The Biggest Jerks In Music

This article contains references to sexual harassment, domestic abuse, hate crimes, racism, and drug use.

Musicians often like to think of themselves as tortured geniuses. Unfortunately, some of them apparently have a habit of torturing others. From some of the worst feuds in music to bitter breakups and terrible rap sheets, the following artists all have controversial reputations. 

It's worth noting that there is obviously some distinction to be made between your average, everyday musical jerk and those who've gone way off the deep end. There are musicians who've committed crimes and others with truly heinous allegations against them, sure. But there are also those who are just downright unpleasant and provocative, seemingly for the hell of it. A jerk will always take the latter form, first and foremost. In music, those people will overshadow their great talent and success by repeatedly doing or saying ill-advised things. Their reputation often precedes them, and sometimes, it can completely kill their career. Other times, it simply becomes a turn-off for fans who get tired of having to defend the crummy actions or statements committed by their musical faves. 

These stars may make incredible tunes but from trolling folk on Twitter to urinating in mop buckets, they're also among the biggest jerks in music. Is the bad press on the mark about them? Listen up and decide for yourself.

Kanye West

Kanye West became infamous when he interrupted Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Since then, the rapper has basically patented the art of the shocking public outburst. So much so that fans wonder if he's a genius or if his often provocative statements are a cry for help. Some of the time, the line is blurred, like when he managed to turn booty bleaching into an existential crisis on his 2016 album, "The Life of Pablo." Most of the time, however, it is not.

Since the initial VMA outburst, West has interrupted Beck at the Grammys, slut-shamed Amber Rose, doxxed a journalist, and dubbed Swift "that b**ch" while using a fake, nude likeness of the pop star in his music video for "Famous." During a 2018 appearance on TMZ Live, he even minimized the weight of 400 years' worth of slavery by stating, "400 years?! That sounds like a choice."

Today, that narrative has shifted to his eye-opening divorce battle with ex-wife Kim Kardashian. One which seemingly evolved into a harassment campaign against Pete Davidson, the comedian whom West would slyly rename Skete at the start of 2022. West's behavior may have further crossed a line when he released a music video depicting a claymation version of the comic being kidnapped and beheaded. It's so unhinged that Kardashian — in a text message shared by West (via Buzzfeed) — reportedly told the rapper, "U are creating a dangerous and scary environment." Most people would agree.

Gene Simmons

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons may want to keep that notorious tongue from wagging so much. When Run-D.M.C. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Simmons took issue with the hip-hop duo's inclusion. While noting that they're significant artists, he nonetheless told (via Rolling Stone), "But they don't play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing." He also had beef with Grandmaster Flash and N.W.A.'s induction, griping, "I am looking forward to the death of rap." Following Prince's death in 2016, the performer also commiserated on the painful loss of the musical legend by seemingly attacking the late star's alleged lifestyle choices. He told Newsweek, "That's what drugs and alcohol is: a slow death."

To top it off, Simmons is fairly well renowned for his controversial statements regarding women. In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross, for instance, he explained his sketchy reasoning for wearing a codpiece on stage. "The notion is that if you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs," he stated. Meanwhile, journalist Kathy McCabe accused the rock star of responding to her interview questions with sexist retorts, per The Daily Telegraph. During an appearance on "Interview," via NZ Herald, Simmons copped to the behavior but insisted there was no excuse for it. He might even consider self-improvement. He explained, "I've made lots of mistakes ... I've been an arrogant, sexist pig." 

Miley Cyrus

For a long while, Miley Cyrus was renowned for her provocative behavior. While she may have championed gender equality with campaigns such as "Free the Nipple," she has also aligned herself with controversial photographer Terry Richardson, who was accused of sexual misconduct by several models. Cyrus not only posed for the photographer but rocked a T-shirt that stated, "I was touched by Terry," in an apparent mockery of the allegations. Not cool.

At the onset of her post-"Hannah Montana" career, she was also repeatedly accused of cultural appropriation due to her musical style and image. In 2013, songwriting duo Rock City told Vibe that the Disney alum had a specific request for how she wanted her track, "We Can't Stop," to sound. Timothy Thomas explained, "She was like, 'I want urban, I just want something that just feels Black.'" That same year, Jody Rosen would criticize the way Black culture was appropriated during her VMA performance. Writing for Vulture, he noted, "Her act tipped over into what we may as well just call racism: a minstrel show routine whose ghoulishness was heightened by Cyrus's madcap charisma." 

However, in recent years the singer has apologized for some of this behavior. Posting a comment in response to the YouTube video, "Miley Cyrus Is My Problematic Fav ... Sorry" (via Style Caster), the musician acknowledged her privilege and mistakes. She wrote, in part, "I f***ed up, and I sincerely apologize. I'm committed to using my voice for healing, change, and standing up for what's right."

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber's assorted troubles have been well-documented. There was that time he peed in a janitor's bucket. The time he got kicked out of some Mayan ruins for climbing where he wasn't supposed to and reportedly mooning other tourists. And that time he had to pay $80,000 in damages to a neighbor's house that he egged.

Let's not forget the time he may have assaulted a photographer and the time he reportedly had a fight with Orlando Bloom. The bad press went on and on, seemingly keeping tabloids in business. Bieber also once compared himself to a zoo animal when fans asked for photos, parodied his own song using a racial slur, and brawled with a total stranger. His commitment to being a jerk was legit. 

But hold up, Bieber may have turned over a new leaf. In a 2018 Instagram post, he credited his deepening religious beliefs with helping him to move forward in life. While celebrating Easter, he wrote, "I am set free from bondage and shame!" Meanwhile, his marriage to Hailey Bieber appears to have given him some solid foundations with which to be less of a jerk. In a 2021 interview with GQ, the singer described how finding stability had allowed him to correct his path and let go of his history. "A lot of people let their past weigh them down," he told the outlet. "But I'm just like: 'I did a bunch of stupid sh*t. That's okay.'"

Azealia Banks

You may have trouble naming more than one Azealia Banks song, but you can probably rattle off at least half a dozen Twitter feuds the rapper has launched during her stint in the spotlight. The "212" rapper has taken shots at everyone from Lady Gaga and Grimes to Rihanna and Lana Del Rey. In 2016, she was even suspended from Twitter after she appeared to launch an online attack against Zayn Malik. Many outlets, such as US Weekly, described the outburst as featuring racist and homophobic language. 

When a then-14-year-old Skai Jackson entered the argument and politely suggested that Banks pipe down, the rapper also lashed out at the teenage Disney star. Five months later, the controversial star issued a full apology to Malik, where she reckoned with her behavior. In an extensive letter published by US Weekly, Banks noted, "What I did was wrong, and I am committed to becoming a better person." In 2020, however, the rapper's Twitter account was once again suspended after she went on a rant targeting the healthcare needs of transgender people, per Pink News. Still, her rage isn't only contained to the internet. 

In March 2016, Banks reportedly screamed homophobic abuse at photographers outside of a Manhattan courtroom. Incidentally, she was there facing an assault charge for allegedly biting a female security guard's breast at a nightclub in 2015. Prior to that incident, Banks was also caught on camera, reportedly hurling slurs at flight attendants

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Chris Brown

Where do we even begin? Chris Brown's public persona was pretty much squeaky clean until his alleged assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Two years later, he hurled a chair at a window when "Good Morning America" had the nerve to ask him about it. Obviously, his alleged behavior against women is worse than simple jerk-status material. However, it's what he's done between such alleged incidents which have earned him that title. 

In 2016, Brown went on a bitter rant against ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran in which he insulted her career trajectory on Instagram. A year later, she was granted a 5-year restraining order against the singer due to his alleged threats against her. The two reportedly broke up in 2015 after Tran discovered he'd gotten another woman pregnant while they were together. In 2016, said-woman accused Brown of giving their daughter asthma due to his frequent marijuana smoking around her. It's no surprise that Brown's tour manager and publicist both quit that same year due to his behavior. 

The "Loyal" singer has had further run-ins with the law, of course. In 2021, police had to break up the star's massive birthday party due to how disruptive it was to his neighborhood. In 2016, he was also involved in a standoff against the LAPD after he was accused of threatening a woman with a gun, per the Los Angeles Times. Brown vented against the cops on social media during the standoff and claimed that he was being victimized. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support on their website.


Madonna is the Queen of Pop and possibly also bad manners. In June 2016, the singer had somehow found a way to make the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando all about her, as reported by Page Six. On Twitter, the music legend shared an image of two men touching tongues with the caption, "Love is Love. Stop Hate Crimes. Any form of terrorism is a form of Hate!" Fair enough, right? However, she then awkwardly followed up with another post showing her infamous on-stage smooch with Britney Spears at the 2003 VMAs with a similar caption. It did not go down well. 

A month earlier, Madonna performed a tribute to Prince, who died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Her musical performance went off without a hitch. Sadly, her Instagram tribute to the late artist showed her carelessly toting a handbag emblazoned with the word "dealer."

If you believe the tabloid press, Madonna also seems well-versed in exploiting others for her own gain. A Page Six report alleges that the star provides a great life to her crew — one that is purely, and maybe oppressively, conditional. "If there is a difference of opinion or if she feels that they are no longer appreciating her, she can turn nasty. If she doesn't fire them, she's been known to freeze them out: The glacial stares can be very hard to tolerate," a source told the outlet. Another added, "If you are with her, she owns you." 

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is undeniably talented and successful. But based on the evidence, she may also be kind of a jerk. In the early days of her feud with Cardi B, for example, the rapper was reported to have made some petty moves against the "WAP" superstar. In 2018, Minaj was reported to have hired two very specific women to star in her music video for "Good Form." Those women just so happened to be preparing to sue Cardi over an incident in a club, according to TMZ

Need more proof that Minaj can be a jerk? She slammed Travis Scott for selling bundles to promote his music when it prevented her "Queen" album from debuting at No. 1, and she has even targeted legit musical legends. The star has been accused of being repeatedly disrespectful against legendary rapper Lil' Kim and was even accused of threatening Mariah Carey during their time on "American Idol." And let's not forget the 2021 incident wherein Minaj publicly put Jessie J in her place over her involvement with the hit song, "Bang Bang."

In 2021, she even waded into the beef between Little Mix and their former bandmate Jesy Nelson over accusations that the former girl band member was appropriating Black culture to boost her image. Per Daily Mail, the star defended Nelson during the controversy, prompting fans to accuse Minaj of hypocrisy. Didn't she put Miley Cyrus on blast for the same thing? Hey, maybe she just loves a good feud.

Calvin Harris

Rita Ora dated Calvin Harris for about a year before they split in 2014. In addition to reportedly breaking her heart, Harris may have also hurt her career. The couple collaborated on "I Will Never Let You Down," but Harris reportedly blocked Ora from performing the song at the Teen Choice Awards. She then scrapped much of an entire album after the split.

On Twitter (via, Harris suggested nobody had heard his side of the story on why he denied his ex the chance to perform their track. Instead of telling people, he wrote, "Just know I had a damn good reason." Ora apparently saw things differently. She told Marie Claire, "There was a reason why I split up with him. And there was a reason why I'm at this point in my life where I feel like I have so much musical freedom, and I don't have to explain myself to anybody."

Later, when Harris dated Taylor Swift, he released "This Is What You Came For." After the couple split, TMZ exposed that the track had actually been co-written by Swift. Her ex was seemingly livid. On Twitter (via US Weekly), Harris lashed out about the news and accused Swift of targeting him just for fun. He wrote, "I know you're off tour, and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy [Perry] ETC, but I'm not that guy, sorry. I won't allow it."

Dr. Luke

Record producer Dr. Luke has been embroiled in a bitter court battle with former protégé Kesha for years, but his bad reputation in the industry extends beyond her allegations. "A lot of artists that have worked with him don't work with him anymore for pretty good, solid reasons," said Kelly Clarkson in an interview with KIIS 1065 (via Rolling Stone). "He's not a good person to me. We've clashed," she explained. In November 2018, she alleged in legal documents (via The Blast) that Dr. Luke had also tried to sneakily take credit for writing her hit song "Behind These Hazel Eyes."

But that's not all! According to Billboard, singer Becky G sued Dr. Luke's Core Water company for $105 million over claims he allegedly pressured her into promoting the brand. According to the legal documents, the producer purportedly made it seem like the performer's continuing music career was completely dependent on her promotional work with the brand. "It became apparent that Core was simply using [Becky G] as a walking, talking, and singing billboard to turn its irrelevant water brand into a hip and culturally relevant water company," the documents stated.  

In short, there are plenty of artists who've had drama with Dr. Luke in one way or another. And the evidence supporting that he's allegedly kind of a jerk continues to stack up.

50 Cent

50 Cent is known to have had beef with a lot of people. On Instagram (via XXL), the "In Da Club" rapper took swipes at boxer Floyd Mayweather and his alleged illiteracy. Meanwhile, Capital Xtra pointed out that 50's feud with former G-Unit member The Game culminated in a series of more than 100 diss tracks, which seems a tad excessive. His ongoing beef with rapper Ja Rule led to a 2018 incident wherein 50 was said to have bragged about buying 200 seats to his show just so the venue would be empty, per XXL

In 2021, he seemed to take pleasure in trolling Madonna over a provocative Instagram selfie she'd posted of herself wearing lingerie. In a since-deleted post, the rapper reposted the image on his Instagram (via Complex), along with the caption, "Yo this is the funniest sh*t! LOL ... That's Madonna under the bed trying to do like a virgin at 63." Madonna, in kind, took to Instagram to accuse him of being sexist and ageist.

Still, he's at least aware of how people feel about him. When he got caught in a public war of words with his ex-girlfriend, screen legend Vivica A. Fox, he proudly owned his reputation for being a jerk. "Man, somebody should have told her I'm a troll," he posted on Instagram. "I got my a**hole merit badge on now." 

Chad Kroeger

Stories about Nickleback frontman Chad Kroeger being a jerk are as diverse as they can be dumb. During an interview with Men's Health, for instance, the "Rockstar" performer boasted that he once convinced a drum tech to stick his genitals in a whirling metal fan. It was a bit of fun, apparently, and the guy got paid some pocket change for the silly stunt, but still

For years, Kroeger has also been embroiled in a petty feud with Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor. In an interview with Metal Covenant in 2017, the Nickelback star alleged that Taylor had bad-mouthed him in the press and accused Stone Sour of swiping his band's sound. "They're not as good as Nickelback. They sound like Nickelback-lite," he complained. Coming for Slipknot, he followed up by saying, "They had to put on masks and jump around. How good can your music be if you've gotta beat each other up on stage [and] throw up in your own masks every night?"

During an interview with 98 KUPD, Taylor fired back by calling Kroeger an idiot. Damningly, he also accused the Nickelback star of being the only member of the band who was a jerk. "I love everybody else in that band. I'm very, very cool with [them]," Taylor said. "I've hung out with them. It's just Face Like a Foot who I can't really hang out with." Good luck unseeing that now.

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake seemingly built his post-N*SYNC career off the backs of women he's scorned or artists he's insulted. Some have argued he's thrown ex-girlfriend Britney Spears under the bus more times than we can count. He was also rumored to have repeatedly cheated on Jessica Biel before they tied the knot. Then, in 2019, he was caught holding hands with actor Alisha Wainwright years into his marriage with Biel. On top of that, People once reported that Timberlake and his pals allegedly exploited unhoused people for giggles, which is rich considering Timberlake's massive net worth.

His biggest jerk move, however, was arguably the way he avoided accepting responsibility for the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl. The incident curbed Janet Jackson's career for years. While she went on an apology tour, he bragged to "Access Hollywood" (via Entertainment Weekly) that he was happy he got people talking. In fact, the dude even got to headline a Super Bowl halftime show again in 2018. That show included a tribute to Prince — an icon JT has been accused of dissing in the past. Jackson was nowhere to be seen.

A whopping 17 years later, the "Sexy Back" star apologized to both Spears and Jackson after renewed internet outrage about his behavior. "I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism," he wrote on Instagram. Maybe there's hope for him yet.

Zayn Malik

There are some things better left unsaid. With former One Direction star Zayn Malik, that appears to be a lot of things. His mouth may have helped him amass a small fortune, but it's gotten him into quite a bit of trouble too. At first, it was just the way he talked about his former boy band, like the time he told Complex that he ultimately left One Direction because the band felt inauthentic. Creative differences or not, it should be noted that Louis Tomlinson is apparently still mad about Malik's behavior. At least that's what he suggested to Metro (via Cosmopolitan) in 2019.

If that wasn't enough, the star made sure to spend his 20s stamping off a veritable bingo card of alleged jerk behavior. He once purportedly ghosted a GQ writer by saying he was going to the bathroom. Meanwhile, various tabloid reports claimed he cheated on his former fiancée Perrie Edwards. According to The Sun, he even dumped her via text message (a report she confirmed in Little Mix's biography). Sadly, his behavior only worsened over the years.

In 2021, Malik made headlines amidst his split from Gigi Hadid after an alleged explosive argument with her mother, Yolanda. According to court documents obtained by TMZ, the singer shoved the former Bravo-lebrity into a dresser after calling her a "f***ing Dutch sl*t." He walked away with four criminal harassment charges, pleaded no contest, and adamantly denied the tabloid reports.

John Mayer

How do you go from swoon-worthy sad boy to the veritable poster child of toxic masculinity? Ask John Mayer. The singer-songwriter wrote the guidebook — but the recipe is rather simple. Start with a string of high-profile relationships (see: Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Katy Perry), discuss your relationships in enough graphic detail to be a teenage fanfiction, then drop a racist slur – all before dessert.

Mayer's offenses have been widely publicized, largely because the women in his life got fed up with him. 2010 seemed to be when it all came to a head. That year Mayer used a Playboy interview (via Billboard) as an opportunity to describe his sexual relationship with Jessica Simpson in detail. He told the outlet, "Sexually, it was crazy ... It was like napalm, sexual napalm." Although he apologized for his comments, Simpson told Oprah (via MTV) that she refused to forgive him. Not long after, Taylor Swift released "Dear John," her most brutal breakup ballad to date. She never said the track was specifically about the singer, but the lyrics were unnerving enough that Mayer complained to Rolling Stone about them.

Today, Mayer has shed his bachelor image, but only because he had to. "I get rejected a lot since I became PR poison for people," he said during a 2018 Instagram Live (via People). Hey, at least he's self-aware.

Travis Scott

There was a point in which Travis Scott wasn't known as much more than Kylie Jenner's baby daddy. He's since become a household name on his own merit, but only because his bad behavior keeps catching headlines. Most recently, the star was put in the hot seat when, according to The New York Times, at least 10 people died from injuries they sustained during his Astroworld festival in Houston. Damningly, the star was accused of continuing to perform beyond the point of his festival being declared a mass casualty event. Footage of him doing the robot at Astroworld paramedics were resuscitating fans didn't exactly help to change that perspective. 

At the time of the Astroworld tragedy, Scott had already faced legal trouble for similar incidents. According to Today, a lawsuit was filed against Scott, accusing him of inciting a crowd into a frenzy prior to a man being pushed from a balcony and paralyzed. Per Billboard, the rapper also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after encouraging people to rush the stage during a show in Arkansas. Even Scott's colleagues have spoken out. Most prominently, his former manager Shane Morris claimed the rapper basically left him for dead in a recording studio while he was having a seizure. "Travis Scott is the worst person I worked with in my entire career in music," he said in the now-viral TikTok video. Ouch.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto has come a long way since his teen heartthrob days on "My So-Called Life," and it's not all pretty. The 30 Seconds to Mars singer has fielded sexual harassment allegations for decades. The oldest one appears to be traced back to 2005 when the New York Post claimed a then-33-year-old Leto was trolling around NYC's Meatpacking District on the lookout for teenage models. In recent years, both Dylan Sprouse and "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn have publicly accused the star of similar behavior (per Metro). If you think that's bad, you won't believe the stuff Leto actually admits.

While promoting "Suicide Squad" in 2016, the actor told E! that he sent his co-stars used condoms and anal beads. He also sent Viola Davis a bullet, which was threatening enough that she apparently considered pulling out some pepper spray to use on him. Apparently, he was just method acting. Later, the star claimed that his pranks were meant as a bit of a goof and that most of the stories about them weren't true. "99.9 percent of what people read is bulls***," he told Entertainment Weekly. Still, if the dude worked in an office, HR would have a lot on their plate — including some potential lawsuits.