Analyzing Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem”

While drafting my research paper, I realized that country and rap music, although being considered cultural opposites, actually shared a large portion of cultural motifs. I decided to do a lyrical analysis of the country song Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean, and create a direct comparison of its cultural references and cultural references from popular rap songs. I’d also like to shout out my good friend, Jamil Andrade (Congrats on UNC 24′!), who helped me find and assemble rap lyrics that were relevant to my project! 

Dirt Road Anthem was released in April of 2011 by Aldean and swiftly rose to number one on the country’s top music charts. Dirt Road Anthem was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance by the GRAMMYs and went on to become the best selling country song by a male solo artist. I recommend listening to the song first to get a feel before I analyze it. Below you will find lyrics from Dirt Road Anthem on the left and the rap lyrics on the right.

“Yeah I’m chillin’ on a dirt road

Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones

Smoke rollin’ out the window

An ice cold beer sittin’ in the console”

“Rocky, where you been? I been tryna make my ends meet

So I can cop that Bathing Ape or Jeremy Scott or 10 Deep

Bottles full of Rose, riding in the Benz jeep

Blowing money fast, now I’m finna think I’m Big Meech

I met with my old head we sat for a while

We rolled a couple swishers, we chat for a while

I said I’m just on my grind I come to Houston all the time”

Both of these snippets feature the glorification of substance use while driving as a means to unwind. (Song on right is Houston Old Head by ASAP Rocky)

“Load the truck up, hit the dirt road

Jump the barbwire, spread the word

Light the bonfire, then call the girls

The king in the can and the Marlboro man

Jack ‘n’ Jim were a few good men

Better watch out for the boys in blue”

“Aunty Trish was smokin’ up my weed, she used to work my patience

Every night I sneak off with her keys, I’m drivin’, paper chasin’

One night we robbed the Asian lady, led the police on pursuit”

In this snippet of country music, we see the stereotypical reference to a pick-up truck. The glorification of expensive trucks in country music is similar to the glorification of Mercedes in rap. There is also another explicit reference to drinking and smoking in Dirt Road, similar to themes found prominently in rap music. Dirt Road also manages to glorify breaking onto a property and dodging the police, which is referenced in Kream’s song. (Song on right is Grannies by Maxo Kream)

“Man that talk is getting old

Ya better mind your business, man, watch your mouth

I can take y’all where you need to go

Down to my hood, back in them woods

We’ll raise some hell where the blacktop ends”

“I think its time I made a song fo niggas who don’t know me

I graduated at the streets, I’ma real OG

I been trappin’ shootin’ pistols since I stood on both feet

So while you niggas actin bad, you gon have to show me”

The common thread in this pair of lyrics is the concept of defending a reputation. Both artists threaten to defend their reputation through the use of violence. (Song on right is U Don’t Know Me by T.I.)

“Light the bonfire, then call the girls”

“Before I tell a lie, won’t tell you nothin’

Any time I got you, girl you my possession”

The misogyny in rap and country has been heavily documented, and frankly is present across all genres of music. These are just brief snippets, but country music and rap both have a reputation for oversexualizing women. (Song on right is Collection by Future)

I recognize that these are just small windows into both genres, and it is impossible to include the breadth and diversity of each genre in such a short analysis. But I hope that I have stoked a curiosity regarding the supposed differences between country and rap music. Motifs of substance use, women, cars, masculinity, a low socioeconomic status, guns, and the glorification of violence are heavily present in both genres. It is not my goal to neglect the genres’ history and distinctiveness, but rather I want to bring these separate cultures into conversation with each other. 

While both genres share a lot of their content, society’s reception of them is quite different. Why is it charming when a white boy trespasses, smokes, and drives drunk, but “thuggish” when a black boy smokes weed and breaks the law? Why are cigars and Tennessee whiskey understood as classy, while marijuana and Hennessey are viewed as overly opulent and trashy? How do cultural stigmas impact our perception of certain behaviors?