End of the Line

Hick-Hop Harmony

A world of possibilities for hybrid musical genres

Illustration: Barry Blitt

I didn’t even know that Snoop Dogg, the rapper, and Willie Nelson, the Willie, had cut a record or two together. I knew that Willie was woke—in his song “Still Not Dead,” he sings, “I woke up still not dead again today,” which I have adopted as my a.m. anthem. And I have felt good toward Snoop since I watched his commentary on an online video of some small furry animals, maybe mongeese, getting together to back down a would-be-voracious crocodile: “Yeah,” said Snoop, speaking for the “mongooses” or whatever, “we dem boys!” But I didn’t know that the two of them—Willie and Snoop—had partaken of a big new musical genre:


The number-one song on the charts, as I write this, is “Old Town Road,” which according to Jon Caramanica of the New York Times is “country music and hip-hop…swapping structural elements and taking comfort in each other’s sounds.” Some, says Caramanica, call it hick-hop. Sounds sort of country but involves “quasi-
ironic rapping.”

“Quasi-ironic,” I guess, is where you hold your mouth just right while saying, “Seriously?”

Well, I can roll with the unstraightforward. Old Pittsburgh guys talked about “kidding on the square.” The Obama White House had a press secretary named Josh Earnest. I like that character Darius on the series Atlanta. Once, after Darius said something philosophically uncanny, as is his wont, to another character, the other character asked him, “Are you kidding me?” Darius’s response was this: He paused to reflect, for about a beat and a half, and then said, “No.”


But I don’t know about “quasi-ironic.” I also don’t know about “hick-hop.” How come the rapping part of the thing gets “hop” and the country-music part gets “hick”? I’m not suggesting anything pretentious, as in “hic-haec-hoc-hop,” which would take us back to ancient Rome, but “Huck-hop,” say, would be more literary.

But what the heck-hop. I’m for fusion. What some people called “race music” and what some people called “hillbilly music” had a baby called rock and roll.

I actually coined a term, which deserves to catch on, for street-edgy brass-band music in New Orleans: oompah-hop. Then there are so many other possibilities yet unborn:

Nap-hop. Enough of a crypto-lullaby to get a kid down for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but it’s get-busy enough that the child will wake up getting down.

Flipflop-hop. For the beach.

Besockhopbop. Improbable combination, you may say, but the very term has a beat to it.

Humph-hop. For old guys. Or hip-pfui, thrusts and rejections.

Yo-ho-to-ho-hop. What rap needs to check its sexism is Valkyries! Or, going softer, still rigorous, jumprope-rap.

Cold twerky—accentuating the shiver.

Youngsta rap (compare YA books).

Bossa novy: klezmer with a Brazilian tinge.

Cockadoo-wop: mellow close harmonies set off by rooster moves.

Boot-scootin’ mambo.

Taking it commercial: hoppin’ the pops.

Ad-hoc-hop: whatever works.

Not just in music is there room for new hybrids. How about in food: Easy enough to imagine hoppin’-Juan, hoppin’-Gianni, maybe even hoppin’-Fong, but hoppin’-
Janusz? Hoppin’-Nguyen? Why not?

Knish-puppies? Toad-in-the-whole-grains? Wallbangers-and-mash? Hoosier edamame?

By all means let us hybridize freely, for this is America. Just as long as we bear in mind the basic elements’ integrity. Stay with food for just a moment. Snoop and Willie did a song together called “Superman,” about realizing you shouldn’t try to do more than you can: “Too many pain pills, too much pot, trying to be something that I’m not.” Not surprisingly, they once got the munchies together. “We jumped into a van,” Snoop recalled, “and we went to our favorite spot: Kentucky Fried Chicken. We pulled up in the drive-thru. We’re ordering chicken. A bucket of this, a bucket of that. We’re sitting side by side, so when we get up to the window to pay for the food, we pay for it, they give us the chicken, and we open it up. We stick our hand in at the same time and we grab the same piece of chicken. I look at Willie and I’m like, ‘That’s you dog, my bad.’ That was one of the greatest moments of my life, when me and Willie Nelson grabbed the same piece of chicken at the same damn time.”

Ironic chicken? Quasi chicken? I don’t think so.