As you prepare to go to college, old folks who’ve done their four years at school will tell you the same thing. “You’re going to find out about people, places, and things you didn’t even know existed.” They’re right. And within even my first few days of freshman year, I quickly noticed that the music blasting out of the speakers at the crowded, sweaty orientation week parties was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Gone were “In da Club,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and “The Motto,” the mainstream hip-hop bangers that had soundtracked my high school experience, and in their place was music that sounded like the people from Kidz Bop had decided to rap about college. The kids bumping this music thought of themselves as hip-hop fans. But their favorite artists weren’t Jay Z, Biggie, OutKast, or anyone I’d ever heard of from my life-long love of hip-hop growing up in New York City. Their favorites were dudes with names like Mike Stud or Hoodie Allen and songs like "Just Sayin’." I had stumbled upon an entirely new music culture, and I hated it.
What I discovered was frat rap. More than just being a type of music, it’s an entire culture that thrives within the college community of kids who like to get super fucked up and hear music about other kids who like to get super fucked up. The lyrics are about parties, women, and the pros and cons of those two things in excess. The rhyme style is usually fairly basic, with a sing-songy cadence. The artists and their devoted fans, while not exclusively, are more often than not young, suburban white dudes with some level of college education. Are all these aspects requirements? No, but they are the major traits of the genre.
While those qualities help explain frat rap, there are two other major facts that can shine more light on the genre itself. The first is that, although it is technically rap, it exists in an entirely different universe. Rarely, if ever, would any of the artists receive coverage from the major rap blogs, radio, or magazines. And while you may have never heard of Hoodie Allen, the rapper can sell out the same venues J. Cole does. On top of that, the lexicon is different, the beats aren’t the same, and importantly, the white collegians who love these artists and flock to their shows think of themselves as hip-hop fans, but rarely step outside of this self-confined world. Almost every artist on this list rejects the title and culture of frat rap, despite the fact that many of their shared fans identify with it and help pay their bills.
While the vast majority of frat rap has not and will never appeal to the hip-hop fans who frequent this website, it is an undeniable phenomenon that deserves attention because of its sheer size. For that reason, Complex has decided to break down the genre by listing the 10 artists who help define it.
To make it even clearer, we’ve split the artists into five categories. First up are the Survivors, the artists who managed to beat their initial classification as frat rappers to gain respected status in the hip-hop world. Next are the Veterans, rappers who’ve excelled in this genre their whole career. Then come the Stereotypes, the broey-bros who are disproportionately responsible for frat rap’s bad reputation. We also have the Guilty Pleasures, the artists who exist in the frat rap universe who we may never admit to liking but are actually kinda likable. And finally, the Misnomers, artists who unfairly are thought of as frat rappers but don’t deserve the title.
We hope this trip into graphic tank tops and vapid party raps is both enjoyable and informative.
Written by Max Goldberg (@goopygold)