Hip Hop has been collaborating with its southern cousin for over two decades.
In 1999, Will Smith stared in the action-comedy, ‘Wild Wild West’—a movie he claims was the “worst decision” he’s made in his career.
Surprisingly, although regarded as a commercial disappointment, the film grossed a worldwide total of $222.1 million. It was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards and won five, including Worst Picture and Worst Original Song (for the song “Wild Wild West” by Will Smith).
The visual for the song was reflective of the film and even included scenes from the movie itself—a rollout Hollywood should actually revisit. The song hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 but only stayed there for a week.
Throughout the video, Smith is seen draped in cowboy couture, boots and hat to match, alongside Dru Hill and the originator of the Wild Wild West track, rapper Kool Mo Dee. There’re guns, fire, plenty of beautiful women, and what’s a hip hop video without fifty-lim cameos, including Baby Face, MC Lyte, and Stevie Wonder.
But despite the arguably artistic disaster of it all, Smith paired the elements of hip-hop, a little r&b, and stylings of country quite well, giving us a “country-rap” bop—celebrating it’s birthday today.
Yet the affiliation between the two genres is nothing new. The friendship can be dated back to The Rappin’ Duke’s 1984 single, entitled, “Rappin’ Duke” that blended that early hip hop sound with lyrics such as “Da ha da haahh. Da ha ha hahh haahhhhh”.
And if lyrics weren’t enough hip hop would honor its country connect with videos like “Pony” (1996) by Ginuwine. Who passed up the typical flashy gear and 90s video vixen’s for a more ho-down feel, with tall glasses of beer, cowboy hats, and even a mechanical bull.
Even when musical gatekeepers such as Billboard tried to disrupt the peace between the two, their track record proved that the bond was unbreakable–an example best displayed earlier in the year by Lil Nas X and country icon Billy Ray Cyrus.
Hip Hop has been collaborating with its southern cousin for over two decades. And in honor of the 20th Anniversary of Wild Wild West, we reflect on some of our favorite moments where hip-hop and country music collided over the years.
Intelligent Hoodlum “The Posse (Shoot ‘Em Up)” (1993)
A history lesson on “black gunslingers” — “One out of every three cowboys were black/But if you watch TV, you’ll never know that”.
Outkast “Rosa Parks” (1998)
Name a better southern duo. This single off their album “Aquemini” featured a fast-blues guitar, porch-stomp percussion and a bridge featuring a turn on the harmonica by André 3000’s stepfather.
Mo Thugs Family Ft. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony “Ghetto Cowboy” (1998)
Krayzie Bone reimagines himself as a bank robber on the run, bumping into trouble everywhere he goes when he encounters Thug Queen, a horse-stealing, sheriff-killing vagabond. The pair team for some unlawful adventures.
Public Announcement “Body Bumpin (Yippie-Yi-Yo)” (1998)
The dance moves say it all.
Wyclef Jean Ft. Kenny Rogers “Pharoahe Monch Dub Plate” (2000)
Wyclef ear for various sounds is impressive and proves that with this collaboration with Mr. Rogers.
Nappy Roots “Awnaw” (2002)
The group was introduced during the rise of Southern Rap and the music they produced never strayed from their southern upbringings.
Bubba Sparxxx “Comin’ Round” (2003)
Timbaland sampled the bluegrass-jam outfit Yonder Mountain String Band for a song that sounds like a baptism.
Nelly Ft. Tim McGraw “Over and Over” (2004)
If you can think of any hip-hop artist to regularly collaborate with country artist, it would probably be the Country Grammar artist himself, who also collaborated with country newcomers, Florida Georgia Line.
Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson “Superman” (2011)
This is what happens when two marijuana lovers link up–you get a track about living life to its fullest despite not being Superman.
Beyonce Ft. The Dixie Chicks “Daddy Lessons”(Live Performance) (2016)
Beyonce is notoriously known for surprise drops, but when the songstress appeared at the country music awards with the Dixie Chicks, neither party was prepared.
Lil Nas X Ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road (remix)” (2019)
When Billboard told Lil Nas X that his old town road hit wasn’t “country” enough and took his song off the Country charts, the SoundCloud rapper when out and recruited the biggest country element he could find–Billy Ray Cyrus. Since then the two have been chilling at the No. 1 spot.
Editor’s Pick: Shawn Brown- “Rappin’ Duke” (1984)
Today’s generation is too young to remember the Rappin’ Duke, but he was the first to bring the country feel and slang to hip hop back in 1984. Featuring Shawn Brown doing his impersonation of John Wayne as a rapper, “Rappin’ Duke” was the original hip hop/country music infusion.
Happy 20th Wild Wild Wild West.