Country Rap is Nothing New
Who would have guessed that a country song would have rapping in it? Even more, who would have guessed it would go to number one on the charts. That's exactly what happened in June, when Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" hit the top of the charts. We've heard an overwhelming positive response to that song, and even the original version written and performed by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert. Only a few folks have grumbled that rap has no place in country music. Fair arguement I guess, but I did a little thinking that rap has been featured in country more times than you probably realize.
According to thefreedictionary.com, rap's definition is as follows:
rap` mu´sic (răp` mū´zĭk)
a type of rhythmic talking, often with accompanying rhythm instruments
With that definition, we can go way back to before there was anything called "rap music" and find country songs with rap in them.
When I was a kid, I remember getting out my dad's old 45 records and listening to some of his favorites. One I loved was the story of a "big...big man" who put his life on the line for his fellow miners. That of course was the story of "Big Bad John," sung by the legendary Jimmy Dean. This song follows the typical patteren of rap songs, with the rythmic talking through the verses and a "featured performer" picking up the melody on the chorus. It was rap, before we even knew it was rap.
1961 Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John
They called what Bill Anderson did, "whispering." They might as well have called him "Rappin' Bill," because many of his hits involved rythmic talking with accompnyment. Take this song, for instance.
1966 Bill Anderson - Golden Guitar
By the early to mid 90's, America was well aware of rap music and the fans of rap and country would insist the two were completely different entities. That's no reason a parody couldn't be made with a combination of the two. One of the greatest live country entertainers transformed a classic "Hillbilly" TV theme into a rap song that had made his concerts a must see.
1996 Neal McCoy - Hillbilly Rap
I will never forget the uproar, when Toby Keith released "I Wanna Talk About Me." Traditionalists were screaming that Toby was ruining the foundation of country music, with what sounded just like a rap song. It was also amusing to see the same folks that would proclaim George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as the core of country, as they realized that Bobby Braddock had written both of these tunes. Proving the power of "I Wanna Talk About Me." We still often hear this song, over 10 years later.
2001 Toby Keith - I Wanna Talk About Me
By 2005, artists like Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson were ruling the radio and the road, as well as bringing their own "Freak Parade" to the mainstream. Part of the Muzik Mafia that saw spotlight due to this movement was a 6 foot 5 inch, black, bi-lingual, rapping cowboy from Texas, named Cowboy Troy. While seen to some still as a novelty, his album did go to number 2 on the charts, while this single was the number 1 download on iTunes.
2005 Cowboy Troy - I Play Chicken With The Train
Finally, we come to the present and the guy semi-responsible for the recent explosion of country rap. If you've been to the Big O Music Fest over the last three years you've seen the larger than life country boy that is as unique as anything in country music today. Word has it, that it was at the 2009 Big O where Jason Aldean was headlining, that he got the idea to cut "Dirt Road Anthem," after hearing Colt perform it. Colt raps about things that country artists have been singing about for years: fishin', kids growing up, drinkin', and of course chicken and biscuits.
2008 Colt Ford - Chicken and Biscuits
So there you have it, a brief history of country and rap going hand in hand. Like it or not, things are changing all the time, and this seems to be another step in the road of evolution.