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From the Hood to the Hayfield: The Rise of Rap & Country Collabs

Updated: Apr 23

With the news of Country Hip Hop pioneer Colt Ford still in the intensive care unit at the Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona, we wanted to take a closer look at the successful collabs between Country music and Hip Hop artists throughout the years..


This is definitely not the George Jones styled country music that I grew up with, and love lol.. To be fair, there will probably never be another George Jones, who was hands down the greatest country singer of all time.


But like many from Zoomers to Late boomers, it was nearly impossible to not vibe with Hip Hop growing up too. It came as no surprise to me when I saw a 60 Minutes interview with Chris Stapleton where he said he grew up listening to Dr Dre and Snoop Dog as well as George Jones. For me it was George for sure, plus Everlast, Lauryn Hill and Eminem.


I may be a purist when it comes to traditional country music. I really don't want to hear a trap beat when I'm in the mood for George Jones. But I do love some of the current overlap with hip hop, rap, and R&B. I also love to see charting artists dusting off some of the old classics and breathing new life into time treasured gems like Ernest, Hardy and Post Malone have done recently.


Country music has always been welcoming that way as non genre artists like Ray Charles, Michael Bublé, Anita Pointer, Adele, and Jewel among many others have found chart success in the genre. Themes of love, and heartbreak are universal. As is the strong slant towards story telling in country music which is also a staple of rap music.


Throughout the years, there have been a growing number of rappers who have partnered with country artists with very successful results due to the common ground story telling provides. A few have even been nominated for awards in the country music category, and reached platinum seller status with their respective collaborations.


I thought it would be cool to look back at some of the epic history making highlights of the convergence of rap, hip hop, and country music.  As mainstream country leans more and more into Hip Hop, and R&B, I think it's safe to say there will be more collaborations and artists transitioning into country music.


It's great when artists from other genres visit for awhile, and build relationships and kinship with the community. Relationships can often bridge any divides that exist, and foster a new level of understanding.

Here are a couple of collabs that were mostly done right..


 

Coolio

Rapper Coolio and Country Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers collaborated on a song called "The Hustler”. Kenny, and Coolio were friends, and Kenny was beyond happy to be the inspiration for the song. The Hustler was a hip-hop update to Kenny's hit "The Gambler," and despite the rap-country trend being more common now, their partnership was groundbreaking in 1998. 




The song's message is positive, with Coolio's lyrics emphasizing the importance of standing up and helping each other. The music video features Coolio as the central character and narrator, with Rogers singing the iconic hook. The duo's unexpected collaboration was a great opportunity for Rogers to explore a different genre of music.


 

Lil Nas X


Old Town Road was just so darn catchy. The song was originally not considered country, and pulled off of the Billboard Country Charts. 

Billboard's official statement, repeated across the media, was that the song “incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery [but] does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version.” 


This was a blessing in disguise as everyone loves an underdog. Billy Ray Cyrus stepped in to show the newcomer support. The song skyrocketed to stratospheric record breaking levels after the Billboard decision and stayed a record breaking 19 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard all genre Hot 100. It is one of the best selling singles of all time and revived Billy Ray's career for awhile. The song is certified platinum 17x, and reached diamond status..





 

Snoop Dog.


Did you know that in 2012 Rapper Snoop Dog was nominated for a CMA award? He was. Willie Nelson, and Jamey Johnson collaborated with Snoop Dog on the song "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die." This unexpected collaboration showcased their mutual love for storytelling, and other things I suppose..Dear God lol.. 


Despite the surprise nomination, Snoop Dogg, Jamey and Willie Nelson's unique blend of hip-hop and country influences resonated with fans and critics alike, proving something we’ve known all along, music knows no boundaries.





 

Ludacris.


Ludacris, who also collaborated with Snoop Dog on the 3x platinum All I Do Is Win, made a strong featured appearance on Jason Aldean’s Dirt Road Anthem. The song was written by Colt Ford, and Brantley Gilbert. It was a crossover hit for Jason Aldean peaking at #7 on the all genre Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the Country Airplay chart in 2011. Ludacris was also featured on Carrie Underwood's Champion song.


 


 

The KLF: King Boy D (Bill Drummond) and Rockman Rock (Jimmy Cauty)


One of the most interesting collabs was a song by British band the KLF, featuring none other than The First Lady of Country Music, Tammy Wynette! The song was a hit in 1991, reaching number two in the UK and number eleven on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song's origins date back to the band's debut album in 1987.


Justified & Ancient was the final release before the band retired. The song reflects the band's rebellious nature and subversive intent. The melody and lyrics were used in several of the band's works." The song is definitely in the house genre with some rapping throughout. Tammy, of course gives a diva worthy performance.



 

Lil Durk


Morgan Wallen's collaboration with Lil Durk , Broadway Girls is still a fan fave. It also gave Morgan Wallen his first Billboard R&B/Hip Hop chart topper in 2022. The song continued to gain traction across multiple Billboard charts like Hot Rap: #1, and Streaming Songs: #9. The song also crossed continents and charted on Billboard’s Global 200 as well as Billboard’s Hot 100. Lil Durk and Morgan have since collaborated on other projects.



 

The success of these songs which in some cases span several decades and generations speaks to a musical landscape that has been changing for a while now.. As genres continue to evolve and blend together, artists are experimenting with new sounds and styles, and redefining long held beliefs of which genres can be infused with a touch of country music. There is a place for experimentation in all music, but let’s also save a place at the table for a little pedal steel, and twang from time to time.. :)


 

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Great article. For the next edition, you should also add Nelly, and Flo-rida.

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