Country Music and Hip-Hop (And Writing)

Hey everybody! Flobo here. Once again, we are going to chat about the writing craft in my little corner of the Internet.  I was actually going to discuss this last week, but after a recent outing to a  cowboy bar, this is become more and more relevant:

You know what I noticed? The people who love Country music dislike Hip-Hop and people that like Hip-Hop dislike country music. Obviously this isn’t true for everyone (and I’m being anecdotal), but it just seems that fans of these genres tend to stay on their respective sides like a junior high school prom.

Then again, I never went to my high school prom.

Fans of one side of the musical divide  usually poke fun at the other. For example, Country fans think Hip-Hop is this:

Murder, Murder, Murder..Kill, Kill, Kill. Save some time for degrading women, yo!

And Hip-Hop fans think Country music is more like this:

I parked muh pick-up truck outside. Now I reckon to do some dancin’ before listenin’ to dat nu Tim McGraw. *Guffaw*

Hip-Hop and Country are nothing like that. You know, unless they ARE. That’s the problem with stereotypes, there’s always a little bit of truth.

In Hip-Hop’s case, a ten year diversion with the fascination of the gangster life has given detractors enough fuel to not experience the music wholesale (despite the fact the genre has moved on to CEO/businessman worship). And in country’s case, most outsiders can’t fathom wearing a cowboy hat if you aren’t actually a cowboy, so the genre at large gets written off as anachronistic. Seriously, I’m sure you’ve heard:

“Man, I don’t listen to rap. It is all about killing, violence, and doing really bad things.”

Or

“Country? It’s all about tractors, singing about your dog dying, and how you work the farm, right?”

The tragically awesome part about this whole deal is that the genres are closer than anyone thinks. In both Country  and in Hip-Hop you have a musical genre that appeals to the poor and working class. Each music exudes a lifestyle that laments about simpler times while at the same time striving for more. Most songs are about braggadocio, romance, and the reversal of fortune. And in the case of Taylor Swift and Jay-Z, a few of the artists have crossed over into the mainstream.

Flobo Fact: Both Jay-Z and Taylor Swift make a lot more money than I do

Country and Hip-Hop have tried coming together before, with varying results. Check out these vids:

“Okay Flobo,” I can hear you say. “What does this have to do with writing?”

Well, I could say “songwriting” but that would be a cop out. Well, I guess I’ve realized that both Country and Hip-Hop are two sides of the same coin. In my post, Genre Blendin’, we talked about mixing genres in order to make something new. This is about aesthetic. There’s many different ways to tell a similar story but with a tweak of setting, characters, or dialogue your story could appeal to a completely different demographic.

Here’s some bias for you: Being a minority from NYC, Hip-Hop is my first “musical language”. Still to this day, I appreciate music based on tempo, fluidity or “flow” of lyrics, and its beat. This, and because NYC doesn’t have a country music station, I wasn’t exposed to the genre that much. Sure my mother played Skeeter Davis and Elvis (his gospel years) when she was cleaning the house, but I wrote that off as my “momma’s music”.  When I went to college in Florida, and got a show on the school radio station, I had to learn a bunch of genres I wasn’t exposed to before and quick. Why? Well, as a DJ you have to mix songs to have a seamless show, knowing what you have in your inventory is half the battle. Anyway, I came across this Dolly Parton song, that is one of my favorites of all time:

I still do this song on karaoke nights. Seriously, you should come see me sometime.

The fun part for me as a DJ was mixing that song with songs like these:

But I digress,

While I openly admit I would look equally silly in a cowboy hat as I would in a pair of Air Force Ones (I’m more of a Puma guy myself), people who wear them walk just that much taller. When you are writing your next piece, just think about the appeal your work has with not only your audience at large, but the smaller subcultures within.

–Flobo

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