Raised on hip-hop in Atlanta, Blanco Brown would escape to his grandmother’s home in rural Butler, Ga., during the summer where the singer-songwriter-producer would listen to country music. Influenced equally by OutKast and Johnny Cash for both acts’ rawness and storytelling, Brown’s love for both shine through on his country trap viral hit, “The Git Up.”
While Broken Bow Records/BMG, which signed Brown a year ago, originally planned to release “The Git Up” after Brown made several appearances during June’s 6-9 CMA Fest, BBR executive vp Jon Loba says the reaction to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus sped up the process. (“Old Town Road” has spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, and claims four of the six biggest streaming weeks ever on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart.)
“We thought, ‘[“The Git Up”] is an insane song,” Loba says. “It can be viral. Let’s put our toe in the water immediately with everything happening with [Lil Nas X], and then we’ll follow it up with the meat of the EP.”
Brown teased “The Git Up” three weeks ago with a short video clip posted to his socials. The song also serves as a choreographed dance that has Brown teaching the moves in the 45-second snippet. The clip quickly went viral, averaging nearly one million views in its initial three days of posting, while fans, DJs and dancers shared their interpretations of the dance in their own videos posted online. Presently, the clip is nearing 8 million views across multiple videos on various platforms.
“The Git Up” was then quietly uploaded to SoundCloud on April 26, and added to digital service providers on May 3. While the song has elements of country, trap and urban influences, “The Git Up” is listed under country on iTunes and has already been added to Spotify’s Wild Country playlist.
Loba first met Brown when the artist was in a meeting in Los Angeles with former BMG president of U.S. repertoire Zach Katz, and the record executive couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “He played four songs and I was blown away, because it was country, but it was also trap and it was so original,” Loba says. “It was not only genre-bending, but also genre-defining, and like everyone else, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.”
Loba then asked Brown to play a label showcase the following night in the Hollywood Hills. Unsure how his staff would react, as some are “staunch country traditionalists,” Loba says the traditionalists became Brown’s biggest champions. “They can hear that honesty and that grit of Johnny Cash in it. So we quickly got the deal done and have been waiting and preparing and getting it just right,” Loba says.
While “The Git Up” is Brown’s first release as a solo artist, he is far from a newcomer. Brown has worked as a hip-hop and pop producer for Chris Brown, Fergie and Pitbull, among others. He also produced “Goalie Goalie,” one of the theme songs for the 2018 World Cup.
With heavy footprints in the urban and pop world, Loba asked Brown what he wanted to do in his career. “He said, ‘I was always the most safe and happy in Butler, Georgia. Country music to me is security. It’s family, it’s happiness. It’s blue skies, and I love the stories. That’s where my heart is and that’s where I want to start,’” Loba recalls.
As of press time the song, which hasn’t been serviced to any radio formats yet, hasn’t received any plays on Billboard’s Country, Adult R&B, Mainstream R&B or Rhythmic stations. This could all change as the song picks up steam, and Loba is hoping the track will organically build. “This is not something we’re running to radio immediately,” he says. “I really want radio to come to us and I believe they will.”
“If you look at Lil Nas X, and how much they’ve spun [‘Old Town Road’] at Top 40, I think there’s a great chance to have that as well,” Loba says of “The Git Up.” He adds that Brown’s self-titled EP, coming May 31, unabashedly leans country. “When you listen to the EP and even ‘The Git Up,’ there’s no doubt that they are country records.”
Brown’s EP spans his musical influences and love of storytelling. On songs like “Ghett Ol Memories” Brown sings of hearing gunshots as a child and escaping to his grandmother’s house and catching lightning bugs. The autobiographical lyrics are surrounded by urban beats and finger-picked acoustic guitar. A song that recalls something Kane Brown might record, the track shares the Georgia native’s country roots, vocal power and forward-thinking production. This is the future of country music, Loba asserts: “This is country but it’s even bigger than that…it really breaks down a lot of barriers. I think the beauty of the phenomenon that was Lil Nas X demonstrated to us that there was a huge appetite.”
While Loba is aware of the comparisons that will be made between Lil Nas X and Brown, he’s not too worried. In fact, he has Lil Nas X to thank for asking BBR artist Cyrus to be on “Old Town Road,” and for pushing open the door for someone like Brown to leave his mark. Where Lil Nas X has had trouble gaining traction at country radio — receiving 606 spins total to date, a number likely influenced by his lack of connection to Nashville — Brown is already connecting by producing, writing and collaborating with several country acts, including Parmalee, and newcomers Twinnie and Lainey Wilson.
“Everybody can see the depth of the project, the intention to be country,” Loba says. “Is it straight down the pike country? No, but, so many of our biggest format stars weren’t… Johnny Cash wasn’t. Jason Aldean wasn’t. Because it is coming from the marketplace in Nashville, and we are able to tell his story and set him up well, I think we have far fewer challenges there. At the end of the day, who cares what it’s classified as? Great music is great music.”