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HistoryEdit

Early influences on the emergence of country rap as a distinct genre include talking blues like Big Bad John (1961) by Jimmy Dean, A Boy Named Sue (1969) by Johnny Cash and Uneasy Rider (1975) by Charlie Daniels. Black artists who may have been influential in the genre's development include Jamaican ska artist Prince Buster's Texas Hold-Up (1964), Lil Ole Country Boy (1970) by Parliament, and Black Grass (1972) by Bad Bascomb.[5] Music journalist Chuck Eddy traces the genre's roots back to Woody Guthrie.[6]

1980–1998: OriginsEdit

Blowfy's single Blowfly’s Rapp (1980) drew on the influence of earlier country musicians like Charlie Daniels and C. W. McCall; NPR said the song is a "Deliverance-style encounter with Ku Klux Klan-accredited truck drivers to light funk backing".[7] Spin Magazine said Trickeration's Western Gangster Town (1980) (released four years before Schoolly D's Gangsta Boogie) is "cowboy rap’s Rosetta stone, and probably the first 'gangster' rap".[5] Other early examples of country rap are Sir Mix-A-Lot's Square Dance Rap (1985) where he raps in the voice of a "white country boy". The lyric "From L.A. to Carolina / Drop them suckers in Aunt Jemima" in Sir Mix-A-Lot's Buttermilk Biscuits (1988) is a reference to what many consider a racial stereotype, trademarked after Chris L. Rutt heard a performance of the minstrel song Old Aunt Jemima (1876).[5]

The song Rappin' Duke (1985) is a parody of western film star John Wayne: "Two hundred punks, well, what you gonna do?/I got two six-shooters that’ll see me through". The song also contains a reference to Old Folks at Home (1851).[5] The genre-blending wasn't limited only to hip hop artists; country duo Bellamy Brothers released Country Rap (1987) with lyrics about soul food, church, turnip greens and black-eyed peas.[8]

UGK became pioneer of the hardcore Southern rap style that emerged after the success of the Geto Boys, which they started to call "country rap". At the end of Let Me See It, Pimp C raps: "This ain't no muthafuckin' hip-hop records, these country rap tunes", originally a response to Northern hip hop artists who had criticized Southern rap for not being "real hip-hop".[9] The name of the song Hay (1996) by Crucial Conflict is a reference to marjuana.[10]

1998-present: ResurgenceEdit

Country rap in its modern form can be traced back to Kid Rock's "Cowboy", described as "the first country-rap song",[11] which reflects a cross-section of Kid Rock's country music, Southern rock and hip hop influences,[12][11] having been described by the artist as a cross between Run DMC and Lynyrd Skynyrd.[13] In the early 2000s, Bubba Sparxxx and producer Shannon "Fat Shan" Houchins released Sparxxx's 2001 debut album Dark Days, Bright Nights as an independent release. The blend of country and trap caught the attention of producer Jimmy Iovine who re-released the album on Interscope.[14][15] Houchins soon after created Average Joes Entertainment with Colt Ford.[16] With songs like No Trash in My Trailer (2008), Ford has sold over one million albums.[17][18][19]

The trend continued in 2005 when country music stars Big & Rich introduced Cowboy Troy and his album Loco Motive. Troy has said he uses "country instrumentation" that includes a banjo, fiddle, and acoustic guitar blended with "shredding rock guitar riffs and a rap delivery."[20] Hal Crowther has written that I Play Chicken With the Train (2006) by Cowboy Troy was "scandalous not because it mixes 'black' rap with 'white' country, but because, through the sheer force of unlikely-but-seamless juxtaposition, it forces us to acknowledge that those two musical styles, at least when they whoop it up, are brothers under the skin".[21]

In the late 2010s, country rap has returned to prominence as part of the "Yee Haw" movement, a trend characterized by hip hop producers incorporating country music into their own recordings. Young Thug's 2017 song "Family Don't Matter" is credited with popularizing the movement. Artists within "Yee Haw" include Lil Tracy and DaBaby.[22] Other country rap artists include Ryan Upchurch, Bottleneck, Moonshine Bandits and Big Kountry.[23] Cowboy Troy, Lenny Cooper and The Lacs were three of the top country rap artists of 2013 each with an album on Billboard's Country Chart.[17]

In 2019, 20-year-old rapper Lil Nas X's country rap single "Old Town Road" achieved mainstream international success.[24] Assisted by several subsequent versions, including a remix featuring country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, the song broke multiple U.S. streaming records and charted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record nineteen weeks.[25][26] In June 2019, Blanco Brown's "The Git Up", described by USA Today as a "trap-country" song, also achieved viral success.[27]

CollaborationsEdit

The Mo Thugs Family single "Ghetto Cowboy" (1998) is noted for featuring a harmonica.[28] Cruise (remix) (2012) by Florida Georgia Line featured Nelly; Rolling Stone said the track "ushered in the wave of escapist fantasies set to syncopated drum loops that became known as 'bro country'.[29][28] Florida Georgia Line has said that Nelly's part "just connected", helping to make the Cruise remix reach Billboard Hot Country Songs No. 1 and No. 4 on the Hot 100; it also became the first country single to ever gain a RIAA diamond certification.[30]

B.o.B and country singer Taylor Swift collaborated on "Both of Us" (2012). The track features Swift's country vocals and a blend of hip-hop with banjos. It became a top 10 hit in Australia and New Zealand and a top 20 hit in the US.[31]

Country singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J recorded the controversial song "Accidental Racist" for Paisley's 2013 album Wheelhouse.[32]

Other collaborations include Po' Folks (2002) by Nappy Roots with Anthony Hamilton, Country Folks (2012) by Bubba Sparxxx featuring Colt Ford & Danny Boone, Dirt Road Anthem (remix) by Jason Aldean and Ludacris, Meghan Linsey with Bubba Sparxxx on Try Harder Than That (2014).[28][31]

PopularityEdit

Physical sales of country rap albums are higher in more rural areas where country rap fans do not have the Internet services required to stream or download music.[33] There are numerous country rap festivals where artists gather to play their music for upwards of 7,000 fans.[33]

PoliticsEdit

The term "hick-hop" is often criticized by some southern artists, with Struggle Jennings saying, "I love the country, I love the South, I've been fishing and hunting, but I'm not a hick. I'm not hick-hop”.[33] The political ideology of country rap artists is perceived as being right-wing or conservative, due to some right-leaning politics expressed by artists like Upchurch;[33] however the political ideology of country rap artists ranges the full spectrum of political beliefs.[33]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Sheldon Pearce (April 1, 2019). "How Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" Became a Lightning Rod for Race, the Charts, and Country Music". Pitchfork.
  2. ^ Horner, Al (April 9, 2019). "Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’: A new dawn in music". Gq-magazine.co.uk.
  3. ^ Lawrence, Keith (May 28, 2008). "Bluegrass meets hip-hop at Kentucky school". Chicago Tribune.
  4. ^ "Podcast: Country In HipHop". New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "59 Hay-Ya! Moments in Rap and Country's Uncomfortable History". Spin Magazine. March 7, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  6. ^ Eddy, Chuck (1997). The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll. Da Capo Press. pp. 126–27. ISBN 0-306-80741-6
  7. ^ "Remembering Blowfly, Black Music's Filthiest Legend". NPR. January 19, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "A History of Hick-Hop: The 27-Year-Old Story of Country Rap". Rolling Stone. June 27, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  9. ^ Sarig, Roni (2007). Third Coast: Outkast, Timbaland, and How Hip-hop Became a Southern Thing. Hachette Book Group. p. 57. ISBN 0306816474. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  10. ^ "Before "Old Town Road": The Evolution of Country Rap Tunes" (Complex). April 11, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "The 10 best Kid Rock songs".
  12. ^ "Kid Rock - C&I Magazine". July 1, 2015.
  13. ^ "15 Best Kid Rock singles, from 'Bawitdaba' to 'First Kiss'". amp.azcentral.com.
  14. ^ "Hick-Hop Gets Down and Dirty". The Tennessean. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  15. ^ "The Guide to Getting into Country Rap, from Bubba Sparxxx to Lil Nas X". VICE News. April 22, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  16. ^ David Jeffries. "Colt Ford biography". Allmusic. Retrieved July 1, 2009.
  17. ^ a b "The Unlikely Rise Of Hick-Hop". The Wall Street Journal. July 5, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  18. ^ "Country Music Opens Its Ears". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  19. ^ "Bubba Sparxxx Bio". 8/4/2012. BackRoad Records.
  20. ^ Stark, Phyllis. "Cowboy Troy's Wild Ride". Billboard.
  21. ^ Crowther, Hal (2010). Southern Cultures: Winter 2010. University of North Carolina Press. p. 60. ISBN 0807899712. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  22. ^ Michael Saponara (March 22, 2019). "5 Things to Know About 'Old Town Road' Rapper Lil Nas X". Billboard. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  23. ^ Peisner, David. "Rhymes From the Backwoods: The Rise of Country Rap". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  24. ^ Fink, Jenni. "Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Breaks Record Set by 'One Sweet Day,' 'Despacito'". Newsweek. Archived from the original on July 29, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  25. ^ Unterberger, Andrew. "17 Weeks of 'Old Town Road': A Week-by-Week Look Back at Lil Nas X's Historic Run at No. 1 on the Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on July 29, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  26. ^ Trust, Gary. "Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Leads Billboard Hot 100 for 19th Week, Ariana Grande & Social House's 'Boyfriend' Debuts in Top 10". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 12, 2019. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  27. ^ McDermott, Maeve. "The next 'Old Town Road?' Trap-country goes viral again with Blanco Brown's 'The Git Up'". USA Today. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  28. ^ a b c McDermott, Maeve. "It's not just 'Old Town Road': 20 best country-rap songs of the past 20 years". usatoday. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  29. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (February 13, 2019). "Review: Florida Georgia Line Sound Awfully Defensive on 'Can't Say I Ain't Country'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  30. ^ "You'd Never Say They Weren't Country: The Brand That Built Florida Georgia Line". Vice News. March 13, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Yee-Haw: 12 Hip-Hop/Country Collaborations". Vibe. April 5, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  32. ^ Tim Nudd (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley Defends Controversial 'Accidental Racist' Duet with LL Cool J". People. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  33. ^ a b c d e "Country Rap: Inside a Genre Full of Big Dreams and Contradictions". rollingstone.com.