ll come back with the lyrical facts with the quickness and keep at it until a believer is made. For over 13 years, Cole has built a team of active fans that hang onto his every rhyme. His meet and greets are a madhouse with a sea of fans screaming his name and clamoring for an autograph (his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, promo run in 2011, is proof of that), plus, his sold-out shows house the kind of fans that sing every word and keep their phones in the air to record every moment onstage.
The great thing about the fan base Cole has acquired over the years is that while his music benefits to the extreme with No. 1-selling albums (four to be exact) and platinum and multiplatinum records (13 in total), so does that of the artists he signed to his Dreamville Records label. Artists like Bas and J.I.D garnered their own supporters before teaming up with Cole, but they certainly get the stimulus package too with the Dreamville certification.
Technicians have been going strong with Tech N9ne since he made his way into the game in the 1990s. For nearly 30 years, the Kansas City, Mo., rapper has continued to possess a raw, unfiltered energy that draws in a fan base from all walks of life. His high-energy shows, spitfire flows, primo face paint, Strange Music empire and stellar rap catalog make him a prolific artist that his loyalists just can’t get enough of.
Many of his supporters will argue that his 2009 album, K.O.D., which serves as his ninth solo LP, is the very best of his 22 solo album catalog. Then there’s those that champion his 2006 LP, Everready (The Religion), the fifth release in his collection. Whatever the choice, one thing Technicians can all agree on is that Tech N9ne’s hasn’t lost his luster yet.
Despite Kodak Black‘s current incarceration for illegally purchasing a firearm in Florida in 2019, and facing sexual assault allegations in South Carolina after being accused of rape following his 2016 concert, the fans consistently rally behind him in the face of negative headlines. “Free Kodak” is a constant phrase across social media and every update on his own Instagram and Twitter platforms continue to receive the kind of likes and retweets that a jailed artist only dreams of.
But even before his time in jail, Kodak’s dedicated supporters looked to him as a street poet telling stories of struggle and survival. After his debut album, Painting Pictures, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2017, he bested that effort a year later with Dying to Live, which debuted at No. 1 on the same chart. This success proved he had the people in his corner regardless of his beef in the streets and tweets.
An arrest for a double-murder would typically halt a person’s career prospects, but not for YNW Melly. The Florida rapper has seemed to gained an even stronger following after he was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in 2019 for the deaths of his friends YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy.
Even though he’s accused of killing his two boys and staging the crime scene to look like a drive-by shooting with YNW Bortlen, his loyal fan army regularly goes to social media to make sure “Free Melly” is heard around the internet. The Melly stans have continued to move his hit song “Murder on My Mind” up in streams (it currently has over 464 million Spotify streams) and helped him earn seven gold songs, four platinum records and one four-times platinum track since he’s been behind bars.
Love him or hate him, 6ix9ine has built a career off his polarizing antics. His fandom has only grown stronger over the years after those who were once weary of his bold, brash social media commentary began tuning in more times than not to find out what he’d do next. His music is undeniably a success with 9 million monthly Spotify listeners, his Nicki Minaj-assisted track “Fefe” sitting at 555 million on Spotify and the accompanying video at 851 million views and counting on YouTube, and his 2018 debut album, Dummy Boy, causing a ruckus for the No. 1 spot on Billboard 200 chart, eventually debuting at No. 2 behind Travis Scott’s Astroworld that year. All thanks to the fans.
Outside of the music, the beefs with Trippie Redd and YG, toxic relationship with his ex-girlfriend Sarah Molina, 2018 arrest for federal racketeering and firearms charges, subsequent snitching and prison release to finish out his sentence on home confinement have kept his fan base engaged. Whether it’s hate watching or true support, the 2 million people that recently tuned in to watch his first Instagram live post-prison release keep his name buzzing.