|Cultural origins||Late 1990s, United States (South, Southwest and Midwest)|
Early influences on the emergence of country rap as a distinct genre include talking blues like Big Bad John (1961) by Jimmy Dean, A Boy Named Sue (1969) by Johnny Cash and Uneasy Rider (1975) by Charlie Daniels. Black artists who may have been influential in the genre's development include Jamaican ska artist Prince Buster's Texas Hold-Up (1964), Lil Ole Country Boy (1970) by Parliament, and Black Grass (1972) by Bad Bascomb. Music journalist Chuck Eddy traces the genre's roots back to Woody Guthrie.
Blowfly's single Blowfly’s Rapp (1980) drew on the influence of earlier country musicians like Charlie Daniels and C. W. McCall; NPR said the song is a "Deliverance-style encounter with Ku Klux Klan-accredited truck drivers to light funk backing". Spin Magazine said Trickeration's Western Gangster Town (1980) (released four years before Schoolly D's Gangsta Boogie) is "cowboy rap’s Rosetta stone, and probably the first 'gangster' rap". Other early examples of country rap are Sir Mix-A-Lot's Square Dance Rap (1985) where he raps in the voice of a "white country boy". The lyric "From L.A. to Carolina / Drop them suckers in Aunt Jemima" in Sir Mix-A-Lot's Buttermilk Biscuits (1988) is a reference to what many consider a racial stereotype, trademarked after Chris L. Rutt heard a performance of the minstrel song Old Aunt Jemima (1876).
The song Rappin' Duke (1985) is a parody of western film star John Wayne: "Two hundred punks, well, what you gonna do?/I got two six-shooters that’ll see me through". The song also contains a reference to Old Folks at Home (1851). The genre-blending wasn't limited only to hip hop artists; country duo Bellamy Brothers released Country Rap (1987) with lyrics about soul food, church, turnip greens and black-eyed peas.
UGK became pioneer of the hardcore Southern rap style that emerged after the success of the Geto Boys, which they started to call "country rap". At the end of Let Me See It, Pimp C raps: "This ain't no muthafuckin' hip-hop records, these country rap tunes", originally a response to Northern hip hop artists who had criticized Southern rap for not being "real hip-hop". The name of the song Hay (1996) by Crucial Conflict is a reference to marjuana.
Country rap in its modern form can be traced back to Kid Rock's "Cowboy", described as "the first country-rap song", which reflects a cross-section of Kid Rock's country music, Southern rock and hip hop influences, having been described by the artist as a cross between Run DMC and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In the early 2000s, Bubba Sparxxx and producer Shannon "Fat Shan" Houchins released Sparxxx's 2001 debut album Dark Days, Bright Nights as an independent release. The blend of country and trap caught the attention of producer Jimmy Iovine who re-released the album on Interscope. Houchins soon after created Average Joes Entertainment with Colt Ford. With songs like No Trash in My Trailer (2008), Ford has sold over one million albums.
The trend continued in 2005 when country music stars Big & Rich introduced Cowboy Troy and his album Loco Motive. Troy has said he uses "country instrumentation" that includes a banjo, fiddle, and acoustic guitar blended with "shredding rock guitar riffs and a rap delivery." Hal Crowther has written that I Play Chicken With the Train (2006) by Cowboy Troy was "scandalous not because it mixes 'black' rap with 'white' country, but because, through the sheer force of unlikely-but-seamless juxtaposition, it forces us to acknowledge that those two musical styles, at least when they whoop it up, are brothers under the skin".
In the late 2010s, country rap has returned to prominence as part of the "Yee Haw" movement, a trend characterized by hip hop producers incorporating country music into their own recordings. Young Thug's 2017 song "Family Don't Matter" is credited with popularizing the movement. Artists within "Yee Haw" include Lil Tracy and DaBaby. Other country rap artists include Ryan Upchurch, Bottleneck, Moonshine Bandits and Big Kountry. Cowboy Troy, Lenny Cooper and The Lacs were three of the top country rap artists of 2013 each with an album on Billboard's Country Chart.
In 2019, 20-year-old rapper Lil Nas X's country rap single "Old Town Road" achieved mainstream international success. Assisted by several subsequent versions, including a remix featuring country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, the song broke multiple U.S. streaming records and charted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record nineteen weeks. In June 2019, Blanco Brown's "The Git Up", described by USA Today as a "trap-country" song, also achieved viral success.
The Mo Thugs Family single "Ghetto Cowboy" (1998) is noted for featuring a harmonica. Cruise (remix) (2012) by Florida Georgia Line featured Nelly; Rolling Stone said the track "ushered in the wave of escapist fantasies set to syncopated drum loops that became known as 'bro country'. Florida Georgia Line has said that Nelly's part "just connected", helping to make the Cruise remix reach Billboard Hot Country Songs No. 1 and No. 4 on the Hot 100; it also became the first country single to ever gain a RIAA diamond certification.
B.o.B and country singer Taylor Swift collaborated on "Both of Us" (2012). The track features Swift's country vocals and a blend of hip-hop with banjos. It became a top 10 hit in Australia and New Zealand and a top 20 hit in the US.
Other collaborations include Po' Folks (2002) by Nappy Roots with Anthony Hamilton, Country Folks (2012) by Bubba Sparxxx featuring Colt Ford & Danny Boone, Dirt Road Anthem (remix) by Jason Aldean and Ludacris, Meghan Linsey with Bubba Sparxxx on Try Harder Than That (2014).
Physical sales of country rap albums are higher in more rural areas where country rap fans do not have the Internet services required to stream or download music. There are numerous country rap festivals where artists gather to play their music for upwards of 7,000 fans.
The term "hick-hop" is often criticized by some southern artists, with Struggle Jennings saying, "I love the country, I love the South, I've been fishing and hunting, but I'm not a hick. I'm not hick-hop”. The political ideology of country rap artists is perceived as being right-wing or conservative, due to some right-leaning politics expressed by artists like Upchurch; however the political ideology of country rap artists ranges the full spectrum of political beliefs.
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