In recent years, country artists have become more adventurous when it comes to finding duet partners. The most unlikely pairings are country-rap collaborations that match Nashville with hip-hop. Sonically speaking, country and rap couldn’t be much further apart, but the genres do share some important traits. Both rely heavily on storytelling and demand a certain level of authenticity from their performers.
“Over and Over” In 2004, St. Louis native Nelly was one of the biggest rappers in the world, and Tim McGraw was arguably country music’s biggest star. Heartbreak is a universal theme, so when Nelly wanted a male voice to sing the hook on his mournful ballad “Over and Over,” he didn’t hesitate to turn to McGraw. The odd couple discovered they had a great personal rapport, and they sounded so alike on the track that at times it was difficult to figure out who was singing. The unpredictable team-up rocketed to No. 3 on the pop chart of the best country-rap collaborations of all-time.
“Cruise” Nelly’s cover of Thomas Rhett;s “Die a Happy Man” solidifies him as the king of country / hip-hop covers, but “Cruise” laid the frame work. The megahit was certified nine times Platinum, and set records for weeks at No. 1 on country charts. Florida Georgia Line’s original was already a smash before Nelly put his spin on it in 2013. The artists would later tour together.
“Thug Story” In 2009, Taylor Swift brought hip-hop to the CMT Awards with a novelty video featuring Auto-Tune-loving rapper T-Pain. On “Thug Story,” the young singer hilariously tries to sound gangsta: “No, I never really been in a club / Still live with my parents / But I’m still a thug!” The Los Angeles Times called “Thug Story” “a certain iTunes hit if it gets released,” but no official single was ever issued..
“Try Harder Than That” Meghan Linsey tapped rapper Bubba Sparxxx for this song from her Meghan Linsey album. The rapper adds a breakdown in the middle, but is a big influence throughout.
“Superman” Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg share a well-known love of marijuana, so it makes sense that they’d hook up eventually and sing about the green stuff. “Too many pain pills, too much pot / Tryin’ to be something that I’m not, Superman,” Nelson sings on this bluesy number featuring acoustic guitar and harmonica. Snoop even ditches the rapping for actual singing, as the guys commiserate about being less than invincible. Short but entertaining, ‘Superman’ appears on Snoop’s Doggumentary album.
“Dirt Road Anthem (Remix)” Ludacris’ guest verse on Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” didn’t feel a bit out of place. Both he and Aldean know what it’s like growing up in Georgia, hanging out with friends and chasing girls on long summer days. The two men think back on the memories of their younger years, which for Ludacris include “Water balloons, super soakers / Wet T-shirts, women in bikinis / Kenny Rogers, penny loafers.” Aldean’s solo recording of the song reached the Top 10.