Big Smo 2014
Zach Dilgard

Meet the country-rap "hick-hopper" with an A&E show and a record deal.

A&E’s latest reality star? A country rapper named Big Smo. Real name John Smith, the 39-year-old Unionville, Tenn., native falls somewhere between Colt Ford and Bubba Sparxxx. Smo’s self-titled series, which premiered June 11, follows the self-proclaimed “Hick Ross” as he climbs the music-biz ladder. After first making noise independently on YouTube, he released his major-label debut, "Kuntry Livin'" — song titles include "Redneck Rich" — on June 3 through Warner Nashville. Read our Q&A with him below.

So, how does a "hick" become a major-label rapper with a TV show?

I’m a product of my surroundings. I grew up on Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and also Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, the Fat Boys and Biz Markie.

Between you and Colt Ford, is country rap becoming a full-fledged genre?

I don’t like putting a name on my music. It’s not just country and rap; it’s got Southern rock, classic rock. You’ve got a song with me and Darius Rucker, “My Place,” that’s going to be bigger than Tim McGraw and Nelly’s “Over and Over” once it catches on.

What do you say to the purists who don’t like the blend?

It’s mostly because they haven’t listened to what we do. If someone listens to my album and says, “I don’t like that,” it would blow my mind. I’m not talking about piles of diamonds and cars that nobody drives. My playground is full of moonshine, mason jars, beer bottles and bonfires. The average person can put themself in these songs.

So what does a country rap beef look like compared to a regular rap feud?

[laughs] That’s the luxury of country rap — you get the delivery and the lyrical side. All the beefs and the shoot-’em-up stuff, that stays over on the rap side. Myself, I’m just a simple country boy who spent time on the streets and developed a style of writing and rapping and a cool sound that people seem to enjoy.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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