Gangsta Country

13 06 2011

I love music.  Everything from rap to country, pop to folk, new wave to hard rock is in my taste range.  I’m wary, though, when people try to combine two or more styles to try to expand their fan base (or whatever other crazy reason they do it for).  It can work wonderfully when it’s done right (A Tribe Called Quest does an excellent job of combining rap with jazz, for example).  When it is done wrong we get things like Blondie  attempting to rap in Rapture (Vader would have gotten a lot further with Leah if he had tortured her with this song).

There is a new song on the airwaves now that is so wrong that hearing it
makes me want to insert fire-ants into my ear canals and hope they swell
closed.  Even thinking about it makes me shudder uncontrollably.
(I can’t even tell you how difficult it is to type this with all the shuddering.)

It’s a song that combines country music with gangsta rap.  The song is
Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean (sorry to call you out, man, I like
most of your other stuff I’ve heard).  He admits that he is “pushing
some boundaries with a song like this” but points out that “the fans go
nuts” when he plays it at his concerts.

Two observations here:
1) Some boundaries just don’t need crossing.  It’s like removing the
wall between the tiger cage and the baby lamb petting area at the zoo:
carnage and people going nuts.
2) Maybe the people going nuts are people who subconsciously think that country music is inferior to rap and are pleased that their favorite genre is getting on the bandwagon of a genre they secretly find appealing.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me get more specific.  The song
starts with a pretty smooth, country music chorus that sounds pleasing
to the ear, then it breaks into the singer rapping.  This is an actual
attempt at rapping, it isn’t the “talking” over a country rhythm that
actually works in this genre.  Aldean’s rap has been described as “a bit
clunky” by Rolling Stones magazine.  That is a major understatement.
Rapping is not as easy as it sounds; there is a lot of rhythm to it and
the rhyme scheme has to work just right.  Mr. Aldean misses on both
counts.

Some of the subject matter is what makes me compare it to gangsta rap.
Let’s compare the first four lines of the chorus here:

“Yeah, I’m chillin’ on a dirt road,
Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones.
Smoke rollin’ out the window,
An’ ice cold beer sittin’ in the console.”

to some lines from the renowned gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dog’s song
Gin and Juice here:

“Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ endo
Sippin’ on gin and juice, laid back
With my mind on my money
And my money on my mind”

Snoop is rapping about smoking pot and drinking alcohol while driving
down the street.  Aldean is singing about smoking (may not be pot, but
maybe it is) and having alcohol in the console in the car (he’s swerving
so maybe he’s drinking it) while driving down a road.  I know drinking
while driving goes against most liquor laws in most states (although
there are exceptions like Mississippi that allows people to consume
alcohol while driving as long as they are not drunk).

What it comes down to is this: gangsta rap is controversial because
while it is about real life in the hood and artists expressing
themselves creatively, it also makes that lifestyle seem appealing to
kids who are influenced by those types of things.  This song, while
musically bad in taste, could be construed as condoning drunk driving.  Or maybe Aldean was drunk when he came up with this idea.  Either way it’s a car wreck.

Now based upon the immense popularity of the song, the fact that it is in the top ten on the country music charts and the only mildly detracting comment I could find about the song on the internet was made by Rolling Stone magazine (who probably doesn’t care), it is within the realm of possibility that I am alone in my disdain for this song and that I’m reading too much into it.

Shoot me down if you think I’m wrong, but if you have heard the song and agree, let me know.

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5 responses

13 06 2011
Colleen

I agree, but I hate rap anyway so that may not count as a valid agreement

13 06 2011
Mary W.

I don’t really listen to much rap OR country, really. So for me, the song loses on both counts! But I do generally like genre blends. I do seem to like rap from other countries a bit better than US rap–probably because they tend to play actual music during the rapping (adding a melody makes a world of difference). For example, I just love the song Mi Confesion by Gotan Project (Argentines living in Paris). The song blends Tango with Hip Hop, and I think very nicely. Let me know what you think? (you can be honest, since I’m not at all worried if you hate it). The whole song can be listened to here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ4zObtAOuI

Another good song of theirs is Diferente (mixed Tango/Ambient House) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZk-LJ_KCMg

I love all their stuff, especially if it’s more intense.

13 06 2011
Mister Pold

Thanks for the links, Mary. Spanish lends itself quite readily to rap, it’s a rather rhythmic language to begin with. Accordion music worked surprisingly well with the rest of the song, we don’t see that instrument used as often in the US.

21 06 2011
Devin Montgomery

Personally, I like this song, but I also see your argument that Jason Aldean should not be combining country and rap. However, the song Dirt Road Anthem was written by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert for Jason Aldean and they each have their own versions of the song out there as well. Colt Ford is and has been a “country rapper” and this song falls right into suit with his other work. Colt Ford has been doing the country rap thing for a few years so this style of song is not new but it hasn’t been mainstreamed by such as a big name as Jason Aldean. I think the country rap mix should stay with Colt Ford and let the mainstream stay separate.

22 06 2011
Mister Pold

Thanks for turning me on to Colt Ford. I listened to several of his songs on YouTube and you’re right, his original version is much better done than Aldean’s, Colt can actually rap. You’re making my point exactly, combining genres is great when it’s done right. Aldean should stay far, far away from country rap and leave it to those that have the ability to rap.

I really like this one: Ride Through the Country

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