Black Voices: Black Country Artists Are Increasingly Breaking Down Barriers and Gaining Popularity
Black country artists are making a comeback to touch the hearts of American music. Darius Rucker and Kane Brown are two black male country singers who have pioneered a movement to encourage more black talent to become country singers.
Kane Brown began his journey in 2015 on social media. It exploded in popularity, not only for its emotional lyrics with catchy beats, but also because of its southern roots in Georgia and Tennessee. According to People Magazine, Brown was the first black solo artist to win American Country Music Video of the Year for his song “We Got Us One.”
Darius Rucker grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Born in the South, according to People Magazine, Rucker has been a victim of racism all his life. His brash approach to his music captured those affected by racism once he joined the music group Hootie and The Blowfish in 1986. As a solo artist in 2009, he became the first black man to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association.
Country music is controlled mostly by white music companies. Historically, country music promotion has fallen under the control of white artists. Since the early 2000s, country music has become a fixture in white communities, while the black community has had no say in the market.
A study by Dr. Jada Watson, adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, shows the huge racial disparity in country music in 2000-2020. Its report says that out of 66% of all male artists and 28% of all female artists, only 0.6% of black country artists are recognized for their styles of country music on radio. The study also suggested that black artists are losing ground on country radio stations. However, black female artists are the most impacted by black country music broadcast over the genre’s radio airwaves.
The report says that in 2020, distribution of songs written by black female country artists was disproportionately excluded from white music labels. Their songs are unplayed on radio stations and streaming services. According to the study, 2% of all songs written by female artists were played on radio stations from 2002 to 2020.
Ahead of the 55th annual Country Music Awards on Nov. 10, two black female artists have been nominated for Entertainer of the Year.
The nominating step for artists Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton has been monumental in encouraging black women to break down barriers in country music, but more needs to be done.
“I don’t want anyone to get complacent,” country singer Rissi Palmer said in an interview with ABC. “I don’t want it to be because Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton are nominated for New Artist Awards to think we’ve made it, we’re at Nirvana and that’s it.”
Acknowledgment to black male and female artists begins with white industry leaders honoring black country music. Playing artists’ songs on the radio can distort black history, it can also change the dynamics of music to encourage young black people to strive for a different style of music.
The musical changes are mitigated by the fact that they are not recognized by white record companies. Recognition is an understatement for black artists, Mako Fitts Ward, a professor at Arizona State University, said in an interview with ABC.
“The country music industry has always been designed to exclude black women in terms of access to record labels and their appearance on country radio,” Ward said.