Trap Country is blowing up but Billboard says pump your brakes.
Viral music star, Lil Nas X, has been pushing the boundaries of music with his hit song, “Old Town Road”.
However, Billboard, the shepherd of music charts, has decided to curb some of the barriers Lil Nas X was bursting through. Recently, the artist’s hit song was removed from the Country music charts.
The Atlanta artist watched his single shoot up the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Country Songs, and Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs charts. So much so that he was recently signed by Columbia Records and received co-signs from pop stars like Justin Bieber.
However, for Billboard, the song didn’t meet certain core criteria to be considered country music. Billboard released a statement to Rolling Stone:
Upon further review, it was determined that “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard’s country charts. When determinng genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While “Old Town Road” incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country musi to chart in its current version.
“Old Town Road” is described as a “country-inspired rap track” by Apple Music Country chart is classified as “Country” on music platforms, SoundCloud and iTunes.
billboard wen they saw old town road rising on the country charts pic.twitter.com/9QGfGtCyI5
— nope 🏹 (@LilNasX) March 28, 2019
Country Rap Becomes Country Trap
The song also is part of a genre known unofficially as “Country Trap”.
Although. Nelly made inroads to the genre with his hit “Over and Over” with Tim McGraw, the genre has been relatively devoid of an urban salvo.
Atlanta has lionized the word “trap” making it into a sub-genre of hip hop culture. Accentuated by bass lines and an affinity for strip clubs and drug-addled crime stories, trap music is now pop culture’s preferred flavor of the past few years.
Still, as recording artists of color are expanding the boundaries, it was almost a certainty that country music would become infiltrated. The pervasiveness of trap in pop culture is undeniable as artists like 2 Chainz and T.I. are its global lifestyle ambassadors. Georgia is a country State and the laid back groove of the cowboy lifestyle mixed with an urban edge can make sense with the right conduit.
Lil Nas X served as that conductor. The fact that Billboard is trying to limit the scope and range that a trap-influenced song can breach is astounding given the apparent double standard.
Culture Vulture Or Unintended Interloper?
Miley Cyrus, daughter of famed Country music star Billy Ray Cyrus famously shed her wholesome Disney image and exchanged for a trap edge. Enlisting famed trap architect, Mike-Will-Made-It, Cyrus made the album Bangerz in 2013 describing it as dirty south hip hop.
Cyrus was catapulted into the urban ethos of trap music and commercial rap with the records but maintained a pop edge. There were no limitations placed on where she would chart and her brazenness was celebrated by many and lambasted as a potential culture vulture move.
Artists want their art to be devoured and when commercial rap music became the top genre it attracted artists like Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Ariane Grande who want to maintain their relevance.
Lil Nas X as an Atlanta artist is undoubtedly influenced by trap music. The fact that his subject matter and leanings are more in the line of the country speaks to his creativity and outlook.
There is a difference between a culture vulture coming in to cannibalize for short term profits and depart. Lil Nas X’s song had the unintended effect of becoming an interloper in a genre not very friendly to emerging solo artist’s of color.
It took Willie Nelson to bring Snoop on a country track.
Darius Rucker, of Hootie & The Blowfish fame, signed to Capitol Nashville as a country music singer releasing the album “Learn To Live”. Its first single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, made him the first black artist to reach number one on the Hot Country Songs charts since Charley Pride in 1983.
Hip Hop culture permeates all musical genres and its subgenre trap has the same power. With Billboard apparently policing the limits in which trap music can grow, it shows an archaic way of viewing the evolution of music and culture.
One thing is for certain, Lil Nas X’s song has accomplished the transcendence every artist desires and country trap music is now alive.