“South of the Dirty South” Brantley Gilbert and Jelly Roll Changed the Game

            We are the #1 outlaw page in country music. We just made Whiskey Riff cry themselves to sleep, and now I am declaring this page #1. We don’t yet have the numbers, but we have the attitude. As a result of the events from the past few days, we are being heavily watched. Every day I look and see another page, or another “country influencer” is viewing my shit. People I used to dream of doing content with now have eyes on me. It’s too bad because most of them hate me now, they think I’m a wild card. This truth of the matter is I’m really not. I called out some bullshit and the people who made an entire brand around calling out other people’s bullshit couldn’t handle it. They blocked me, sent me a very rude message that quickly got unsent, and told all their buddies that I’m a terrible person.

I don’t care if any of these aforementioned “influencers” want to work with me anymore. They are more than welcome to reach out, but there are only two groups of people in this “country music page war:” either your on my side or your in my way. This article isn’t about that though, and as far as I’m concerned, the war is over and I’ve won it. This article is about another outlaw, one with a much bigger following and cultural relevancy than I am right now. On the day that my war started, Brantley Gilbert did something I never imagined I would ever see a mainstream country artist do.

First if you haven’t yet, go listen to “Son of the Dirty South” by Brantley Gilbert. Don’t even leave the page, just click play below.

 It’s a fucking jam. If you don’t know who the other guy is in the video, and if you’re reading this you probably do, but let me introduce you to Jelly Roll. For those of you who don’t know the story of Jelly Roll, its fucking insane. If you have time watch this video, or go listen to the podcast, I promise you it’s worth it. If you don’t have time, skip to the next paragraph and I’ll give you a very brief and undetailed summary.

Jelly Roll was born in Antioch, a Nashville suburb known for being rough. A lot of people are products of where they grow up, and for a long time Jelly Roll was no exception. Heavy drugs, and jail time were a common theme for him growing up. However, Jelly Roll knew he wanted better for himself. He began rapping, and through collaborations with other Tennessee rappers, he grew his following into millions of people. Since then, he has been able to straighten out his life, now has a family, and wants to use his well-earned fame and fortune to show kids in prison they can make it in this world. He is proud of where he is from and instead of turning his back on it, he is embracing it and trying to make a difference.

            It really is an amazing story, but that’s not what this article is about either. This is about how he grinded his way onto a song with Brantley Gilbert. Brantley Gilbert has always been an outlaw with a bit of a soft side. His discography bounces between rebellious party songs like “Kick it in the Sticks” to softer more emotional songs like “Bad Boy.” He very rarely sings songs that the average radio listener will appreciate because he isn’t pop country. His music probably belongs on heavy rock/metal radio than anything. Yet his themes relate to those who did grow up in the country. Think of him as of a better version of Jason Aldean who didn’t sell out.

            Brantley is at a fork in his career it feels like. He hasn’t had a successful radio hit since “What Happens in a Small Town” back in 2019. His song “Hard Days” which felt like a monster to me, stalled out in the high 20s. His last album “Fire and Brimstone” was ok but compared to his other music it felt like a miss. I think Brantley might be at the end of his country music radio days. But does he need country radio? Until recently, an artist named Eric Church didn’t have much radio success, and he is one of the biggest names in the genre. Brantley has a monster following of very loyal fans. He sells out the biggest venues in the country still, I’m not sure compiling more #1 songs need to be his priority anymore.

            Instead, he should do exactly what he is doing. Gilbert has put out 5 songs over the past year. “The Worst Country Song of All Time,” “Gone But Not Forgotten,” “How to Talk to Girls,” “Rolex on a Redneck” and “Son of the Dirty South.” Each song speaks to a different part of his audience. None of the songs have gone viral or anything, but they each serve a purpose. At this point Gilbert should just drop an entire album including these songs and call it the “Redneck Tapes.” They don’t have to serve as radio singles, just let the fans have them on their playlists and jam to them.

This approach has done something, likely unintentional, but it still has given Country Rap legitimateness. It no longer is just a underground subgenre that Music Row can ignore. The world has produced its first mainstream star in Jelly Roll. Does Adam Calhoun follow and hop on a Jason Aldean song? Probably not… but all the sudden its possible. Honestly a song of Jason Aldean and Calhoun rapping about gun rights would be insane, but it will NEVER happen. Does Upchurch come out and rap on a Justin Moore song? Again, not likely, but it feels possible now. Big Machine Records released a song with Jelly Roll on it. Maybe I’m making more of a deal of this situation than it is, but it feels like a genre changer.

            Now don’t misread what I’m saying, Brantley isn’t the first mainstream country artists to work with a country rapper. Clay Walker and Upchurch did “For a Little While” together in 2020. Craig Campbell and Demun Jones did “Take Me Back” in 2019. The difference though is Craig wasn’t on a major label, and Clay’s peak was the 90’s. In my opinion neither moved the needle as much as “Son of the Dirty South” will. This song put Music Row in Nashville on notice that Country Rap has finally arrived.

            Jelly Roll is having himself a year. Not only is he on this song, but his song “Son of a Sinner” is rapidly moving up the country charts. In just 16 weeks (at the time of writing this article) the song sits at 23 on the country charts. That’s a pace faster than established artists like Gabby Barrett, Lee Brice, and Zac Brown Band. What is the secret to this rapid rise into country? Simple, “Son of a Sinner” is simply the BEST country song that has come out in a long ass time. It’s very raw, its painful, its truthful. This isn’t a song that can get written in a writer’s room. This is a song that your soul truly has to be hurt to write. It makes other country songs sound manufactured because you can hear Jelly’s past pain in his singing.

If that isn’t enough to prove his talents, it doesn’t stop there. He just topped the rock charts with his song “Dead Man Walking” in early 2022. I’m not sure if an artist has ever had 2 different songs that both go #1 in 2 different genres off the same album before. If it has, I’ve never heard of it. If you’re the type of person whose idea of country is listening to Walker Hayes while drinking an overpriced fruity drink at the club, you probably don’t know Jelly Roll. But he’s about to change country music forever.

            I started this article out talking about outlaws. People who act all tough but can’t take pushback. The truth of the matter is that only history can tell us who the outlaws are. Will Beats Beer Bonfires actually go down as the #1 outlaw country music page ever? You never know I guess. Does Brantley Gilbert releasing a song with Jelly Roll truly make him an outlaw when Jelly Roll is already closing in on the top of the country radio chart? Clearly in my mind it does, but we won’t know until we see what happens next. But outlaws are having a moment. Adam Calhoun, and Upchurch, my eyes are on you next, because a movement is happening, and I’ll be watching every second of it.


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