by G. Brown
What do you get when you mix rap with country music? A lot of shade from Billboard music charts and a certified hit for rapper Lil Nas X and country music veteran Billy Ray Cyrus.
Social media spent the weekend singing the praises of the collaborative remix of “Old Town Country Road” after the song officially dropped on Friday.
19 year old Atlanta based Lil Nas X actually released the song last December. Here’s the original.
twitter please help me get billy ray cyrus on this pic.twitter.com/UDoeiOZqc1
— nope (@LilNasX) December 5, 2018
The song became a viral sensation on streaming apps, but picked up traction after Billboard said the country song wasn’t country enough and did “not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” So, the song was removed from Billboard’s country chart.
When a music icon and titan like Billboard dismisses you, what can an unknown, up and coming rapper do? Well, Lil Nas X turned up the volume (and the heat on Billboard) by releasing a remix of “Old Town Road” and got an established country star to back him on vocals. The remix is pure fire even if you’re not a country music fan…
The song has touched off a ton of controversy and debates about exactly how much twanging banjo and lyrics about a dead dog and a drunken ex does a song need to be considered country? Country music and hip hop stars are weighing in…
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Reigning Queen of Country music Reba McIntyre defended “Old Country Road” during Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards saying the genre has always been about diversity. McEntire says country music is about the soul of the song, “If I find a song that touches my heart, hopefully when I sing it, it’ll touch your heart….That’s what we have to do to make country music stronger and make it the strongest genre of music.” After 43 years at the top of the country charts, Reba knows a thing or two about the controversy. Fans flared up at her decades ago when she dared a rendition of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”. Some hated the song because it wasn’t traditional country music.
A lot of people seem to believe that a hip-hop rapper simply can’t make a country song. Like it’s violating some unspoken, unbreachable law of the universe. The broader issue here has nothing to do with the twang of the vocals or the genre. Some people don’t like that this young, upstart is, as one country singer put it, trying to ride on the coattails of country music’s popularity. Ok, can we cut right to the chase here? If this were Eminem rapping a country record, there wouldn’t be any controversy. This young, Black, in their minds ‘nobody’, has the audacity to make a country record. Controversy is never comfortable, but it always opens the door to conversation. Lil Nas X may have been trying to only get a foothold in the music industry, but instead, he’s doing more to bridge the racial divide. That’s no small feat in a time where the racial chasm is growing wider as a presidential administration is steadily fueling division. The controversy has hip hop and country singers engaging in dialogue that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Lil Nas X is exposing hip hop fans to a genre of music they may have previously held hostage to stereotypes and prejudice. Sure its causing controversy and debate, but “Old Town Road” is promoting harmony on a whole other level.