Blending Hip-Hop and Country Together Effectively: A Talk With Tim Chance (Part I)

Tim Chance is a genre-blending, songwriting, performing, producing freak of nature. One listen to any of his recordings and you realize you are experiencing something truly unique and special. One live show experience and you are a fan for life. He was the first “Country-Hip Hop” style performer from Nashville, he since helped develop numerous artists in the genre, and has been embraced from Music Row to the LA streets. USA Today even said that this Nashville phenomenon “Raps faster than Twista, but to dueling style banjos…”

I had the privilege to sit down with Tim Chance, an artist who has worked with various big name starts in the country and hip-hop industry. Blending together hip-hop and country, Chance has created something unique with his music.

The interview has been divided into two parts due to its length. You can read part one behind the cut.

What are your musical influences?

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI’m really influenced by nature. I spend a lot of time on the water and in the woods. Also, most of my songs start with a feeling or thought that comes out like a melody and I usually let my mind go back in time on personal experiences.

A lot of the production behind the music stems from the club, I’m fascinated with the effects of kick drums, 808s and stringed instruments on our bodies, and the sensations I can create with EQs. 

Your parents were involved a lot in the country music industry. How did that inspire you as an artist?

My parents divorced when I was 4. Growing up in both houses, my dad was always playing the guitar on his time off and listening to The Eagles and Poco. My mom was a bartender and talent show host at some famous bars and honkytonks in Nashville. We didn’t have much money, so she’d often take me to work with her where I shot pool and played darts til I passed out on the rubber mats behind the bar. Being in that environment, and with my mom (who was a loved woman), I often met country stars and grew up listening to great live music.

The first place I lived in Nashville was a place called Knob Hill, that’s where The Large Brothers lived and they were the first Hip-hop crew in Nashville to make great records and get a buzz. The younger brother to one of the rappers was my best friend, so I got a lot of my influence there too.

What is your motivation for combining rap and country? 

Really just the nature of my environment. At first, I wasn’t a great singer but I had great rhythm and could rap well. My favorite song as a kid was “Sold, Grundy County Auction” From John Michael Montgomery because he was sing-rapping real fast and I loved the guitar hook lick. Then I got into 2 Live Crew and ICP and realized my ability to write.

How did the combination of “hip-hop and country” come to be? 

Image and video hosting by TinyPicGrowing up in Nashville in the club scene, when I got hungry to perform out, we only had a few spots where Hip-hop was welcome. I wrote a song called “I Came To Drink” with a country hook, rap verses and an easy chord progression that I could pull off with any band on the fly. I walked into Rippy’s one night where Waldo Weathers, James Brown’s Sax player, had his band there performing. I walked up to Waldo, introduced myself and said I was a rapper and I’d love to jam with him. I hung out for a while then Waldo invited me up on stage in this country bar and we rocked it. The crowd went crazy and word spread down Broadway. Keep in mind, no one had done this before. So, the next night, I went to Tootsies and did the same thing

I realized that I could perform as long as there were a groove and a crowd. Nashville had great musicians playing every night in probably 50 bars. Because of this, I started going to all those bars and jamming with all the bands. It worked as I started translating that live feeling to the studio.

Did you keep on experimenting on how to combine the two genres? Was it tough at the beginning to mix the two genres together successfully? Was it a lot of trials and errors?

I did. The Music side of it was easy: fun and natural. But, the business side was the Everest. Hip-hop tends to have a more aggressive side to it,. Growing up with rap battling, I got real sharp with words, and that translated into my recordings and live shows.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicAt first Music Row didn’t want anything to do with it. Then a year or so later, Three Six Mafia signed with Sony Red out of Nashville. There was a battle between a Texas crew and Three Six from Memphis for the deal, so the label signed Three Six because of distance to Nashville and record sales over the Texas crew. The exec that signed them is a friend of mine and actually asked me what I thought about Three Six, which I was a fan of, before he signed them. At the signing party for Three Six, this exec and Three Six Mafia were walking up the stairs to come to the party when shots rang out. The place went crazy. When the chaos calmed down, it was discovered that this Nashville exec was shot in the shoulder. He lived, but this event really shut down the idea of any Nashville labels from signing Hip-hop acts.

Another mountain I had to overcome was when I got real close to John Rich[1] and helped start a movement called The Muzik Mafia.[2] On the surface it was “Love Everyone”, but in reality, John was an asshole to many, including women. I remember one night when he said he was gonna knock a woman out that was smoking. He also sucker punched a friend of mine in a smoking bar. Then, he hid behind his bodyguard another time. One night he was hammered and grabbed my arm and said he “owned me and he could buy me.” I stood my ground and told him slavery was abolished years ago and let him know it wasn’t a good idea to touch me. This happened on a bus, in private, so I didn’t lay a finger on him and politely left. The next day, I got a rude letter that said I wasn’t a part of the Muzik Mafia anymore and I was off the label.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicMy music was tied up for two years and I was blackballed on Music Row because of him. Back then, he had a lot of power and money so whether I was right or wrong, none of the labels or companies wanted to work with me because the lies he spread around town. As an artist, I was pissed so I took it out on the mic in a couple freestyles and posted them on my YouTube. Next thing I know, I’m in court facing an order of protection from John over a couple freestyles that I didn’t send to him. It was an unbelievable mess, and I was up against a bad man with a lot of money. He even put his wife on the stand and had her fake cry and say she was scared. I never did anything wrong to her and always showed her the utmost respect. It was clear she was coached and acting. I had dealt with Curb and Warner Brothers on the table where they wanted to sign me but wouldn’t because of John. So I kept writing and started producing acts like Trailer Choir, Jellyroll, and Dee Jay Silver so I could build my own network. I eventually found my lane with better people with more integrity. But, needless to say, it was a fight that I’d never want anyone else to have to go through.

In the meantime, I focused on my craft and traveled the country battling. I won Shady Records Battle of the Illest and a huge one in Long Beach with a bunch of folks from Compton. I figured if one jerk in Nashville could cause this much trouble for me and my family then I’d be the biggest name in Hip-hop and level the playing field. A few execs and managers in Nashville watched how I handled this. And now, I have a very loyal support system on Music Row that saw how I handled it and won’t let anything like that happen to me again. Plus, I have songs and the support of some of the biggest in Hip-hop, Rock & Country now.

In the end, I’m thankful for the experience and got a highly developed sense for who to and who not to work and to share ideas with.

How is the response from both industries as well as fans? 

The Country industry took a while to come around, and the Hip-hop industry took a while to earn the respect. Now Country Hip-hop is alive and strong with about 20 good acts and a huge, very loyal fan base. Truth is before it was a thing I noticed even the country clubs would play Country music early and Hip-hop music later. All I did was 808s, hi-hats, and rap to country music. Folks loved it and now I’m on the forefront of a new sound in country music having mixed for Blake Shelton and Dobie Gray, working in the early years with Luke Bryan’s engineer and Cole Swindell’s producer to name a few. I’ve mixed records for DJ Drama and members of Wu-Tang Clan. I even have heard my mixes on everything from Country stations to Hip-hop & Pop stations, even Shady 45. 

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWhat is the response from other artists in both industries? 

Now I’m good friends with a lot of great producers and artists of all genres and we’re creating some of the best music out there, together. I’ve got songs releasing in 2019 with Melissa Etheridge, Drake White, Wyclef Jean, and others. I’m viewed as a bridge between both now because I genuinely understand both.

Are your fans more into country music or into hip-hop? 

My fans are into both. Depending on what venue I play, you’ll see a good mix of all. Culturally we’re all coming together more so than ever these days, but for example, if I’m in Alabama or Tennessee at a country bar I’m more than likely bringing my band and doing more country songs than say one of my DJ sets in New York or LA. 

[Stay tune from Part II]


You can follow Tim Chance on these social media platforms or streaming services:

Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / Soundcloud / Youtube / Spotify / Amazon Music / iTunesOfficial Website

Be sure to check his social media platforms and official website for new releases and tour information.


Footnotes

[1] John Rich is an American country artist who has had success as a soloist and as a band member for Lonestar and Big & Rich. More information can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rich

[2] MuzikMafia is a collection of American country artist that was founded in 2001. It was founded on the “ideology of anti-commercialism”. More information can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MuzikMafia

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