Category: Country music

  • Intersectionality: Beyoncé Feminism

    “When the Levee Breaks,” Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy (1929): “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin, 1971: Beyoncé samples the Zeppelin version in “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” off Lemonade (2016): She also samples a 1962 speech by Malcolm X: In the official video for “Formation,” we see what happens when the levee actually breaks: Beyoncé […]

  • Black Country

    This seems to be the summer that country trap reached the mainstream. Where does country trap come from? Maybe we should be asking why we think of country music as a white genre in the first place. One of the reasons that we think of country as a white genre is that country music has […]

  • X, UnNaming, and the Cowboy Blues

    You all know this song. When Lil Nas X became a household name, I started thinking about that name. “Lil” like Lil Wayne, or like so many other rap artists? “Nas” like . . . Nas? “X” like DMX? Or even Malcolm X? Apparently not. But words and names mean things. Here, Malcolm X — […]

  • Stagolee Shot Billy

    Content warning: explicit language, racial slurs (including the n-word) in original sources. Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, dedicated his 1968 book Seize the Time, to his wife, Artie, and his son, Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale. Malik’s third name, as Seale explains it, derives from the lumpen proletarian politically unaware brothers in […]

  • Fare Thee Well/Careless Love

    In his memoirs, John Lomax described collecting “Dink’s Song” in Texas in 1904, at a work-camp for skilled black builders from Mississippi who were constructing a levee on the Brazos River. Dink was one of a group of women imported from Memphis by the camp overseers to keep the workers happy and discourage them from […]

  • Tracing the Sources

    [Content warning: racist language and imagery.] In the 1940s, the American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, also a folklorist and musicologist, published a collection of American children’s folksongs she had compiled. One of the numbers in this volume of 43 songs is “Such a Getting Upstairs.” This singer asserts that it is a “going-up-to-bed-song” from Indiana. […]

  • Authenticity, part II: Living Music Inspired by Ghosts

    When you hear a musical recording that’s scratchy and distant, you might naturally assume it’s old: a relic from the early days of sound recording. But what would modern music sound like were it subject to the same limitations that musicians faced in those days? That’s the question posed by The 78 Project, which gives musicians the […]

  • Affrilachia

    A diagram of the major themes of country music. Country music may seem like the whitest of music genres, and has even been called “The White Man’s Blues.” Songs like Merle Haggard’s “I’m a White Boy” certainly advance that narrative. But is that narrative reliable? It’s true that some of the major themes of country […]