I have to admit, I was never the biggest fan of Joyner Lucas’ music. 508-507-2209 was my first introduction to him after watching a Dead End Hip-Hop review. Their breakdown of “Keep It 100” pushed me to give the album a shot, while the song’s music video won me over as a fan with its ingenious concept of a dollar bill’s journey through the hands of its various owners.
Then, “I’m Not Racist” happened, which I thought of as a well-intentioned affair that really should have been told through an album/EP instead of a song. It did go viral though, and sparked a lot of discourse around its subject matter of opposing viewpoints when it came to American racism. However, the message’s execution was as subtle as a brick to the face. It helped launched Joyner’s career into the mainstream but at the same time saw him branded as ‘corny’ – a term that I don’t think he’s been able to escape since.
After that, he dropped “Frozen” – another narrative-heavy track that warns against driving under the influence. Once again advocating for a noble cause but relying again on his already-proven storytelling, it felt like Joyner was trying to recapture lightning in a bottle. It turned one of his strengths into a gimmick, and further soured much of the public’s opinion on him.
It doesn’t help that his debut album – ADHD‘s atrocious rollout (plus poor reception) and Joyner’s sometimes less-than-likable public persona saw his fans slowly turning their backs on him, as people continued to label him as ‘corny’.
I find Joyner corny as well but, at the same time to be very endearing. Wearing his influences proudly on his sleeve – like his sincere (though cheesy) ode to Will Smith or the obvious Eminem “Guilty Conscience” inspirations he took for “Snitch”; Joyner Lucas has always carried himself as an artist who’s unabashed of who he is and what he believes in, be it in his own abilities or through his admiration for the people around him. He makes his career entertaining to follow along…even if he does radiate the energy of a boomer uncle on social media.
Joyner’s done pretty well for himself too – with his latest Evolution peaking at #49 on the Billboard 200, scoring a co-sign from his idol Eminem, and securing a loyal fanbase that’s seemingly cut from the same cloth of Em’s own dedicated fans. Aside from his very vocal detractors on the internet, he’s carved out a fairly secure lane for himself.
Honestly, I can’t help but admire him. As an amateur music journalist who’s always felt like outsider to an industry and culture that I’ve never been a part of, any and all opinions that I’ve wrote or said are plagued by the insecurity that I’m in over my head. Despite the occasional endorsements and praise that I’ve received over the years, my imposter syndrome is hard to get rid of.
That’s why watching Joyner stay true to himself while continuing to be embraced by his peers and idols (who also happen to be my idols) is inspiring in a way. Despite disagreeing with him on multiple occasions – like his misguided takedowns of ‘mumble rappers’ with a holier-than-thou arrogance, I’ve always found myself drawn to the pride he has in his work, no matter how corny it may be.
Of course, there’s a chance that he might not be self-aware enough to realise that his actions are seen as corny, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I look up to the man though. The pride he invests in himself is one I hope equal one day. So no matter how corny he gets, there’s still a genuineness behind Joyner Lucas that I’ll forever be captivated by.