Rap Artist of the Year 2022

The Beats Beer Bonfires Rapper of the Year Award is truly a first of its kind. No one has ever given a shit about this group of artists. No one gives a shit about Ryan Upchurch, Adam Calhoun, Struggle Jennings, Demun Jones, or anyone like that… right? Well, Church has 642K followers, on his backup account. Adam Calhoun has 733K, Struggle is sitting there with 357k. So again, I ask, does anyone care about rappers like this? This group is a little bit harder to identify. It used to be country rap, but it has evolved beyond that. Nashville rap? Doesn’t work. Southern rap? That could work. I’m not sure what to call it, but these guys deserve to get recognition. Did they ask for it? Absolutely not. But they are a major underground industry, and it deserves to shine.

I also completely fucked something up. Shoutout to Rick Lynn for making the semifinals for rapper of the year. Unfortunately, he isn’t a rapper. Again, my fuck up, so I won’t DQ him. I felt like it was best to leave this up to a top 3 to avoid further confusion about calling him a rapper. He’s very talented and you should go check him out though.

Now, we are down to our top three. Two of them are Nashville natives that didn’t want to just take the country music route. The third is from Chicago but runs in the circles of these Nashvillians. All three of them are also going down different future paths. One is giving up rap to go country, one is continuing to rap but also includes rock and country music on his albums. One releases different genre albums whenever the fuck he wants with no rhyme or reason. Who are these men? Let’s break it down.

Adam Calhoun

Adam Calhoun is an absolute freight train. His music is polarizing because it is often very political. Some people love the symbolism of the state of politics in his music, others don’t. Regardless of where you stand on his music, there’s no denying his talent. He has teased two new projects this year. The first, “The Brave,” is a project he did with Tom MacDonald and is coming out in March. His final rap album will be out later in 2022. Both projects should be massive hits for Calhoun before he moves to country music. His latest video for the song “New World Order” has over 4 million views in 11 days. If you like Calhoun check out some of his older stuff like “Country” and “Die Tonight.”

Calhoun isn’t only a musician; he is a popular as a YouTube personality. His video about Carhartt got 442K views in 12 days. He is super outspoken about his political views and how he sees the world. I very much enjoy these videos, especially because of videos like the Carhartt one. I own about 90% Carhartt and I can’t afford to get rid of all my clothes, but Calhoun can, and he did. He also challenges lots of common themes in the world. He’s attacked racism, white privilege, and the double standards of free speech on social media. He isn’t crazy though; he’s calculated and uses a real-life example of things. I would very much enjoy seeing him in a debate with a lib because he would be very impressive and well-spoken.

Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll is going in a different direction than Calhoun. I would argue that he has done the most for his brand in the past few years and has come into his own. Jelly Roll came up as more of a rapper but lives in Nashville and often writes with country industry people. He also currently has a rock song “Dead Man Walking” climbing the charts. Unlike Upchurch though, he doesn’t release different albums for different genres. His album is a huge melting pot, a sign of genres dying. Jelly Roll has been a recurring guest on “Bussin’ with the Boys” and the “Just Being Ernest” podcasts. This has helped him reach new audiences. He is super raw and unfiltered, he doesn’t hide his inner struggles and on the mic, he talks effortlessly.

Back to the music, Jelly released “Ballads of the Broken” in 2021. The album has some smashes on it, “Walking” “Son of a Sinner” and “Over You” included. This album is becoming a game-changer for him, as it has taken him to the radio, the Grand Ole Opry, and on a major tour. Jelly Roll is coming, and if he doesn’t win this year, he should be in contention for years to come.

Upchurch

Ryan Upchurch is a force like Calhoun but for different reasons. Like Calhoun, he is a YouTube figure. Unlike Calhoun, he only dabbles in politics from time to time. Instead, he often talks about the music industry. He recognizes that the industry fucks over young artists and is on a mission to bring it down. Will he? Maybe, but either way, he has at least brought light to it. He is a little more of a personal blogger than Calhoun, so his other videos talk about some of the bullshit in his life he deals with.

As for the music, he crushed it last year. He released “Mud to Gold” in early 2021. The album had the songs “Mud to Gold,” “My Yard,” and “Gas” on it. He then released a very hyped country album in the summer. “Same Ol,” “Real Country,” and “Trade Gettin Drunk” are the biggest songs on that album. To finish off the year he released a remixed video for the song “Broadway Girls” with Chase Matthews. The song got released by Lil Durk and Morgan Wallen the week before. Upchurch was going to release the song anyway, but Wallen ignored Church one night on the town, so he released it sooner as a fuck you. The video has over 6 million views on it in about a month. At first, I wasn’t a huge fan. But after listening to it a few times, it might be better than the Wallen version.

Winner

Congratulations to Ryan Upchurch for winning the first-ever Beats Beer Bonfires rapper of the year award! Church is the first big name in country rap. Despite Calhoun and Jelly Roll coming on hot the past few years, they still haven’t surpassed Ryan. The coolest part of this award is the three guys are all friends. They all support each other, have much with each other, and won’t give a fuck that I even wrote this article. But I did anyway, and we are happy to announce Ryan Upchurch as the first-ever rapper of the year!

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Adam Calhoun for President?!?

Adam Calhoun has always made waves with his unapologetic opinions and stern tone in his YouTube videos. This hasn’t changed even a bit during this sensitive time in United States history. The video “Tough Time To Be A Proud American” was released on January 7th, which contains his blunt opinions on the sad events at the United States Capitol Building. Adam expresses his views about politics, his disappointment with our current president, and his disappointment with politicians in general. This seems to resonate with many Americans currently, especially after the last stimulus bill passed with much “unneeded” spending to non-American entities. After talking about this, Calhoun says he will be running for president in 2024. It seems as though he does not care what anyone says to him about it, saying if Trump and Biden can be president, “I can be president” (Timestamp 4:33). He uses strong language when talking about running for president and recent events, demonstrating his passion for these matters. Regardless of political view, patriotism may just be what many Americans need to get through the dark period we are currently experiencing.

This isn’t the first time he has referenced running for president either; he released a video on December 16th titled “I’m Running 2024”. This video, posted to YouTube about 3 weeks prior, also talks about his extreme disappointment in current politics and government. Whether or not Adam will be running for president is currently unknown. The next election is 4 years away, and many things change quickly, and weirder things have happened. Kanye West has expressed his interest in running, so Calhoun definitely qualifies if he can do it. Hearing more from Calhoun may become an exciting commodity that people won’t keep themselves from watching.

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2021 Bar Fight Bracket

Here we are, the first debate in Beats, Beer, and Bonfire’s history. We all know that it’s March, and everyone makes brackets for everything, so who are we to be an exception. Unlike other brackets, though, we do one that we think people will actually give a shit about. Country music singers should handle themselves at a bar, but most of them can’t. I don’t think that chart-toppers like Dan and Shay or Sam Hunt would throw hands in a bar, but the old-school rednecks of country music past are a totally different story. On top of not being country at all anyway, they are more Hollywood and pop than gritty country artists. I genuinely like all of the artists in this bracket, and I think they all make fantastic music, which was not a qualifier. If someone had listed Sam Hunt, he would be on the bracket, but obviously, no one thinks he is tough.

I made an Instagram poll and asked people who they thought would win a bar fight to start this bracket. Conveniently enough, 12 artists were nominated, so it was easy to put a bracket together. These artists come from different backgrounds, from more radio-focused names like Morgan Wallen and Tyler Farr to Texas country master Cody Johnson to rap artists Upchurch and Adam Calhoun. We even have women in the bracket, as Carrie Underwood might not be known as the toughest chick, but she did grow up on a farm and has mom instincts. I think that if any modern female artist got nominated, it would behave to be her.

The first round of the bracket had eight artists, while four artists had byes. This means round two had eight artists, round three had four, and round four was the finals. To determine the matchups each round, I put each artist’s name on a wheel. I then had another wheel with the appropriate number of numbers on it. I spun the wheel with the artist’s name, followed by the number. In round one, numbers one through four received the byes into round two. Then in the following rounds, the wheel was spun again. I went through all of this trouble because I wanted it to be random and unbiased throughout the tournament. It also led to some exciting matchups, which can be seen below.

Round 1

Round 1 featured some exciting matchups and a few upsets right off the bat. The artists that received byes were Brantley Gilbert, Trace Adkins, Trey Lewis, and Cody Johnson. Artists like Gilbert and Adkins are favorites in this tournament and didn’t really need help. However, Trey Lewis, who isn’t a household name, and Cody Johnson, who isn’t nearly as physically big as some other contenders, might have benefited from the early advantage. The rest of the matchups are as follows…

Carrie Underwood 28% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 72%

           The first matchup, Underwood vs. Williams Jr, I didn’t think would be much of a discussion. I think Carrie Underwood might have gotten a boost against most people due to being the lone female, but it’s hard to vote against a legend. The one argument that could be made is that Carrie Underwood is a super athletic 38-year-old, and Hank is 71 years old who has spent more of his life at a bar than at a gym. Personally, I would expect Underwood to be able to beat Hank. Still, I didn’t expect the majority to agree with me. At the end of the day, Hank Williams Jr. took this matchup by a considerable margin. I think we will see the trend throughout this tournament that people are voting on legends like they are in their prime. That isn’t necessarily the way I intended this bracket to go. Still, at the same time, I didn’t really make rules, so it was up to interpretation. 

Morgan Wallen 81% vs Tyler Farr 19%

           In my opinion, the first upset of the tournament, I expected Tyler Farr would take Morgan Wallen down. Honestly, if this fight actually happened, I would still expect Farr to win. Still, Morgan Wallen has a considerable following, so I think his fans stepped up this round. Not that I don’t think Morgan Wallen is a tough dude, and I’m sure he has been in a bar fight or two in the past based on his drinking habits, but I don’t think he would beat Farr. Regardless my opinion doesn’t matter. The people have spoken, so Morgan Wallen will move on round to, and really the voting wasn’t even close.

Adam Calhoun 51% vs. Toby Keith 49%

           In the best matchup of round one, Adam Calhoun was pitted up against the man who admits he is only as good once as he ever was, Toby Keith. Adam Calhoun has gone to jail for aggravated assault, which I would’ve assumed gave Calhoun a massive advantage, but I was wrong. Toby Keith made it close, and for about 22 of the 24 hours, the two went back and forth; in hour 23, they were tied. At the last minute, one final person gave Adam Calhoun the nod. This was a crazy close poll, and I hope this isn’t the last one like this. 

Randy Houser 37% vs. Ryan Upchurch 63%

           The final matchup started very similar to the Calhoun vs. Keith matchup. Both of them were back and forth,  as I would check one minute and see Upchurch winning, but the next minute Randy Houser would pull ahead. However, about halfway through, Upchurch started to pull away from Houser. I think physically, I would take Randy Houser, but Upchurch just has a dog in him that I think would overcome Houser. Again in a super close pull, the general public agreed with me as Upchurch pulled ahead and moved onto round two.

Round 2

           Round two saw every artist who received a bye in round one facing off against a last-round winner. I think that we might see some close matchups again. Looking at these matchups, I believe I know who would win in real life, but this isn’t reality, and the underdogs with big fanbases have been showing up. Also, Adam Calhoun himself voted on all of these polls, so we will let you know what he voted as we go. Without further ado, round 2 results… 

Cody Johnson 31% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 69%

           The Texas cowboy went up again, Bocephus, and based on the last round, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. I voted for CoJo because, again, he’s a 33-year-old cowboy going up against a 71-year-old legend who, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly in fighting shape. However, like I’ve said before and will probably say again, I didn’t make rules, and I think many people are picking Hank Jr. in his prime, so that is why he took down Cody Johnson. As for Adam Calhoun, he was on the winning side as he voted Hank Jr. to win.

Trey Lewis 21% vs. Adam Calhoun 79%

           This is an interesting one, and not because of the results. This is the first poll so far is the first time that BOTH of the guys voted for themselves. Trey Lewis and Adam Calhoun each picked themselves to win, which led me to put up a poll asking them if it was time to put on the gloves. Neither replied to that, which is a little unfortunate, but probably better off for Lewis. I still am siding with the guy who literally has gotten arrested for aggravated assault, and I think that I will until the end. Most people agreed with me, and Calhoun moves onto the semifinals.

Morgan Wallen 38% vs. Brantley Gilbert 62%

           This is the matchup that I was the most nervous about. I think everyone knows who would win the fight. Brantley Gilbert would absolutely dominate Morgan Wallen. I’m sorry, Morgan, I like you, but damn son, you would go down. I think that Wallen still was being voted on by fans, but it just isn’t happening. Adam Calhoun agrees with me, as he voted for Gilbert as well. Brantley Gilbert will be moving on into the semifinals, and I think he has a legitimate shot at making the finals.

Ryan Upchurch 53% vs. Trace Adkins 47%

           Last round, Upchurch and Randy Houser were both close for a lot of the poll, until closer to the end when Upchurch pulled away and took a commanding lead. This one was almost the opposite of when Upchurch was out to a massive lead before Trace came surging back. However, it was too little too late, as Upchurch held off the charge and won this fight. Adam Calhoun had his boys back, so he ended up picking perfectly this round.

Round 3

           I don’t expect this round to produce any close results. Nothing against Upchurch, but I think that people realize that Calhoun is just a physically bigger human, which will propel him to the win. On the other side, Hank Jr. has taken out Carrie Underwood and Cody Johnson, who aren’t exactly known for putting off fighter vibes. I think that if we don’t see a Brantley Gilbert, Adam Calhoun finale, it would be a shock. However, I don’t want to count out Hank Williams Jr.

Ryan Upchurch 54% vs. Adam Calhoun 46%

           Well, I guess I got the first part of my shocker. When I went to bed last night, Calhoun was leading Upchurch by a few votes. I wasn’t ready to call it, but when I woke up, and the lead changed, I was shocked. Upchurch received a streak of at least ten votes in a row, which took him from down four to up six votes. I would be interested to see this fight in real life because as much as I love Upchurch, I wouldn’t be putting money on him. Maybe this came down to a popularity contest a little bit, but that’s the risk you run with a public poll. Well, congratulations are in order for Ryan Upchurch and welcome to the finals.

Brantley Gilbert 38% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 62%

           The other matchup, and the other upset, in my opinion, in the semifinals. Again, just like the first matchup, Brantley Gilbert led for well over half of the time. However, Hank overcame Gilbert last night and into this morning to move onto the finals. I personally looked at this bracket like it was a 71-year-old man vs. Brantley Gilbert, but I think most people were voting for vintage Hank, and he took it. The final round will feature a legend and the biggest name in country rap.

The Finals

           It all comes down to this. Two men have bested the other ten artists in the bracket. Upchurch had the tougher road to get here and really never beat anyone by a large margin. He took down Randy Houser, Trace Adkins, and Adam Calhoun in his path to the finals. On the other hand, this might be Hanks’s biggest challenge, as he had Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, and Brantley Gilbert. The first two aren’t exactly known for their hillbilly bar fight vibes, so it wasn’t much of a shocker that he went past them. Brantley Gilbert was my favorite in the previous matchup, but Hank proved that he still has the following to pass the artist. I’m excited to see this final round, I would have to say Upchurch has the edge, but I have slept on Hank enough and don’t want to anymore. I think it is a 50-50 tossup but let’s see how it goes!

Ryan Upchurch 33% vs. Hank Williams Jr. 67%

           I can’t say I’m surprised by the result, but I can say the split was much bigger than I expected. I expected this to be at least a 45 to 55 percent amount, but Hank didn’t even give Upchurch a chance. From the beginning to the end, Hank took a quick lead and never looked back. With that being said, congratulations on Hank Williams Jr. on being the first-ever Beats Beer and Bonfires Bar Fight Champion!

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