Status Ain't Hood

Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up” Raises The Question Of What Rap Music Even Is

A recent conversation with my seven-year-old:

“Dad, put on the cowboy boogie song.”

“You said you hated that song.”

“I did, but then you played it, and it was stuck in my head. So I started singing it, and then I wanted to hear it. And now it’s good.”

He has figured out the way pop music works. And he’s right. The cowboy boogie song is good.

It’s hard to figure out what to do with Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up,” the cowboy boogie song. It’s not country, it’s not rap, and it’s not “Old Town Road.” Blanco Brown’s delivery on the song is a rap delivery. The ad-libs are rap ad-libs. The beat, full of 808 thunks and trap hi-hats is, more or less, rap, even if it’s also full of murmuring pedal steel. (Blanco Brown produced the beat and played the pedal steel.) But the lyrics aren’t rap lyrics. They’re dance instructions. They’re nothing but dance instructions. This puts “The Git Up” into a legacy that includes both Mr. C The Slide Man’s “Cha-Cha Slide” and every square-dance barker ever.

By this point, the story of “Old Town Road” feels like music-industry legend, even as the song remains #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. A 19-year-old Atlanta kid buys a beat from a Dutch teenager. (The beat samples an old Nine Inch Nails instrumental, but neither teenager has any idea who that is.) The Atlanta teenager records a bunch of non-sequitur cowboy-based lyrics over it, pushes it hard on social media, and blows up via the social-media app TikTok. The teenager gets signed. Billy Ray Cyrus jumps on the remix. And before anyone has any idea what’s happening, a cultural phenomenon is born. At this point, “Old Town Road” seems likely to break the record for the longest-reigning #1 single. This is not a repeatable feat. Blanco Brown would still like to repeat it.

A big part of the “Old Town Road” legend is that the song appeared exactly once on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. When Lil Nas X uploaded “Old Town Road” to SoundCloud, he labeled the song “country” — partly because it sort of is a country song, and partly because that genre tag made the song more likely to appear on various SoundCloud charts. (This was one of many, many canny decisions that Lil Nas X has made. The kid knows what he’s doing.) When “Old Town Road” was banished from the country chart, it became a sort of internet cause, which helped fuel its rise. In being rejected by the country authorities, Lil Nas X took hold of that perception — of a racist and set-in-its-ways country-music governing body — and used it to leapfrog into the pop mainstream. This won’t happen with “The Git Up,” which spent a week at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart before Gwen Stefani’s boyfriend’s Southern rock power ballad reclaimed the top spot.

Blanco Brown is not an internet-savvy teenager, and he has not turned “The Git Up” into a cause. But he has won the acceptance of the country system, which isn’t easy to do. Brown, like Lil Nas X, comes from Atlanta. He got his start as a pop-rap producer, working with people like Pitbull and Fergie. But he’s also spent time in the Nashville world, developing a style that he calls trailer trap. On Brown’s 2019 self-titled EP, we hear what that means: drawling, bluesy country songs over big 808 thunks. That sound works pretty well, but it’s not even remotely rap. It’s a whole lot closer sonically to what country stars like Sam Hunt or Kane Brown have been doing recently than is is to any actual rap.

Brown made “The Git Up” before the “Old Town Road” phenomenon kicked off, but he originally thought it would just work as a filler track on his EP. Brown’s label boss — who also happens to be Billy Ray Cyrus’ label boss — figured out that “The Git Up” had the same type of viral potential. Blanco Brown doesn’t have the same kind of social-media promotional genius as Lil Nas X; nobody does. But he did come up with a “Git Up” Challenge, and he’s been making the country-media rounds, pushing his song through the same channels that rejected Lil Nas X. He’s on video, doing the “Git Up” dance with country DJs and with singers like Lainey Wilson.

The strategy has worked. “The Git Up” doesn’t get a ton of country-radio love, but it’s still done well enough to top the country chart and to reach the top 20 of the Hot 100. (At one point, I would’ve put money on “The Git Up” reaching the top 10, maybe even being the song to eventually dethrone “Old Town Road,” but it appears to have peaked at #16. I’m never right about anything.) Like “Old Town Road” before it, “The Git Up” has done what it’s done thanks to the internet, and especially thanks to TikTok, where its genial and conversational thump — and its infernally effective catchiness — can do what they need to do in 15-second chunks. And “The Git Up” also works as a sort of blank canvas for artists like this young king:

Maybe Blanco Brown didn’t make “The Git Up” as a response to “Old Town Road,” or as an attempt to capitalize on that song’s overwhelming popularity. But the song is certainly being pushed because of “Old Town Road.” And it’s working. “The Git Up” is the first post-“Old Town Road” hit. There will be so many more. And you know what? Good. Rap and country could both stand to be twisted up in some strange and unpredictable directions. They should continue to mutate in ways don’t even make sense. It’s good for both genres, and it’s good for us. Do the hoedown and get into it.

FURIOUS FIVE

1. ShooterGang Kony – “Charlie”
Unbearably funky shit-talk from a 20-year-old Sacramento kid named after an African warlord. God bless rap music. The best part: His gun goes wamp-wa-wamp-wamp, which is not a gun sound I’ve ever heard before.

2. King Carter & Rago Foot – “Run It Up” (Feat. MIKE)
Bewitchingly dazed and sloppy stoner-jazz mutterings from two young New York rappers and a London producer who plays drums in King Krule’s live band. Cloud-rap, it turns out, is not dead.

3. Project Pat – “Cheez N Dope (Remix)” (Feat. Young Dolph & Key Glock)
The original “Cheese And Dope” was on Project Pat’s album Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Working. It came out in 2001. It was great. This new remix is more or less the same song, but with two young-and-hungry Memphis rap stars added. It sounds absolutely as vital now as it did then. Memphis rap never ages.

4. Rexx Life Raj – “Rich” (Feat. ALLBLACK)
Two young Bay Area rap stylists hijack some gorgeous floating bells and use them to explain to you why you can’t dress for shit. You will not be able to rap with the hook in mixed company. You will want to.

5. Da$h – “Fangs” (Feat. Meechy Darko)
It’s only been a few years, but we’re all ready for a revival of eerie, flickering early-’00s Tumblr-rap evilness, right?

IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO