ProPublica Report: Black Americans Lose Big Under Longtime Property Provision

Jul 20, 2019

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

And finally today, one of the definitive songs of the summer so far has been "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OLD TOWN ROAD")

LIL NAS X: (Singing) Riding on a horse - ha. You can whip your Porsche. I've been in the valley, you ain't been up off that porch. Now, can't nobody tell me nothing.

MCCAMMON: Is it rap? Is it country? That's the question that's been playing out for a while now, sparked by the song's removal from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart back in March. And then along came a new song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GIT UP")

BLANCO BROWN: (Singing) Go'n and do the two-step then cowboy boogie. Grab your sweetheart and spin out with 'em. Do the hoedown and get into it. Take it to the left now and dip with it. Gon' throw back and take a sip with it. Now lean back, put your hips in it.

MCCAMMON: That's "The Git Up" by Blanco Brown. It's country but also rap, and the song is currently number two on the country charts. So what makes one country enough and the other not? New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica has been thinking about that question and joins us now.

Welcome, Jon.

JON CARAMANICA: Hello.

MCCAMMON: So, first, tell us about "The Git Up." What do we need to know about the song or the artist?

CARAMANICA: "The Git Up" is an instructional record, right? It's basically a dance craze or a kind of an invented dance craze. And this is kind of a good moment for that, given how a lot of music spreads these days, which is virally on apps like TikTok or Triller. So it's a song that's literally just a litany of instructions for I guess what you would call country adjacent dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GIT UP")

BLANCO BROWN: (Singing) Slide to the left, slide to the right. Now cool down, have a good time.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. And as you wrote in your piece, there are several elements that make "The Git Up" more traditionally country music, it seems. What are they?

CARAMANICA: Well, it's really the ear of the beholder. I think if you're looking at it through the lens of "Old Town Road," "Old Town Road" can feel ironic, distant, a little gestural, whereas there's something inviting about what's happening in "The Git Up." And you see Blanco Brown, who is teaching people how to do the dance, inviting them into the phenomenon.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. I want to talk more about that. I mean, "The Git Up" didn't stir up the kind of controversy over genre that was such a big deal in Nashville with "Old Town Road" as it climbed the charts. Why not? I mean, you talk about being invitational, but what does that mean?

CARAMANICA: Yeah. I found that - to be honest, I still find it a little bit strange. There was such an immediate kind of stiffening in the face of "Old Town Road." I think The Git Up" has a couple things going for it. One, Blanco Brown is signed to a country label. He signed to BBR, so I think it smooths the entry a little bit. I also think Nashville kind of has this persistent anxiety about, are we open to new ideas? Are we open to people who aren't - we don't think of as conventional country performers? What is our relationship with race?

These are things that Nashville is kind of always struggling with and always kind of being critiqued about. And so in the wake of what happened with "Old Town Road," I think taking an opportunity to basically embrace something like "The Git Up," which is a little bit more accessible - it's sort of a feel-good moment for them to say, oh, we're OK. See, we're OK. We like this. Maybe we didn't like the other one, but we'll take this.

MCCAMMON: And one more question, Jon. I have to ask, how much time have you spent learning how to dance along to "The Git Up?"

CARAMANICA: I promise you, I dance much better than anybody who dances "The Git Up" does.

MCCAMMON: Is this going to be, like, the next sort of, like, every single wedding has this as the routine you've got to do? Because I feel like this is what happens with songs that have a dance baked into them.

CARAMANICA: I mean, it does have a little bit of the hustle, the "Macarena" in there. And very strangely, like, I was recently at the Louis Vuitton pop-up store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and I'm there looking at sneakers, and what's coming over the speakers but "The Git Up?"

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GIT UP")

BLANCO BROWN: (Singing) That was not so bad. That was - that was not so bad, was it?

MCCAMMON: Well, that's one to watch for and maybe dance to in the months to come. That's Jon Caramanica, New York Times pop music critic and host of "Popcast," which is the New York Times weekly podcast about pop music.

Thanks so much.

CARAMANICA: Appreciate you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GIT UP")

BLANCO BROWN: (Singing) Go'n and do the two-step then cowboy boogie. Grab a sweetheart and spin out with 'em. Do the hoedown and get into it. Take it to the left now and dip with it. Go'n throw down, take a sip with it. Now lean back, put your hips in it. That was not so bad. That was - that was not so bad... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.