Some casual fans might be surprised to learn that country superstar and ACM Awards nominee Jake Owen is a huge hip-hop fan. “I can remember every word to every rap song known to man,” he boasts while sitting down for an interview at New York’s Build Series studio — before spontaneously dropping a few verses of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy.”
Owen, who says who reveals he’d love to work with Outkast someday, reveals that he just recorded a verse for a collaboration with Lil Nas X, the Atlanta rapper who generated flay within the purist country community over his track “Old Town Road.” The song, with combines hip-hop beats with country music elements, impressively debuted at No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs last month… before being removed from that chart for, basically, not being “country” enough. (Some pundits understandably cried racism over that decision.) This week, Lil Nas X released a new remix of the song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, as heard below.
“It’s funny, because these days people say, ‘You sing country music, so why do you reference these other people all the time?’ I think you can pull a little bit of something from everyone. I love rap music. I love it,” says Owen. “I’m just at a place in life where I just don’t care what my audience thinks. I care that they’re pleased with what I’m doing, but outside of that, people that hate on music and have closed minds, I just don’t pay attention. Because there’s lots of folks that love country music, but they’ll say, ‘How can you possibly be country and you’re doing a rap song, or you’re doing this or that?’ Honestly, it brings me joy to be able to do things that are different.”
Owen also takes a moment to reflect on the shocking death this week of 33-year-old West Coast rap icon Nipsey Hussle, who was shot in front of his L.A. store, Marathon Clothing, last week. Owen, who was side-stage during Las Vegas’s Route 91 Harvest country music festival mass shooting and had to flee for his life, says, “It’s really sad to think that things like that are happening every day in our world, and have been for a very long time. It’s a bummer to lose somebody that’s influential to a lot of people.”
This article originally ran on Yahoo Entertainment.