Creating Community Love From Self-hate: Bones and Bones Fans

In the art world, ‘fake’ is one of the worst things you can call someone. This is especially true among musicians, and in Hip Hop in particular. If there is legitimate proof that a rapper does not live the lifestyle that they claim to live, their career will come crashing down and their fans will disown them. It’s as simple as that. But somehow, Michigan rapper and underground titan, Bones, is a rare exception. He frequently switches between vehement threats and miserable self-deprecation, sometimes in the same verse. Each Bones album is packed with as much hate for others as hate for himself. Since his self-declared flaws and shortcomings blatantly contradict the thick-skinned persona that he often boasts, Bones overtly exposes himself as a fraud, a fake. Remarkably, his fans don’t seem to care. In fact, Bones’ transparency is the very reason they love him. 

In his lyrics, Bones unleashes the harsh things that he tells himself onto figurative external entities (e.g., “Looking around at humans like this place would be better without you”1). Since many people deal with their insecurities by projecting them onto others, many people can relate to what Bones is doing. His discography includes an abundance of self-deprecative album titles, such as NoRedeemingQualities, Disgrace, and GoodForNothing. But his songs often include boasts and brags, like in his song “GladWeHaveAnUnderstanding” from 2016 release, Useless, he raps, “F*ck out the way / All your sh*t lame / I feel no pain / We’re not the same.” Here, his lyrics clearly misalign with the name of the album, as per usual, but sometimes his songs are as self-deprecative as the project’s name. On “LayMeInTheRiver,” from discographical highlight, Garbage, Bones raps, “Self-hate in my veins.” Whether strategic or not, he is in fact exposing himself as fraud, poking holes in his tough-guy persona. But since he is calling himself out, rather than someone else doing it, it makes him a bit of a charming character. When he admits to his faults, Bones simulates an environment where his listeners feel lucky and special to experience his soft side — it humanizes him.

Since Bones projects his insecurities onto others, while forming bonds with his listeners through moments of sensitivity, he has earned hundreds of thousands of die-hard fans who are just like him. One would assume this fanbase of people who relate to impulsive and hateful behavior would be a nasty and miserable bunch, but miraculously, Bones fans would take a bullet for one another, and have established a loving, accepting, and tightly knit community. People stick up for each other, and people stick up for Bones, even when they disagree with him. For example, he proudly leads a healthy drug and alcohol-free lifestyle (except for marijuana), but many of his fans use. When Bones said, “I don't pop Xanax because pills are for p*ssies” in his song “TakingOutTheTrash,” he pissed off New Orleans rapper, frequent drug user, and current fan favorite, Scrim. Scrim responded to Bones’ remark by announcing live at a concert, “Fuck any other p*ssy-ass rapper talking about ‘if you take Xanax you’re a p*ssy’” Before this, a large majority of Bones fans were Scrim fans, and vice-versa, but after, nearly every Bones fan — drug user and straight edge alike — defended Bones on social media and abandoned their fandom for Scrim. To fans, this had nothing to do with taking drugs, it was about being loyal. 

It’s incredible how a beautiful community has sprouted from a ton of self-hate and empty threats. Interestingly enough, many Bones fans don’t make music and are rather new to Hip Hop. Bones’ charm is so strong that he appeals to unlikely listeners in unseen and powerful ways. His loving fanbase of insecure misfits offers a valuable sense of community and belonging for folks. In the comment section of the music video in which Bones shared his controversial views on prescription pill abuse, there lies a comment that reads “Its so funny how a lot of bones fans are the type of people who he doesnt like.” That’s exactly right, but let’s not forget that Bones himself is type of person that he doesn't like. In an unusual and contradictory way, Bones fraudulence and self-deprecation has generated an abundance of love.

1. Excerpt from Bones - I2I.