The concept isn’t totally new but with newer country-rap pairings like the unfortunate “Accidental Racist” collaboration between Brad Paisley and LL Cool J and old not-so-favorites like “Over and Over Again” by Tim McGraw and Nelly seem to remind us why the two are so easy to pair: they happen to share a lot of similarities in artist characteristics, topic nature and expression, and rabid popularity among a polarizing fan base.
Both country and rap tend to represent a marginalized part of society, often representing a less-than-favorable socioeconomic class. Southern “rednecks” and “gangstas” from a city base that grew from the poorest boroughs of New York City and the meanest areas outside Los Angeles to now rappers from Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, and Seattle identify with the musical origins of music stars in these genres just starting out. And as their stars begin to rise, rags to riches stories unfold in their lives and the art follows that progression. In many ways, both follow the American dream by utilizing a genre of music that allows them to succeed and thrive despite the social, racial and economic boundaries that can bar many from success.
The theme: poor backgrounds to rich new lives
The comparison: Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Made in America” and Alabama’s “High Cotton”
These two genres tend to have some of the easiest music video themes because the lyrics in the songs tend to weave vivid pictures of emotional portrayals of trials and tribulations. Although the cultures may seem — and sometimes in fact are — at odds, in many respects the way that they have been misunderstood by those not in the culture has created the strand of music that runs between country artists from Keith Urban to and rap stars like Macklemore or Big Sean and on back to Doug E. Fresh and Run DMC.
The theme: crime
The comparison: Common’s “Testify” and Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues”
The struggles of fame
Just like those that become successful, both country stars and rap sensations feel the pressures of fame and success, and often use music to express the frustrations that come from that. Snoop, back when he was more of a canine and less of a feline, said it best: “Everybody’s got they cups but they ain’t chipped in.”
The theme: fame and exploitation of it
The comparison: B.o.B. “Ray Bands” and Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity”
Both cultures that spring a large amount of stars in both arenas tend to invest heavily in faith as well and can express this in their music, even without being labeled a Christian act or a Muslim rapper. And in many ways they can bring this message to the mainstream in a way that some Christian acts cannot. I mean, no one had heard of Katy Perry when she was a blonde with a guitar following her parents wishes and using her music to express her faith but people have definitely heard Rascal Flatts’ “Bless The Broken Road.”
The theme: religion
The comparison: Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” and Carrie Underwood “Jesus Take the Wheel”
It would be neglectful to think that either one of these genres doesn’t also relish and at times glorify the opposite sex in a way that can be at times subtle and loving and at other times just downright dirty. People have had milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard and had tractors help seduce the opposite sex and remind them of their charms. At the end of the day, musicians aren’t immune to a good looking lady or gentlemen — or four or five of them.
The theme: getting down
The comparison: Salt-N-Pepa “Shoop” and Jason Aldean “Take A Little Ride”