The question heard around the Country Rap Universe last week was “I’m confused with the difference between Outlaw Hip Hop, and Hick Hop”. I think it’s a legitimate question, and as the publisher for the premiere media outlet for Country Rap Music, it’s a question I struggle to answer every day.
A lot of artists hate that label. Some despise it. It’s one of the main reasons I almost always call the music I write about “Country Rap”.
There are many reasons why the artists harbor negative feelings about being called Hick Hop Here’s what they say:
I’m not a hick.
There are too many songs about big trucks and mud bogs.
There are too many people throwing together crap recordings
Everybody’s trying to be like Big Smo and Colt Ford
Guess what; they’re right. Guess what else; that kind of thing means this thing is real.
Whatever you want to call it, this music is moving people to buy records, something almost every other genre is having trouble doing. That’s why we see the music influencing mainstream country. You could say that Hick Hop created Sam Hunt (I can’t believe I just said that).
Just like Hip Hop is a culture and Rap is music that lives within that culture, I think the same thing’s true of Hick Hop. There’s the culture of rugged individualism, playing around in the mud and self-reliance, and the music that’s embedded within the culture is diverse. If you can find me a “Hick Hop” fan that doesn’t like Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings as much as he likes Jawga Boyz, and Charlie Farley, you’ve met the exception, not the rule. I’m not saying Hank Williams Jr. is Hick Hop, I’m just saying that the people who are participating in this culture have, in my opinion, the most widely diverse taste of music in the world.
A lot of artists don’t like the label, and the term Hick Hop may offend them. Here’s the deal though; they want the people that live within the culture to buy their music. Like I said, it’s what’s selling.
If you haven’t seen Yelawolf’s music and imaging lately and thought he wasn’t going after the demographic in question, you’ve been listening with your ears plugged and watching with your eyes closed.
Sorry Jelly Roll fans, but he’s doing it too. Whiskey Sessions wasn’t trap music. I’m not putting Jelly down, hell I think it was some of the best music he’s made yet. Now I wouldn’t call it Hick Hop either, but if you don’t think that he hasn’t adjusted his aim to target a more rural demographic, reread that part about the earplugs and closed-eyes above. He can say he isn’t promoting himself as Hick Hop, and I believe him. But I can assure you at least some of the people on his team are. They may be doing it without his knowledge, but it IS happening.
If you think I don’t love the fact that this is happening, you’re crazy. I love being able to have a wider swath of great artists to cover, and I hope it continues. I like that I’m getting to hear more songs that aren’t about mud bogs and moonshine. I like that there are artists that are going to do good songs with those themes, but if that’s all Country Rap strives to be, it will never gain the kind of respect that the culture deserves.
I’m going to do my part too. I will be more selective about the music I write about going forward. Good music will always get play on HHM Radio, and when anybody, and I mean anybody, makes a Country Rap song that I think is really good, I’m going to write about it. But as a culture, Hick Hop does need to do better. I call on all artists to diversify the topics that they make music about. Some of the up-and-comers like Boondock Kingz, Apalachee Don, Big Chuk and a few others are already doing that.
As fans, we have to be willing to welcome all kinds of people into the fold. I want to see a more diverse group of artists making Country Rap and representing the Hick Hop Culture. I grew up in the country, and there were country folks of all kinds around me. Black, Latino, whatever; to me what matters is the music, and the rural influence. Some of the kids that grew up down the road from me were Asian, and their garden didn’t look any different than my Grandaddy’s did.
Let’s stop this back and forth about who’s Hick Hop and who’s not. There’s no need to bicker about what artist isn’t country enough, or too country. After all, it’s the fans that get to decide that. Try as they may, an artist will be labeled. They don’t get to choose what music they’ve made gets called. For better or worse, once that music drops, it’s out of their hands. The fans decide.
Don’t like the label; fine. Hick Hop fans are like that pretty girl that walks in the club. Every man wants her to pay attention to him. As a fan of the culture and the music (whatever you want to call it), I’m glad it’s happening.