There's just no ignoring the hick-hop phenomenon. It's spawned a reality show, viral videos and a thriving fringe scene, along with the traditional measure of country success — chart-topping singles. This current trend was preceded by over half a century of talking-blues-style recordings: Western swinger Tex Williams's "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)"; fiddling Southern-rocker Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"; funky picker-narrator Jerry Reed's "When You're Hot, You're Hot" and Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue"; to name just a few.
But Cash and Co. weren't technically rapping. Animated, syncopated sing-talking was their way of putting storytelling ballads across with panache. The tradition of rhythmic country recitations primed such outsized personalities as Toby Keith, Trace Adkins and Big & Rich to begin drawing on hip-hop influence. The country-rap aesthetic crystallized once a network of music makers from Georgia — home to the Southern rap capital of Atlanta — made their presence felt in Nashville. Soon, country-leaning mainstream rappers migrated to the country format and a new generation of fans came up on twang, rock and Tupac. Here are the milestones of the movement, in timeline form. By Jewly Hight