Rap Meets Country
From trap beats to trap artists, the last two decades has brought a new wave of music to the soundscape: hick-hop, or the marriage of rap music and country music. Hick-hop isn’t a new genre at all with collaborations dating back to at least 2004 when Nelly featured country artist Tim McGraw on the second single from his fourth studio album Suit. The song, “Over and Over” sees Nelly depart from his usual rap-style, opting to sing his verses over a simple guitar, drum and bass sample from Tim McGraw, the two coming together in harmony during the chorus and ad-libs. While this isn’t the first time a rap artist collaborated with a country artist (Bubba Sparxx and Nappy Roots come to mind), this is the earliest and most iconic example that I can relate to, being a high school junior at the time of its release.
Fast forward almost a decade later to 2012 and Nelly would be in hick-hop headlines again, this time for his collaboration with Florida Georgia Line on the song “Cruise”. This time with Nelly opting to rap on the FLG track, leaving the singing to the country group instead. The song was a major hit, garnering over 148 million views on YouTube.
The Controversial Rise of Lil Nas X
In 2019 controversy struck as hick-hop was catapulted into the spotlight by a young rapper named Lil Nas X. Teaming up with country legend Billy Ray Cyrus, the duo achieved wild success across the globe, not only reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 music charts (despite being deemed “not country enough” for the Billboard country charts) and becoming the highest certified song in RIAA history but also dominating the YouTube ranks with over 2 Billion views if you count the remix.
It was these sorts of absolutely staggering results that lead to what the current dominance of hick-hop. The undeniable proof that not only did the combination of the genres work in a mainstream sense but it’s what mainstream audiences wanted.
2023 and Beyond
Today you will find the marriage of rap music and country music everywhere. Open up Spotify to a rap station and you might just find your favorite country artist on a song and vice versa if you’re playing a country station. Tune into Kodak Black radio and among his usual hits you’ll find him teaming up with Koe Wetzel for the song ‘Wasted’. Likewise, tune into Morgan Wallen and you’ll catch him rapping it up on the song ‘Broadway Girls’ by Lil Durk – the well known drill rap artist.
The juxtaposition of rap and country lifestyles and the melding of two different fanbases speaks to a higher topic regarding the social and cultural climate in America as well. It showcases an America that is becoming more and more inclusive. When people see and hear their favorite artists collaborate with someone from a different cultural background it gives representation to the idea that we’re all humans and if we can reach a middle ground such as music we can discover that we’re not so different after all.