Why today’s country music looks and sounds like hip-hop

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  • It’s not just Lil Nas X and Blanco Brown. Mainstream country music is looking to hip-hop to reinvent its sound and aesthetics.
  • We take a look at country’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture, and some of the strategic reasons why country artists are stepping outside their genre to adapt to today’s music landscape.
  • Columbia University ethnomusicologist Dr. Kevin Holt explains why the recent marrying of country and rap is nothing new, but part of a long and complicated history the two genres share, dating back to the segregation of the music industry in the 1920s.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is the transcript of the video.

Narrator: Country videos are looking a lot like hip-hop videos these days. And it’s not just the girls and the cars.

For example, you might recognize this type of low-angle shot because it’s been a signature of rap videos since the ’90s.

And dance moves like this? Straight out of hip-hop choreography.

As for the music itself, well, country’s sounding a lot like hip-hop too. You’ve got trap beats. 808 kick drums. Rap-like rhythms. Even beatboxing. So, why is Nashville borrowing so heavily from hip-hop these days? It turns out the two genres share a long history, and in today’s music landscape, country artists have strategic reasons to embrace hip-hop sounds and aesthetics.

Country’s drift toward hip-hop started in the late 2000s with the wave of so-called “country rappers.” Just listen to the rapid-fire delivery of Colt Ford, Jason Aldean, and Blake Shelton. See how they all spit their lines like they’re rapping? This first generation of new country acts paved the way for another crop of singers with hip-hop-inspired cadences.

One of them, Sam Hunt, has even been dubbed “the country Drake” for his slick, streamlined R&B production and his conversational flow. Notice how when Hunt switches from singing to speaking, he’ll often deliver bursts of syllables on offbeats. There, he’s using a technique called syncopation, which is a major part of rap flow. Almost all skilled MCs use syncopation to create complex rhythmic patterns that defy expectation. Hunt is taking that skill and applying it to a country power ballad. And Sam Hunt is hardly an isolated case.

Pandora did a large-scale analysis of every song on their platform to see how much has changed since 2010. They found that hip-hop’s presence in country has exploded over the past eight years. You’ll hear the difference if you listen to the Country Top 100 and pay attention to the instruments in the songs.

Mainstream country is relying less and less on the genre’s traditional string instruments in favor of beat machines like the 808 and other synthetic elements long used in hip-hop production.

Kevin Holt: The shift toward digital instruments in general, you know, is always gonna have a bit of a hip-hop connotation.

Narrator: That’s Kevin Holt, an ethnomusicologist at Columbia University who’s studied the relationship between music and Southern hip-hop.

Holt: Hip-hop is one of the first mainstream music movements that really focused on prerecorded music and …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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