The new star and longtime songwriter isn’t following in anyone’s footsteps, including Lil Nas X’s.
"I signed my first deal when I was seven years old," says Blanco Brown. Over two decades later, he’s finally living out that childhood dream.
His viral "trailer trap" hit, "The Git Up," is sitting atop the Hot Country Songs chart for its eighth nonconsecutive week. The song has become one of the defining debut hits of the year, reaching No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100; Brown tells Billboard that “I just knew music was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Raised in Georgia, Brown split his time between the Atlanta housing projects, where he would hear Outkast on the radio, and his aunt’s home in rural Butler, where he listened to Johnny Cash. By his early teens, he realized they were singing about the same things, just in different ways.
“I was from the projects, and I heard this country boy singing about shootings,” says Brown, 34, who grew up in a musical family and signed his first recording contract with NuStarr Records as part of a group with his brothers and cousin. “It was so close to what I was familiar with. Johnny [Cash] didn't have a filter."
Though Brown is still close to his siblings and relatives, it was separating from the family group that gave him confidence to venture out solo. "Time separated us, but it didn't separate us as brothers," he says. "My whole childhood, I stood behind them. When we were no longer together, that's when I started to flourish."
By 2008, Brown was working as a songwriter and producer, eventually working his way into collaborations with Pitbull (“Goalie Goalie”) and Fergie (“M.I.L.F. $”). At the same time, he was making music on his laptop at home in Atlanta, and coined the term “trailer trap” to describe his country-rap fusion.
"It was one of those things I had to keep explaining," he says. "Other people are mixing trap songs over country records, but it's never the country blend. I'm bridging the gap."
Nearly ten years later, he pitched a demo to former BMG president of U.S. repertoire Zach Katz. “He started texting [BBR Music Group executive vp] Jon Loba, ‘Get in here right now,’ ” recalls Brown. “[Loba] says he’d never seen anyone react like that.” Brown signed with the Nashville-based indie in June 2018.
Three months later, Brown used a friend’s lap steel guitar to make a loop, to which he later added beatboxing. It became an early version of “The Git Up.”
"I grabbed spoons, tambourine, anything I could find that made a nice sound," Brown says. "When I got finished, it was so full of joy. I was doing the dance as I was writing it. I said, 'this is going to be a song that makes people dance and brings joy.'"
As Brown was in the process of prepping his solo music, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” quickly grew from online meme to national sensation, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually spending a record-setting 19 weeks in the top spot. Brown, seeing an opening for this type of fusion between hip-hop and country influences, urged the label to issue “The Git Up” immediately, ahead of the material that was primed to be released ahead of it.
The song arrived in May, immediately took off thanks to a social media-friendly dance challenge, and became a bonafide country hit. With 200.7 million on-demand U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music, it has ruled Hot Country Songs and lingered within the top 20 of the Hot 100.
Brown, who has “enough music for 80 trailer trap records,” is keeping the momentum going. He’s currently preparing a music video for “The Git Up” in Nashville and Watertown, Tenn.; looking forward to an October show with country superstar Kane Brown (no relation); and polishing off a full album, expected to be released before the end of the year
The success of “Old Town Road” put his career on the fast track, but Blanco doesn’t feel like he’s following a trend. He says he’s bridging a gap, and is happy Lil Nas X opened doors to the house he has always lived in.
“Someone asked me a long time ago if I felt like country music is changing,” he says. “I don’t know where it’s going, but I’d love to be a part of it.”