Florida Georgia Line and the new rap country | Bleader

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Florida Georgia Line and the new rap country

Posted By on 02.12.13 at 03:43 PM

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Florida Georgia Line
  • Florida Georgia Line
Ever since rap music appeared on the cultural landscape it's been positioned as country music's diametric opposite: black, urban, and morally lax versus white, rural, and socially conservative. It's a tidy explanation, and a politically expedient one, which is probably why it's stuck around this long despite the ample evidence to the contrary. Spend any amount of time deep in flyover country and you'll quickly get used to hearing gangsta rap blaring from pickups driven by the most shitkicker rednecks imaginable, or seeing dozens of retirement-aged white line dancers happily doing their thing to unbelievably raunchy Dirty South stripper rap deep cuts. (I actually saw this once in Oklahoma City and I will cherish that memory until I die.)

Despite the broad conception of country musicians and fans as, to put it bluntly, total racists, country's been taking cues from urban black music since the beginning of the recording age. Hip-hop's been an especially difficult influence to synthesize, owing not only to its many stark musical differences but also to the well-publicized image of the two genres as comedically incompatible. Even the most earnest attempts to unite them in the past have dipped into novelty act territory. But that's starting to change.

According to the Hot 100 the 85th most popular song in America right now is "Get Your Shine On" by the duo Florida Georgia Line, whose "Cruise" was one of the most successful country singles of 2012 and still sits at number 42. If "Get Your Shine On" seems more like the title of a rap song than a country song that's no accident. The pair—Brian Kelley, a Floridian, and Tyler Hubbard, a Georgian—have a thing for hip-hop signifiers. In "Shine" they brag about their sunglasses, tricked-out rides, liquor branding, and other attributes that are usually the domain of rappers, it's just that they're talking about pickups and moonshine instead of Maybachs and Ciroc.

More interesting than what they're saying is the way that they're saying it, or rather singing it, which is with a pronounced percussive cadence that's clearly informed by rapping. Taken out of their sociomusical context, the vocals on "Shine" have more in common with Nelly than Garth Brooks. And it's not just Kelley and Hubbard who are singing this way. Last year Tim McGraw, one of the biggest Establishment country stars currently working, released a single called "Truck Yeah" which, true to its title's promise, was a deliriously proud statement of redneck identity, but the first time all I could think of was the fact that he kind of had a flow going.

Let's put it this way: if Drake qualifies as a rapper these days, Tim McGraw's not far off. Which means that there are millions of country music fans, no doubt some of whom are actually the rap-hating racist boogeymen of liberal cultural critics' imaginations, listening to something that is crazy close to actual rap music. Which is a strangely beautiful image.

Now the big hurdle rap-loving country musicians have is the slang barrier. Seriously, no one in rap has said "get your shine on" in like ten years. Not even Puffy.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.

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