Atlanta based rapper, Lil Nas X, has garnered one of the most amazing stories in hip hop this year. In late 2018, the rapper released a song called “Old Town Road” which, was a blend between country music and hip hop. Within the month of March 2019, with the help of the video-sharing platform Tik Tok, the rapper had his song removed from the Billboard Hot Country Charts, recruited legendary country crooner, and father to the legendary singer Hannah Montana -I said what I said-, Billy Ray Cyrus for the remix, and subsequently went number 1 on the Hot 100 Charts.
With the rise of the streaming era and the constant flow of new music coming out, there will undoubtedly be many people who ride popular trends in the hopes of finding something that will stick. For example, mumble rap and heavy autotune have been recent trends that have plucked people from obscurity and made them into stars. There is no doubt that country rap/trap -hick-hop is a personal favorite- will see a sudden boost in numbers due to Lil Nas X’s breakout hit. The issue with this trend though, it’s already been done…a lot.
Mixing country with rap has been around for a while and the truth is that only ever so often does a song breakthrough to gain wide ranging popularity. Let’s never forget the moment when the late, Pimp C of UGK said he was making “country rap tunes.” The Texas duo of Bun B and aforementioned Pimp C, was one of the first groups to add in Southern elements to rap music on a consistent basis and that included, gospel music and country music. A few years later, Bubba Sparxx, known for the masterpiece that is Ms. New Booty, was one of the first rappers to embrace the fusion of the two genres on a full length LP with his debut album “Dark Days, Bright Nights.” This album went on to go platinum and launch his career.
The first time a hick-hop song hit the pop charts can be credited to the bandaid wearing, grill gleaming, St. Louis native, Nelly. In 2004, Nelly shocked the world by collaborating with one of country music’s top artists of all time Tim McGraw to create one of the best cuts off of Nelly’s “Sweat, Suit” album “Over and Over.” Seriously is there anyone who doesn’t relate to this track at some point in life? Nelly had taken advantage of a sector of music that did exist but hadn’t seen mainstream success and made it something he was known for. He followed up the Tim McGraw collab by teaming up with Florida Georgia Line in 2013, to remix their number one country song “Cruise.” The song peaked at number 4 on the Hot 100 and was bonafide smash hit on more than one chart.
Since the “Cruise” remix there have been a small pocket of artists who have popped up that consider themselves country rappers. One of the most notable artists is Lil Tracy the son rapper, Butterfly, from Digable Planets -Cool Like That-, and Coko from SWV. Imagine having that bloodline and doing anything other than making music. His song, “Like a Farmer” had moderate success and even got remixed by the baddest bitch in the game Lil Uzi Vert. But, let’s not be surprised here, country music and the people who most frequent the space do not want minorities thinking they can make country music and chart on a regular basis.
There’s only been a handful of pure-bread country artists who were black that have ever hit the top of the hot country charts Charlie Pride, Darius Rucker -Hootie and The Blowfish is a great band can’t lie-, Kane Brown, and Jimmie Walker. When Nelly released “Over and Over” it never charted on the country charts despite being obviously, a fucking country song. Even Queen Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter couldn’t get a spot on the country charts with her unavoidably country song “Daddy Lessons” off her 2016 album “Lemonade.” A remix, and live performance with country royalty, The Dixie Chicks didn’t even manage to land her a slot even though it charted under the R&B Charts. Really? Daddy Lessons? R&B????
It has become apparent that country music does not want minorities to be a part of the genre…even though we created the shit. Regardless, country rap/trap is a lane that is difficult to breakthrough with however, it is possible with a few things. Timing, good production, and luck. Lil Nas X definitely won’t be the last hip hop artist to make a country song, and there will probably be some trash music to come others trying to replicate his success for themselves -Tyga, with the “Goddamn” music video- but someone eventually will get another hit and this topic will come up again.