15 rap and R&B artists who took a deep dive into country music

15 rap and R&B artists who took a deep dive into country music

Hip Hop and R&B aren’t strangers to the country music aethestic. From Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West” (and Will Smith‘s update of the same name) to Mary J. Blige’s “All That I Can Say,” urban artists have enjoyed taking on the cowboy persona and/or the outlaw mentalities of the Wild Wild West era. Musically, many have even collaborated with country stars while remaining within their respective realms (ex. B.o.B and Taylor Swift’s “Both Of Us”).

Still, certain talents have chosen to take things several steps further by creating actual country records, blurring the lines between genres as a result. Stars like Nelly and Snoop Dogg connected with country frontrunners to create Third Coast-inspired tunes, while soul icons like Toni Braxton and K. Michelle walked the dirt road alone. In 2022, Monica held her own with a rousing 2022 Country Music Television (CMT) Awards performance that provided viewers with a taste of her long-awaited country LP. Whatever the path chosen to dabble in the genre, these creations made a huge impact and further opened the door for more experimentation from the culture.

REVOLT put together a list of 15 individuals who dove into country music and its subgenres headfirst. Check it out below.

1. Nelly

Back in 2004, Nelly surprised some of his fanbase with “Over and Over,” a collaboration with Tim McGraw that ended up on the chart-topping album Suit. The St. Louis talent would later dive even further into the country genre with 2021’s Heartland, which was led by the Florida Georgia Line-assisted “Lil Bit.” Breland, Blanco Brown, Kane Brown, Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, and more contributed to the experimental effort.

2. LL Cool J

In 2013, the Queens heavyweight made a sharp right turn in his career by joining Brad Paisley on “Accidental Racist,” a song that was so widely panned — and fodder for jokes — that its official video was scrubbed off the face of the internet. Aside from its title, what made the collaboration so controversial was what amounted to a debate about the Confederate flag on wax.

During an appearance on REVOLT’s “Drink Champs,” the “Mama Said Knock You Out” emcee revisited “Accidental Racist” and the negative response it received. “Everybody was mad at me and I understand their point of view, but… fast-forward and look at the shape the country is in, and you think about what me and him was attempting to do,” LL said to N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN.

3. Justin Timberlake

In 2015, Pop&B staple Justin Timberlake joined Chris Stapleton (whose name will appear again on this list) at the 2015 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. While onstage, the two performed Stapleton’s well-received cover of the Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove-penned classic “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away.” A few years later, the two stars would reunite for the Man of the Woods collaboration “Say Something.”

4. Beyoncé

In the middle of Super Bowl LVIII, King Bey decided to steal the spotlight by shock-dropping two new singles from her forthcoming album, RENAISSANCE ACT II. The songs in question, “16 CARRIAGES” and “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM,” signaled the Houston talent’s latest foray into country music after her Lemonade standout “Daddy Lessons.” The tracks are also notable for contributions from Black musicians like pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and Carolina Chocolate Drops banjoist Rhiannon Giddens.

5. Snoop Dogg

Snoop is certainly no stranger to experimenting outside of Hip Hop, which has helped him remain relevant as one of music’s most universally known champions.

In 2008, the Long Beach veteran recruited Everlast and Willie Nelson for the Ego Trip cut “My Medicine,” which served as a tribute to the late Johnny Cash. He would later team up with Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash, to remix the rockabilly classic “I Walk the Line.”

Snoop also stands out from his peers by being a CMA Awards nominee, thanks to his and Nelson’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” He also collaborated with the likes of Paisley, Justin Champagne, and Trace Adkins throughout his decorated career.

6. Ludacris

In 2011, Ludacris was recruited by Jason Aldean — yes, that one — for a remix of the My Kinda Party single “Dirt Road Anthem.” The collaboration proved to be so much of a hit that the two performed the track live at the 2011 CMT Awards. Luda would later win a CMT trophy of his own for his contribution to Carrie Underwood’s “The Champion.”

7. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Featured on the Mo Thugs compilation, Family Scriptures Chapter II: Family Reunion, Krayzie Bone and Layzie Bone led a vivid country rap story, complete with a matching video that brought viewers to the Wild Wild West. Below, Krayzie provided some insight into how the unique collaboration came together.

8. T-Pain

Remember Stapleton’s rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey?” That iteration inspired T-Pain to create his own cover of the iconic cut, which was featured on the well-received On Top of the Covers EP. He would later perform that project and the aforementioned single in West Hollywood’s The Sun Rose on Sunset venue.

Outside of his own releases, T-Pain revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that he also wrote songs for country artists, largely in secret. “I don’t need to be known for any of that. That’s fine,” he told the publication.

9. K. Michelle

K. Michelle has had no problem exuding her love for country music. On I’m The Problem, there was a bonus track titled “Tennessee,” a song that was reminiscent of classics like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Months prior to that release, she joined Champagne on the well-received “Country Love Song.” 2023 also saw the Memphis talent teaming up with Jelly Roll and the Fisk Jubilee Singers for “Love Can Build A Bridge,” which served as a tribute to the Judds.

“Country is something that I think is a lifestyle and it’s something that I do,” Michelle told VIBE. “So that’s always in me and it’s something that’s going to be presented.”

10. Toni Braxton

While Toni Braxton has never been a stranger to breaking genre barriers in her music, she didn’t try her hand with country until her seventh studio LP, Pulse. On that album, the songstress teamed up with late songwriter and producer Busbee for the track “If I Have To Wait,” which saw her pouring her heart over instrumentation provided by the likes of Jimmy Carter, Steve Brewster, and Bobby Terry, and Jeff King.

11. Bubba Sparxxx

Since 2001’s “Ugly,” Bubba Sparxxx has managed to maintain musical career success by incorporating Hip Hop with Southern elements. He perfected his niche of rapping over genre-bending production and connected with other hybrid stars like The Lacs, Rehab, and Colt Ford. On his fourth album, Pain Management, Sparxxx teamed up with country veteran Rodney Atkins for “Right.”

12. Lil Durk

In 2021, Lil Durk linked up with Morgan Wallen for “Broadway Girls.” Described as country drill, the 7220 track would become a platinum-certified smash hit that peaked within the top 20 of the Billboard 200. Two years later, Durk and Wallen struck gold a second time with the Almost Healed single “Stand By Me.”

13. Yelawolf

Just like Bubba Sparxxx, Yelawolf become well-known for infusing sounds from his rural upbringing into his Hip Hop style. Songs like “Country Rich” with DJ Paul, “Let’s Roll” with Kid Rock, and “Till It’s Gone” are just a few examples of the former Shady talent’s genre-bending efforts. In 2022, Yelawolf connected with Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, for the well-received Sometimes Y, proving his continued evolution as an all-around artist.

14. Everlast

Everlast was a true Hip Hop staple thanks to his ties to Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate and success as a member of House of Pain. Following the latter collective’s self-titled debut LP, the Los Angeles talent picked up a guitar and created 1998’s Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, a mix of rap, rock, and country, and was met with critical acclaim. He would go on to maintain success with similar releases like Eat at Whitey’s and White Trash Beautiful.

15. Lil Nas X

In 2018, Lil Nas X set the world on fire with “Old Town Road,” the record-breaking single that boasted a remix alongside Billy Ray Cyrus and helped to kick off recent debates about the definition of country music. In addition to being the fastest song to reach a diamond certification, the YoungKio-produced offering earned a slew of accolades, including an American Music Award and two Grammys.

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