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A Godfather of Country-Rap on His 2000s Hits and Lil Nas X

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

If you look at a lot of the early publicity stuff, we would never say he was a rapper. Because what we want you to do is to put the album in. Even our attorney here, he’ll tell the story over and over again. He put it in and he’s like, it’s pretty good. Then about three songs in it’s, wait a minute, this guy’s rapping! But he’s already hooked.

The first Ford album, “Ride Through the Country,” also has the real ground-shifter song “Dirt Road Anthem,” which became a huge hit when Jason Aldean covered it. Do you think it had to come from a performer like Aldean, who already had a track record of more traditional country music, to get that big?

One hundred percent. Colt and I have had this discussion many times. It’s first impressions. Even if you sing a whole song, you’re still going to be the country-rapper guy, versus it’s a kind of creative decision for Toby Keith, “I Wanna Talk About Me,” or for Jason to do “Dirt Road Anthem” or for Blake Shelton to do “Boys ’Round Here.”

In the early 2010s, I thought every country major label would sign a few country-rappers, but it never happened. What was the internal Nashville resistance to hip-hop, even if it came in a country package?

I don’t really think there’s a resistance in Nashville. People in Nashville get it, understand there’s a business for it and they were always open arms. It was just a matter of getting it through the gatekeepers at radio. Colt would have 50 stations but we never would get to that point where we would get the whole panel.

Is the Lil Nas X song a country-rap record to you?

Yes, and you want to know why? Because he says it is. Look, if you want to go technical, first off is the mentality there behind it? I think yes. The guy’s from Atlanta, from the South. He knows his subject matter. Check. Number two, lyrically are country elements in there? Check. And three, musically, the sounds are there. You know, so and so might go, well, you know, it’s a trap beat, it’s got a bunch of 808s …

But half of country has 808s now.

Right. So that’s O.K. At the end, what the artist feels like they are, that’s what they are.

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