If you live here, you likely have come to realize that this moniker is utter fucking bullshit. Yes the fifties turned to the sixties, and Hee-Haw and the Grand Ole Opry was a mainstay on the stereos of Americans, but through the present day, music in the Music City has been relegated to the country/western box, and anything outside of it is either deemed a novelty, or a transient sound from another place.
Other genres such as hip-hop actually had to evolve to succeed commercially in Nashville, as Jelly Roll and Haystak started the backwoods phenomenon of “Hick-Hop,” which became a kind of staple in the early-2000s Nashville music scene. Rap itself has never been successful on its own in this town, and for a long time was either a leftover bastardization of the Three-Six sound in Memphis, or a beer soaked diatribe over 808s about life in the sticks.
Slowly, these walls are falling down.
The scene has begun to expand. The boys over at Infinity Cat created a sort of garage rock empire stemming from this city of ours, and now Nashville is home to many popular and critically acclaimed indie rock acts. Nashville’s rock scene was also forever changed with the migration of Jack White, who has proved to be a staple in our music community, and seems to truly care about music in this town, as his label, Third Man Records, has set up shop here.
But where does this leave hip-hop? Nashville’s independent radio refuses to support local talent, and 101.1 giving it air time is a rarity. Festivals like Live on the Green have also shut out this genre, and concert venues all over town overcharge and discriminate against rap outfits that attempt to book the locations.
However, it seems that the tides are beginning to shift.
The Nashville International Airport is effectively the gateway into our town, and the whole place is plastered in country music signage and paraphernalia. The terminals and food courts of the facility even have stages for live music to greet visitors and residents alike, and recently there was a distinct style shift in this welcoming.
Nashville rapper Rashad tha Poet was selected to perform in the airport, and is the first artist of his kind to have this distinct privilege and honor. His performance was not overwhelming, and was seemingly well-received by its onlookers, which is a very welcome sight to see.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Rashad about this fantastic milestone.
MCU: Tell me about the performance, Rashad.
RTP: The performance was incredible, dope vibes. We played the Starbucks stage which is the main stage in the airport. People come up from the terminal after getting their luggage so we saw several hundred people during our set. We played 3 40 minute sets. I had my brothers The Street Band Clan with me, energy was crazy.
MCU: What does it say about the state of the “Music City,” that the airport would allow you to perform at the gateway to our town?
RTP: Still yet to be determined but walls are falling down. Nashville hip-hop is so diverse, so many different artist with different styles and backgrounds. I’m excited for what’s happening in the city. People are definitely taking notice.
MCU: How was the performance received?
RTP: The reception was incredible, more than anything I think it really surprised people. People were dancing and bobbing their heads, taking pictures, recording us. It was great. I was putting people in my freestyle as they were passing by. I was talking about pilots and passengers, it was dope. As hip-hop artist we can’t box ourselves in. We need to be able to adapt, that’s the only way to grow.
MCU: How did this booking come about?
RTP: The show came through a collaboration with The National Museum of African American Music and Arts in the airport.
Everything comes full circle, 10 years ago I was suppose to perform at the airport but they cancelled me a few days before. So it was great that this came back around. Stay consistent is the key, just don’t stop. If it’s meant for you, you’ll have it in due time.