Last week, I stumbled across a music video by a 24-year-old Dallas resident named Corbin Corona. Intrigued, I watched the video, called him a clown, and had a good laugh. He challenged me on Twitter to an interview, and I accepted.
Corona lives with his parents in a well-off neighborhood in North Dallas. The house is very large – 7,600 square feet — but not gaudy. It’s 40 years old and blends in fine with the other houses on the block, all of which are smaller.
Peering into the foyer after I knock on the front door, I spot a piano and bare white walls. Corona greets me. He’s wearing skinny camouflage pants, maroon patent-leather sneakers, and a purple and gold scarf is hanging off his Bulgari belt. His black T-shirt is stamped with the words “BANG BROS,” a porn company that (poorly) attempts to convince its viewers that all of the women in its videos are amateurs. Later on, Corona will tell me that he had no idea who the BANG BROS were, and that they just reached out to him on Twitter and sent him a t-shirt.
He asks me to walk around the house to the back. I immediately expect an ambush, and I’m half-right. I walk into a recording studio about the size of one of those old film kiosks in large, 1980s parking lots, and am met by three other men:
John Breen, a photographer who spends the majority of my time in the studio shooting my interview on an iPad; Adam Corona, Corbin’s brother/manager, who is wearing a Prada belt, which I notice because my face is at the same level as his crotch due to the kiosk-sized studio; and Jeff Adair, a music video director who’s also shooting our interview.
For those counting at home, that’s five total people, three of whom (including me) are recording this interview. There’s also a beagle outside the door, next to an oddly shaped pool.
After some back and forth about what all the cameras and iPads are for, we start the interview. The full audio recording is in the Soundcloud file below. The transcript has been edited for brevity’s sake. It’s still pretty lengthy.
OK, so what was your upbringing like? You lived around here, I guess?
CC: Yes, sir. I was born and raised in Highland Park, Texas. Raised around here man. It’s where I grew up.
And when did you all move over here? Is this your parents’ place?
I think I saw like seven cars outside, how many people live in this place?
CC: I don’t know, a lot. A couple. But anyways I was born here man. If you wanna we can start from the back and everything.
CC: So whenever I was real young I used to always have like a niche for just things I saw on TV. Used to see like commercials and stuff like that, and I would tell my parents, you know, I would see them and tell them “I can do that stuff.” And now I’m very thankful I had such great parents who were able to give me an opportunity to have me go out to LA and everything.
And that was when you were young, right?
CC: Yeah I think like 9 years old when I went out there. I did a lot of stuff, too, just whatever. Some commercials, some movies and stuff. It was cool man, but I really wanted to come back and try to have just a normal life or whatever. You know what I mean? Â Normal life, a high school life and everything. But I’m very thankful I had that opportunity out there in LA. Whenever I was out there I was staying in the Oakwood Apartments, which is like right next to WB studios and all that stuff man. So you know I was with, you know Hunger Games, Josh Hutcherson.
When did you move back? (Corona’s phone rings. Spooky Halloween ring, UFO maybe. He ignores it.)
CC: Ah, man, sophomore year I think? I was here for one year, and I didn’t really like it that much. So I just got my high school GED early, and then I just went off, went off abroad and did stuff like that. And whenever I was abroad…you know, I’ve always done music, I’ve always played piano and all that stuff and when I was abroad I just really wanted to go back to music and everything. Because I didn’t like any of that – the school and all that normal stuff.
I’ve always had like, this freedom of mind. I like to learn and everything like that, but I just want to follow my heart. And so my parents just wanted me to be in school or whatever, so I went to LA again, and I went to the Los Angeles Recording School. And I already knew how to do ProTools and all that stuff, I just went there so I’d be in school for my parents and man that’s like, that was a blessing in itself too, though, because whenever I was out there man, I didn’t talk to a lot of people at my school or anything, but one person I did talk to did his own stuff. Like, through his aunt’s side, at a funeral, he had met Ensayne Wayne. Ensayne Wayne is, uh, the older brother of Drumma Boy. They’re just huge producers.
What’s crazy though is I was in my bed, I was on, like, this laptop, and I was on the Drum Squad website and I was just like “Alright, I’m gonna make it work.” I was manifesting the thought and the next thing you know my phone’s ringing and I answer it, and he was like “Yo man, it’s Darryl. I’m here with Ensayne and Drumma Boy and they were wondering” just like blah blah blah blah. They were asking me some questions and I was like, “Where are you?”
Next thing, I was on a plane out to Atlanta that weekend. I would sleep on the ground, on the couch, whatever. I was around like real Atlanta producers, real people who do it. So the truth is, regardless, I have credit already because that’s who my mentor was.
I was doing that man, like, every other weekend for two years.
How do you afford that?
CC: Dude, thank god for my parents, man. I was 18, 19 then. I’d still have my own money, you know, from like making tracks. People would want to buy beats all the time.
Adam Corona, brother: Your first beat was with Chamillionaire.
CC: Yeah my first track was with Chamillionaire, with Reggie Gray. He’s a good friend, man, one I’ve done a lot of business with. So I came back from LARS, I wanted to move back here. Also at that time I’d met up with a person named John Allen, who has his own entertainment company here, 5001 or whatever and he’s just a good friend, too, and I’ve done a lot of music stuff with him. Recorded with Jeezy and all that stuff. He has, like, a studio inside his house or whatever, he’s just a good friend. I learned and got some good experience with him, he showed me a lot of the good things in life. And I’m thankful for that. And how I got to do the stuff with Jeezy and whatever, that was like, I literally put the whole thing together. John Allen put up the money…
And so yeah that’s that, and everything you see, these two videos I done, literally all that stuff is just on my own since I’ve been back, this past year and a half I’ve been here. Literally those videos were done, like, I don’t know, this past October. And it’s great man because all that stuff, man, thats everything I had inside my head. And yeah, of course people are going to be pissed off man. It’s me, getting off a jet. But that’s not what I’m about. That’s just setting a bar.
If that’s not what you’re about, why present yourself that way?
CC: Because it’s great man, why not live like that? But I see what you’re saying, too. So I presented myself like that, right, then I came back with a completely different style than whatever that “SuperStar” one was. And I like that one too, because it’s not for people like, in this room right here. It’s for a much younger base. And I do have young kids, you know, over in like Norway, that love that shit. And it’s great. Great. Fantastic. So yeah man, that’s just like the first two things that I did, and I just have such a large plethora of things that are to come…
Did you shoot ["Superstar"] here?
CC: I shot part here in the backyard, and then this is Jeff (points to Jeff, sitting behind me, recording the interview on camera). He’s the one who’s directed my videos, and so anyways I told him I have this vision that I want to do the Chihuly exhibit and the Chinese lantern show. I just had these visions, and man they were just there, and we made them come true. And to me, that’s just crazy. Because I have these imaginations and things in my head, and then it was a reality while we were filming it, and now it’s all kind of up in the air. The only time I can remember it is when I look at the video. So it’s interesting.
Is that the kind of music you want to keep doing?
CC: Yeah, man, I like doing rap. I can make you rap music all day. Also man, there’s a wider demographic out there and that little pop song, for every one person who hates it five people are going to love it. I don’t really care. It’s good though, just keep it coming. There’s always gonna be a lot of hate, but there’s always gonna be a lot of love. That’s how the universe works man, and it’s great, it’s great. So, that is kind of what I’m doing: R&B and rap, and pop. It’s just whatever I feel like, I’m gonna do it, and that’s just what’s being written right now.
Adam: Bottom line, the films that were made for the music videos were all funded by Corbin. Our parents didn’t…
How much did they cost?
CC: Doesn’t matter.
John, from the corner: Very inexpensive, in comparison, man.
Ten grand, fifty grand?
CC: Sure, ten grand, let’s say ten grand. There you go.
So a lot of the bluster and blowback that’s sort-of come on this is saying that what you’ve been producing so far – in your public image, not as a producer – is sort of been compared to “Friday” and “The Thanksgiving Song.”
CC: I like [“Friday”], I didn’t even know what it was.
How do you respond to that, and how do you sort of transition away from that?
CC: Honestly, that’s a very good question. How do I respond to it? I love that song, I thought it was cool. But I see what they’re saying, I see why they’re comparing it, which I think is hilarious. That’s great, man. But yeah I think that the way you’ll see changes and stuff, it’s what’s to come and everything. I don’t even know where I’m going, all I know is I’m just doing me. I don’t even know where I’m going. That’s like the fun part of it. Everything you’re seeing right now…it took a long time to get right here. Took a long time. So for me to actually have like my own foundation, where I have a team of people where I can put things together and put my stuff out there that’s like a dream to me. And I’m very thankful for it.
I’m not out here trying to talk about gangster or bad things or whatever or to be loved. Â I don’t know man, I’m just being me. So I think that’s the most priceless asset of what I’m doing.
John: Your article that you wrote for D Magazine, I mean you just came out of the blue, you didn’t speak with the artist at all..
No, but it’ a blog post.
John: Oh, so it’s not in the magazine at all?
Yeah I just stumbled across it, someone passed it on to me, and I just thought it would be fun if I watched the video for one time, and just interpret it.
CC: I gotta ask now, man, now that you’ve met me. Do you still hate me as much?
I never hated you. There’s a difference between…I don’t dislike you as a person at all I just think there is a place in this world for critique and assessment.
CC: Absolutely. I need it.
And nothing I said was a lie or anything. It was my opinion, and my view. I write every day, and I get edited every single day, so I understand it from that perspective.
John: If someone would really talk to a person before they threw a blog out, or whatever..
Crazy example: Jay-Z puts out a new song. I’d write about it, talk about. I can’t get Jay-Z on the phone that day to say “Oh what do you think about what I think about your song?” You know what I’m saying? That’s the difference. If I was doing a profile of him, where I’d be talking to different people and stuff, and I didn’t at least try to talk to him, then there’d be a gap and people would say “Why did this happen?”
(At this point we talked about a strange set of circumstances. Earlier in the week, our fashion blog, StyleSheet, posted some photos of Corona. He assumed I saw them and sought him out. I did not see them until after I had already seen the video. Let’s resume.)
CC: I’m well aware. All you gotta do is type up my name on the internet and you’re going to see my past. I’ve never taken the time to hide anything, because there’s nothing to hide. It’s all great, and it’s all awesome that it’s happening just like this. All I can say is of course I’m getting ready to start dropping a bunch of stuff. Like I said, I’m just being me.
CC: I’m going to drop a song called “Get Mine,” and then I’ll drop probably an interview or something, then I’ll drop a song called “OMG” which we filmed in St. Thomas, because I took my brother out there for his birthday. Surprise.
So speaking of your past, you lived in Laos for a bit?
CC: Literally I woke up in the middle of the night, like 3:30 a.m. man, and I have a very close friend of mine, literally went out to Vietnam on a plane, bought a motorcycle and just went by himself for four months on a motorcycle. Dude, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, just doing it himself. I literally woke up from a dream that I was over there. So next thing you know, I just got on my iPad and looked up volunteering programs. I specifically wanted to do something with kids, because I had a bunch of energy, and I figured that was the best thing I could do, just give them hands on, like, my energy. And I found something outside of Capetown, Gordon’s Bay, teaching orphans in an elementary school. And I was out there for two months, because I didn’t think like two weeks was anything.
When was it?
CC: I think July of 2011, I think. So I was in Africa for two months, then I was in Laos. Saw a lot of crazy stuff, man. But I was teaching orphans and novice monks English and stuff like that, and they got to spend time with me. Whole different culture over there; crazy stuff. Whenever I was over there, too, I jumped over to Thailand for a couple days because there was this place that does sakyong. I didn’t even stay in a hotel the first day, I just ended up living in the temple with people because I was helping with the bad flooding over there. We were helping with sandbags and whatever. That’s just me. That’s the stuff I don’t need people to know about, but that’s real.
That’s what I love, that’s my own thing that I love. Giving back anything I can. That’s my tie to the big guy up above or whatever.
Jumping back to another topic, there are a lot of people who critique and criticize, and don’t think you’re very good at what you do.
CC: Ha, yeah
How does that come into play, and how do you, I don’t know about realign your expectations, but deal with that?
CC: All it makes me want to do is go harder. I totally understand. I take that with two different sides. I also take the side that the whole thing is spawned from hatred, so you’re obviously going to get a lot of people who just think it sucks, and that’s just a group of people, and that’s just what they do. But honestly I think it’s great dude, because it makes me exceed my points and it’s great and it’s kind-of a reality check in a way. So that’s what I like about that too.
Trust me, man, I didn’t do that song thinking “Oh this is going to make me so famous.” Dude, that thing was a blast. There were people who have been doing video shoots for 30 years and stuff and they’ve done all kinds of shoots and they were just telling me “This is the funnest one I’ve done.” Everyone on set, everyone there, that’s just how it was. Good, positive, supportive stuff. There was no bullshit. Like everyone around me, it’s just good stuff.
It sort of reminds me of RiffRaff or those sort of artists. Is that what you’re shooting for?
CC: No, not at all. I didn’t even know who Riff Raff was until people started showing me. So I understand how people make the comparisons, and that’s great. So I know it gives me an avenue, [but I] stay in a lane and keep on doing what I’m doing over here, because obviously I don’t want to be like anybody else.
Is this the persona that you’ve created, or is it a persona that has grown organically since you were a kid?
CC: Yeah, absolutely, I think it’s just written in my DNA. Whatever’s going to happen is just going to happen. I don’t know what’s to come in the future, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So literally everything that’s happening right now is just me, and it is what it is. So that’s the cool thing about it. Looking from my peoples and everything it’s interesting, because it takes everything I learned from when I was out there and the people I hung around, the people who have influenced me in my life. Of course it made me the person I am today, and I definitely, definitely, don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in my life.
I’ve probably learned the hard way, but it’s all good, man. There’s just so much more to come.
How much of this, internally, do you think is a reaction to your upbringing and where you grew up? Just your style, your choices with music, just your transition into adulthood.
Adam: Well I want to say something. We lived in the Park Cities, but he didn’t graduate from Highland Park.
But you have to be of a certain level to live in Highland Park in general, even if you didn’t go to Highland Park High School.
Adam: Even if he was living for four years at a time in Los Angeles?
To have a family that has the means to grow up in Highland Park, as opposed to Oak Cliff or even Plano or Richardson.
CC: My parents worked very hard to give this to me.
And I’m not saying that you were given it, I’m just saying you come from a different place than someone who came from..
CC: You mean how I dress and how I talk, where does all that inspiration come from?
CC: From you know man, maybe it’s all that LSD I did. Who knows, man? But it comes from me though. That’s what the important thing is. I’ve got nothing to hide. Everything I’m wearing, how I dress dude, I don’t know, it’s how I feel. I can’t explain it. That’s why it’s great. I probably do get stared at for the way I dress and everything, but it’s just how I like to dress. I like vibrant colors, I like positive stuff. So, yeah, that’s a good question.
Is there anything else that maybe I didn’t ask, that you think is important?
CC: I’m going to call my parents and see if they’re here. (Leaves the room)
John: He wasn’t just given a silver spoon.
I wasn’t saying he was, just that a geographical place can influence and affect.
John: I think being raised here, but the travelling he did has really given him certain things. It puts it all together and lets the artistic ability come out.
Adam: He came back to try and do the normal thing, and it turned out that’s not what he wanted to do. He tried to come back.
Somebody grows up in the mountains of Kentucky, somebody grows up on the Upper West Side, somebody grows up in Cambodia. That’s environmental, never mind how much money your family has. In that setting you’re still going to be affected.
John: He’s a creative guy, man, he’s got a lot of visions. To put it together with another creative genius over there (points to Jeff) that’s just…You’re going to have some critics.
John: So you didn’t like the video at all?
I was having some fun with it. If it’s not for me, that doesn’t mean it’s not for someone else.
John: We were gonna blow you up, but we decided against it.
CC: Some people said don’t even do the interview, but I said “No, this is what it’s about.” I couldn’t care less what anybody reads about me. That’s retarded to me, it’s like feeding into the BS…it’s all good.
After this portion of the interview, Corona went and found his parents while John and I stood next to the family’s pool. It was allegedly shaped like a Kirby vacuum; one of the home’s original owners was supposedly a Kirby. Neither of us could determine where the broom, bag, or handle were in the water.
I met Corona’s parents, who were lovely. In a comment on my original post, Gary Corona said I “sounded like an SMU intern” and was “very amateurish.” In person he was very nice, and his mother reminded me of butterscotch pudding.Â As I left the house, Corbin Corona extended me an invitation to his next video shoot.
So, is this all real? Well, his tattoos – a smattering of gods from various religions and ancient cultures, and, I think, a mummy – are too permanent to be anything short of a long-con. He speaks with a passion most employers would love to hear from their employees. His parents–his tattoo-less, run-of-the-mill parents–support him with grins usually reserved for weddings and bar mitzvahs.
In a time when reality doesn’t matter (Pop stars can buy Twitter followers and YouTube views by the thousand for as little as $50. His Twitter profile seems mostly legit; other writers have raised questions about his YouTube views.) and competition for eyeballs and earbuds is fiercer than any time in human history, the market will be the ultimate decider. Is Corbin Corona’s schtick real? If he earns fans, does it really matter?