Hip Hop Infiltrates Nashville Through Soundland 2011
This weekend downtown Nashville is buzzing from Soundland, a four day musical event in its sixth year that features over 100 bands, including Americana stalwarts Justin Townes Earle, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Those Darlins, and Lydia Loveless. Soundland has always been more about featuring the music that does not fit into the typical Nashville “country” mold, but this year, as pointed out in this American Songwriter article, it is the first year that hip-hop artists are being featured prominently in Soundland’s selection for headliners and undercard acts.
Though American Songwriter does a great job highlighting the hip-hop acts slated to play, what they don’t highlight is the country/Americana and indie rock acts that are not in the lineup because of the directed addition of hip-hop artists. In an all-too-present and predictable manner, as soon as a festival built from the blood and sweat of roots and indie acts gets its feet under itself, the flavor of the whole event changes to satisfy the monetary demands of corporate sponsors. As said in the American Songwriter piece more eloquently that I could: “It’s the first year in NBN/SoundLand’s six year history, that hip hop is holding it’s own with the indie rock and Americana that have built the festival.”
One of the big hip hop acts playing Soundland is Big K.R.I.T., who in many ways is the hip-hop counterpart to the Jason Aldean/Colt Ford/Brantley Gilbert team. Just as “Dirt Road Anthem” has made inroads for hip-hop in the country genre, Big K.R.I.T.’s “Country Shit” has taken the country checklist formula, and introduced it to the rap world. Featuring hip-hop acts in the heart of country music’s home, Soundland makes a good bid for being the crossroads for the mono-genre.
And some of the rhetoric coming from the press coverage of the festival and how it attempts to draw parallels between Music City’s country roots and hip hop are laughable. That same American Songwriter article states:
There’s a work ethic, strident independence and spirit of pop-experimentalism that hasn’t been seen in this city since the days of Chet Atkins and the rise of the original Nashville Sound, a sound that not incidentally also had to fight an uphill battle for legitimacy and respect.
Excuse me? Chet Atkins, The Nashville Sound, and RCA’s Studio B, which Chet was in charge of, was the epicenter of the Nashville establishment for a generation, and the death of experimentalism in Nashville, if not the death of country music as a whole. It was the result of heavy-handed requirements being dictated by executives in New York to control every aspect of music from it’s songwriting inception to the vinyl pressing.
As rural art forms that have been around for generations, country and folk music have a long history of joining forces to create infrastructure to help support music, principally in festival gatherings, some that have been going on for many years, and some that have reached into urban zones. As an urban art form, and one that is only a few decades old, hip-hop is devoid of the long-standing festival infrastructure roots music enjoys. And as the corporate music world continues to crumble and is able to support fewer artists, while capital and infrastructure to develop upcoming acts continues to contract, hip-hop and indie rock bands have been flocking to traditional roots festivals for support.
And the festivals, many corporate owned or sponsored, diversify their lineups to appeal to the masses, as promoter demands necessitate them needing to increase attendance and profits each year, regardless of sustainability, or the roots or focus the festival had at its inception, and many times, at the detriment of the sound or the acts or the patrons or the grassroots organizations and efforts that made the festival worth taking over in the first place. Bonaroo started out catering to jam bands, a fact that would be lost while looking at this year’s lineup. Austin City Limits started out to chronicalize and promote local Austin bands. The ACL Fest headliners this year were Coldplay and Kanye West.
I am glad hip hop is gaining a foothold in Music City, and Nashville will benefit from that diversity, and hip hop deserves infrastructure to support and develop upcoming talent. But it shouldn’t be garnered at the expense of the folks that built that infrastructure.
September 23, 2011 @ 10:22 am
say what you will but i like Yelawolf
September 23, 2011 @ 11:01 am
I can’t say I’m familiar enough with Yelawolf’s music to make a judgement one way or another. I will say a lot of folks whose opinions I appreciate seem to think he is very good.
September 23, 2011 @ 12:51 pm
I like Yelawolf too.
September 23, 2011 @ 3:55 pm
I think I might try to get hold of his ep and give my thoughts.
September 23, 2011 @ 11:34 am
Not a personal fan of Hip Hop or rap but even they have their place in this world. Good article Trig.
September 23, 2011 @ 12:25 pm
I love old school hip-hop and the occasional new album, but I just don’t see where or why it fits into country. You say “Soundland has always been more about featuring the music that does not fit into the typical Nashville ‘country’ mold”. Then why not some of the bands featured at the Muddy Roots Festival? Possessed by Paul James would raise the roof (literally!) or howabout some Left Lane Cruiser or Goddamn Gallows? I know, I know, it’s the mono-genre, but that makes me sick. And it also makes me sad that artists like Rachel Brooke don’t have the same Brinks truck parked in her driveway that Ludacris does.(And by that I don’t mean she should sell out to the highest bidder that will tell her what to sing, wear, eat, poop and sleep… I just wish the artists I believe in got more of the pie in a Waylon kind of way.)
September 23, 2011 @ 12:47 pm
If it were Buck 65 I would understand.
September 23, 2011 @ 12:57 pm
How old is the “journalist” that wrote the American Songwriter article? Jeez, Chet Atkins and the Nashville sound had an uphill battle? What hill was that?
It doesn’t bother me that hip hop is mixing with a indie/country fest, but is sure bothers me when something is written so carelessly like American Songwriter did.
It would be different if Soundland fest brought in say “Lil Wayne” or something to cash in, but sounds like they are bringing in just as “indie” artists as anyone else, they just happen to be hip hop. So I don’t know that Yellow Wolf…opps Yell A Wolf… opps, YelaWolf is exactly bringing in the cash hand over fist.
September 23, 2011 @ 3:54 pm
None of the hip hop artists are big names, I’ll give you that, but both Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T. are signed to major labels, Interscope and Def Jam respectively. And none of the indie rock or Amaricana artists are big names either, and possibly the biggest Americana name, Justin Townes Earle, is signed to the independent label Bloodshot. So you could make the case that not only is hip-hop infiltrating the event, but so are major labels, through hip-hop.
September 23, 2011 @ 3:12 pm
YO. Music is music. Word. Some is good. Some’s is bad . . .
September 24, 2011 @ 1:29 am
Amen brother couldn’t have said it better myself it has no place anywhere it aint music like George Jones saids its talking stuff
September 24, 2011 @ 7:18 am
Heart and soul . . . music is an avenue to people. It can lift you up, turn you around and dump you back down at times. I think real country is one of the most purest forms of an emotional highway . . . goes straight to the heart and touches the soul. Hip Hop can’t do that. I’m a sista by the way 🙂
September 23, 2011 @ 4:48 pm
It’s always time, with ME, to go to war with hip hoppers. They Have no place in country music. I always tand my ground. They are leeches on the country ‘s balls. Have your own festivals in 8 Mile and battle it up. I Have destroyed friends rap c.d.s
September 23, 2011 @ 5:29 pm
Not going to comment on certain aspects of the article, although I will say that I generally agree. With that said, I really like Yelawolf and there is actually a really great underground hip-hop scene in Nashville. I agree that, as music fans, we should stand our ground and not let cross-pollination dilute EITHER genre, but I don’t see anything wrong with Yelawolf sharing the stage with Jason Isbell. Both are from the same state, both perform songs based on their own lives and experiences and both are extremely talented. I mean, even Waylon was a part of the Lollapalooza lineup in ’96 that also included bands like Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, etc.
September 24, 2011 @ 2:16 pm
Lollapalooza was the genesis of the corporate music festival, and created a blueprint for how to utilize grassroots to get a festival off the ground, and then gentrify the lineup to appeal to the spoon fed masses for maximum profits. And now that C3 Presents out of Austin books and promotes both Lollapalooza and ACL Fest, backroom deals and horse trading of talent thrives, while talent development suffers, and grassroots fans are alienated.
September 23, 2011 @ 6:55 pm
Not without exception, but in general hip-hop is a soul-less genre. Any music based primarily in electronics and drum loops is soul-less in my opinion. Hard to see how anyone who feels a song like “Lost Highway” would ever dig any hip-hop. I am only 32, but I guess I am too old… Plus so much of rap is about bragging about what you have, where-as country is more about being ok with what you don’t have.
September 23, 2011 @ 10:28 pm
If you listen to underground hip-hop or rap, you can see that there is real talent out there. There are really good songwriters and musicians that express themselves through rap. Until a few years ago, I thought all modern country music was souless bullshit because I only heard what was on the radio. If you dig deep enough into any genre you can find music that, even if you don’t enjoy it, you can respect it.
September 23, 2011 @ 11:27 pm
I totally agree, and I’ve said this many times on this site, and I think this is something we should always be mindful of when talking about hip-hop. However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that what we have here are hip-hop artists, a few of which are signed to major labels, taking key slots in a festival that Americana and indie rock built.
September 24, 2011 @ 3:33 am
Because the people who are paying to put on these events decided that’s what they wanted to showcase?
September 24, 2011 @ 8:32 am
I expect that there is atleast a little underground hip-hop that is ok… I would guess there is less than I thought last night though. I previewed this Yelawolf character on amazon just now and none of it was good. None of it. Horrible. Also, if I dig deep enough into techno or dubstep there is zero chance I would ever respect any of it. I just think that music should be played and not created by a computer. Also, I hate music that was written with the idea that people would want to dance to it in some faggy club.
September 24, 2011 @ 8:21 pm
I do agree with you on Yelawolf. I can’t stand that guy’s music. Even though he’s not really a big name in hip-hop, to me, he sounds just like mainstream rap.
September 24, 2011 @ 9:27 am
I just listened a little to Yelawolf “Hard White (In The Club)” and listened to some of the samples on Amazon. What can I say? His style is not for me at all. Then again, I don’t listen to much hip hop and those very few artists that I like (e.g., OutKast, Fugees, The Roots, Wyclef Jean, Lauren Hill) are much more musical than Yelawolf. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a hard time seeing how many who want to go to an Americana-ish festival (and who may have gone to the festival in past years) would be into artists like Yelawolf. So it seems like they’re sticking to the music fans, too.
September 24, 2011 @ 10:28 am
I listened to a lot of rap as teenager and have since recovered. But i would like to mention that rappers from the rural south having been referring to themselves as country for 15 years or more now. It is no new trend. u.g.k, outkast, goodie mob, 8ball & mjg, etc. I will say that i am absolutely terrified of rap/country collaborations becoming more popular. That is just some awful shit!
September 24, 2011 @ 1:49 pm
Well be terrified then. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” is the biggest song in country music this year so far, and is up for the CMA for Song of the Year.
September 26, 2011 @ 8:22 am
Have you heard the new song by Charlie Allen? It”™s called “Grandpa”™s Recipe.” Check it out at http://www.charlieallenmusic.com/index.htm
September 28, 2011 @ 7:15 am
Hip-hop “artists”? Please. There is no music, and very little ‘art’ involved in hippity hop. It’s a perfect analogy for our time: the plasticity, the vulgarity, the lack of disciplined craftsmanship or mastery. Hippity-hop may have much in common with Nashville music, but it has little in common with country music. The continued mention of the two forms in the same context is a travesty. Triggerman- while I love and respect the blog, I’m taken aback by your apparent kindness of hippity-hop in the name of “diversity”.
September 28, 2011 @ 8:40 am
I’m a little perplexed why you and some others are able to read this article and somehow take away that I have any “kindness” towards hip-hop. Yes, in the last paragraph I talk about diversity, and I stand behind that. Hip-hop has been around for 30 years, and as the article I linked to above states, it’s existed in Nashville for the majority of that time. It is the top, most-dominant genre of American music, and drives popular culture, so much so it is consuming and infiltrating country. If hip-hop is ever going to be defeated, it’s not going to be from me, but a major cultural shift throughout culture, which I don’t see happening anytime soon. So instead of hoping for the impossible, I’d rather draw a line in the sand, and say we will not accept hip-hop artists taking over infrastructure country and roots musicians helped create. Saying that hip hop doesn’t deserve to exist, or doesn’t deserve to have any presence in Nashville at this point just makes us look ignorant. Face it, right now in urban Nashville there’s likely more hip-hop fans than country fans.
September 30, 2011 @ 9:47 am
“So instead of hoping for the impossible, I”™d rather draw a line in the sand, and say we will not accept hip-hop artists taking over infrastructure country and roots musicians helped create. ”
Fair enough. Nothing to disagree with there.
October 11, 2011 @ 9:29 am
Are hip hop and rap divided? Isn’t hip hop rap’s softer version? And has anyone heard that rap version of Folsom Prison? I tried to listen and give it a chance, but it was not good.