Wait … Did Jimmy Dean Record the First Ever Country-Rap Hit?
The history of rap music in country music is far longer than you might think. In fact, one could argue that it goes all the way back to a classic hit from Jimmy Dean, and maybe even further.
Dean was by no means a precursor to hip-hop ... or, was he? His Grammy-winning No. 1 hit from 1961, "Big Bad John," features verses in which Dean is speaking rhythmically over an instrumental backing track, and while it's not quite the same cadence, it draws on the same tradition of "talking blues" that would later evolve into country-rap. The song won Dean a Grammy for Best Country & Western recording and was nominated for Song of the Year.
Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is another example of a song that served as a precursor to country-rap, and classic stars including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and even Tammy Wynette kept an open mind about the genre. Of course, country's cross-pollination with rap and hip-hop has been more prevalent in recent years, as contemporary hitmakers including Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line continue to blur the boundaries between genres. The massive multi-genre success of Lil Nas X' "Old Town Road" collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus is just the latest example of the growing acceptance of rap and hip-hop in country music.
Rap's long, strange history in country music was the subject of a recent episode of The Secret History of Country Music, a video series that explores some of country music's greatest untold stories.
Carrie Underwood, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert are among the artists already featured, with many more to come. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
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