Rapper Lord Jamar slammed the argument that racism wasn’t behind Billboard’s removal of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” from its country music chart in March.
DJ Vlad, host of a popular YouTube show, made that claim in an interview with Lord Jamar. The artist deftly rebuffed DJ Vlad and broke down the double standards involved.
“We as black people are quick to let white people into our shit and do our shit and we’re accepting,” he said. Lil Nas X “wanna do a country-esque thing and get on the Billboard charts and they said, ‘No you don’t, black man.’”
The rapper added, “He’s not white enough. It’s not that [the song] wasn’t country enough. He wasn’t white enough, even though black people created country music.”
Lord Jamar pointed out that conversely, white artists like Post Malone and the Beastie Boys had been accepted into hip-hop.
While contributions by black artists to country music have long been mostly ignored in the mainstream narratives on the genre, such influences were central to its creation and evolution. In the book “My Country: The African Diaspora’s Country Music Heritage,” author Pamela Foster notes that banjos, fiddles and harmonicas ― key parts of much of country music ― were the primary instruments played by blacks in the antebellum South.
“Unfortunately, history has distorted these facts to make people believe jazz, blues and spirituals were the staples of black culture at that time when, in fact, it was country,” Foster wrote.
Willie Nelson himself has noted how the late legendary artist Ray Charles did “more for country music than any other living being.”
“Here’s Ray Charles doing country songs, introducing those songs to millions and millions of people who, otherwise, would have never had a chance to hear them,” Nelson told CBS News of Charles’ seminal 1962 album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.”
Still, black artists have been frequently excluded from the genre that their own culture helped cultivate. In 2016, Beyonce performed with the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards. Though the artist is widely revered, her presence wasn’t exactly welcomed at the ceremony ― it prompted a barrage of criticisms from social media users as well as some less-than-pleased expressions from CMA audience members.
Billboard justified its banishment of “Old Town Road” from its country chart by saying the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music.”