The Context – On the surface, hip-hop and country music appear to have a polarizing, oil-and-water relationship. However, the two genres are forever linked after both hip-hop and country evolved from the wildly influential African American music styles of the 19th and 20th centuries such as gospel, jazz, blues, and R&B. Contemporarily, hip-hop and country fusion emerged through the likes of Kid Rock, Cowboy Troy, and Colt Ford, but the crossover did not reach mainstream pop charts until the 2004 release of Nelly and Tim McGraw’s smash hit “Over and Over.” Nelly’s continued collaborations and other rappers featuring with Nashville’s country music stars culminated into 2019’s genre-defining “Old Town Road” from Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus.
The viral success of “Old Town Road” paved the way for country-hip-hop to flourish. One such artist, Lathan Warlick, serves as an exemplary example of the genre-bender’s meteoric rise. The Tennessee native began his music career as a rapper following a fateful encounter at gunpoint in 2011. The self-proclaimed “positive artist” released prototypical hip-hop music with a gospel-tinge since 2015, but Warlick did not explore country sounds until his June 2020 feature on country musician Granger Smith’s “That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads.” Since that collab, Warlick notched his first record deal with RECORDS Nashville/Columbia and amassed a significant following on Instagram and TikTok (87,000 and 1.1 million followers, respectively).
The Content – Warlick’s first major label release begins with trap beats and twangy guitars paired with catchy vocals and bars from Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard on the eponymous “My Way.” Former The Voice contestant RaeLynn lends her vocals to Warlick’s bars on the slick track “Roots.” The heavy-hitting gospel-pop ballad “In His Hands” features singer/songwriter Lauren Alaina of American Idol fame. The precursing single to the My Way EP, “Over Yonder,” is a pro-rural American track, featuring country singer Matt Stell, with similar backwoods guitar and hip-hop beats à la the opening song.
“My Dawgs” is the sole solo track on the EP where Warlick showcases serviceable rap and vocal skills. Fellow Volunteer State singer/songwriter Russell Dickerson delivers a smooth country-pop sound complimenting Warlick’s sacred lyricism on “Gotta Be God.” Subtle hip-hop beats underscore the strong “Way Out Here” track featuring country music singer Dustin Lynch. The Rempel brothers of High Valley provide their duo vocals to the country-hip-hop motif on the closing track “Runaway Train.”
The Skinny – Lathan Warlick’s first soirée in country music, My Way, is a decent inclusion in the modern country-hip-hop canon. As opposed to some of the over-the-top features with Nelly, Warlick and company manage the juxtaposition between the country music and hip-hop blend well with low-key mixes. The record does falter though as the production remains rather static and repetitive throughout the eight tracks. However, the feature-packed My Way EP is a radio-friendly record that is sure to bring the hip-hop sound of Warlick more clout in the country music industry.
The Rating – 5.9/10
- My Way
- In His Hands (feat. Lauren Alaina)
- Over Yonder (feat. Matt Stell)
- My Dawgs
- Gotta Be God (feat. Russell Dickerson)
- Way Out Here (feat. Dustin Lynch)
- Runaway Train (feat. High Valley)