Greetings, Manic Fans. Les here to talk a little about country music rapping. Awhile back, I saw our own “Country Critic” post a blog that had a meme in it of a guy in the middle of a concert crowd looking confused. The caption read: “I’m at a Country Concert…why are they trying to rap?” It’s a natural question raised by the absurdity of why a Country star would try going outside the genre…and of all genres..why RAP?

 

But then…being older than dirt, I came to a realization that brought some perspective.

 

Country stars have been rapping a long time before “Rap” came to be recognized as a new genre. Stay with me, folks…I can prove it.

 

“Rap” music, as we know it today, got it’s start in about 1981 with The Sugar Hill Gang and the up and coming group Run DMC, who scored the first gold album of the genre with Run DMC(1984). The style is typified by rhythmic talking(or shouting) without recognizable melody in the singing. However, the first song that had legitimate “Rapping” in it(that I’m aware of…)is actually “Hot Rod Lincoln” first recorded by Charlie Ryan, in 1956. In 1971, it was covered by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and went to #9 on the Billboard Charts

Hot Rod Lincoln

Now listen to that and try and tell me that’s not Rapping in a country song! And not only that, it’s really GOOD Rapping with clever lyrics and a punchy delivery.

 

Then there was “I’ve been Everywhere,” a song first popularized by Australian Country star Lucky Starr in 1962. It’s about a hitchhiker telling a semi truck driver all the places in Australia he’d been.

I’ve been Everywhere(Australian)

It was then re-written to use American towns and covered by Hank Snow.

I’ve been Everywhere

It was also covered by several artists in the 1970’s

 

But then again….a lot of country stars were rapping in the 1970’s. JW McCall had a #1 hit in 1976 with “Convoy,” a trucker’s CB rap song that corresponded with a film of the same name starring Kris Kristofferson, Ernest Borgnine, Ali McGraw and Burt Young.

Convoy

Now, sure the chorus is singing, but those verses are Rapped, and Rapped well.

 

Of course, one of the all time great Country Rappers is Johnny Cash. He had a great sense of rhythm and being able to fit a phrase inside the count of a song. Even if his rap is on the slow side, the rhythmic quality is evident in the performance. For “Live from San Quentin,” He debuted the song “A Boy named Sue.” in 1969. Penned by noted poet, Shel Silversteen, he Raps about a boy whose Father leaves him at the age of 3 with the name Sue, and how he wants to grow up, find and kill him for it.

A boy named Sue

For his last #1 hit in 1973, Johnny Cash Rapped about a car factory worker who attempts to steal a car by getting one piece at a time. Johnny Cash-One Piece at a time 1973

One piece at a time

He also attempted a version of “I’ve been everywhere” in 1996

I’ve been everywhere

You can hear how the Man in Black still had his touch even that late in his career.

 

For my final example, I’m going with Jerry Reed, who was Country Rapping at the same time Rap Stars were starting their new style. Back in 1982, he Rapped about a man whose wife gets all the good stuff in the divorce.

She got the goldmine(I got the shaft)

 

So, maybe the question isn’t “Why are country stars trying to Rap?,” but should be “Why aren’t country stars Rapping really great like the country stars of old?”  That’s my thought.  What are your opinions on this subject, my friends?  I’d love to hear what you think.  Peace.

 

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