Country rap began to expand as a genre when Bubba Sparxxx and producer Shannon "Fat Shan" Houchins created Sparxxx's 2001 debut album Dark Days, Bright Nights as an independent release which was later re-released on Interscope Records. The trend continued in 2005 when country artists Big & Rich introduced Cowboy Troy to the country world via 2005's Loco Motive released on Warner Brothers, which reached #2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.
Coming off the success of Bubba Sparxxx's platinum album debut, Houchins soon after created Average Joes Entertainment with country rapper Colt Ford. This was the beginning of country rap taking its place as a real and separate genre while at the same time influencing mainstream country. Colt Ford has sold over 1.5 million albums including 4 that have landed in the top 10 of Billboard's Country Music chart. Ford's 2012 Declaration of Independence debuted at #1 on Billboards Country Chart and his 2014 album Thanks For Listening debuted at #1 on the Billboard Rap Chart making him the only artist in history to have #1 albums on both Billboard Country and Rap Charts, proving that country rap is a true genre and spawning a slew of new artists. The Lacs and Lenny Cooper have both sold well. The Lacs' third and fourth albums Keep It Redneck and Outlaw In Me both debuted #3 on Billboards Country Chart in August 2013 proving further country rap's popularity as a new genre.
Other artists of this genre include Boondox, Lenny Cooper, Moonshine Bandits, Big Smo, Yelawolf, Jawga Boyz, Upchurch, Sam Hunt, and Redneck Souljers. Country traditionalists FJ Outlaw, Big Kountry and Blake Shelton have since adapted elements of country rap into their music in recent years.
In 2017, rapper Murs posted a YouTube video discussing the genre called "Does Hick-Hop Have a Right to Exist?" In January 2018, Rolling Stone published a feature story on the genre entitled "Rhymes From the Backwoods: The Rise of Country Rap".
Physical sales of country rap albums are high in more rural areas where country rap fans do not have the Internet services required to stream or download music.
There are numerous country rap festivals where artists gather to play their music for fans upwards of 7,000.
Bubba Sparxxx, considered one of the pioneers of the genre, produces music largely rooted in urban hip-hop. In contrast, "hick-hop" artists such as Colt Ford and Upchurch make music that is more rooted in country.
The Confederate flag is subject to dispute among country rap artists, with its supporters arguing that they use it to express pride for their Southern heritage, while others within and outside the genre believe it stands for racism and should not be used. Rapper Murs said, in his analysis of the genre, "I know the majority of Southerners weren't slave owners and that [they] got the raw end of the Industrial Revolution and a whole lot of other shit, but so did we. We've got to get rid of that flag. It's literally just a piece of fabric dividing us."
Some country rap artists, like Upchurch, utilize the flag in their promotions and stage presence, and others, including Big Smo, Struggle Jennings and Teacher Preacher, oppose its use. The Lacs, who used to sell merchandise featuring the Confederate flag, have stopped using it.
Teacher Preacher, a biracial country rap artist, and one of the few artists of African-American ancestry in the genre, refuses to use the Confederate flag because of its roots in racism, but said that he experienced little racism among country rap fans that waved the flag.Nappy Roots, an African-American hip hop group who have played country rap festivals, say that they did not experience racism from audiences waving the flag.
The term "hick-hop" has also been criticized by some country rap artists, with Struggle Jennings saying, "I love the country, I love the South, I've been fishing and hunting, but I'm not a hick. I'm not hick-hop."
The political ideology of country rap artists is perceived as being right-wing and conservative, due to some right-leaning politics expressed by artists like Upchurch; however the political ideology of country rap artists ranges from liberal to moderate.
Country music in the way of talking blues style has been an influence of rap since the 1970s, by example "Talkin Blues" performed by Woody Guthrie (1947) and the famous 1961 hit "Big Bad John" performed by Jimmy Dean. Certain individual country music songs show a hip hop influence, such as Toby Keith's singles "Getcha Some" and "I Wanna Talk About Me and Red Solo Cup which feature spoken-word verses recited over an insistent rhythm. The same style applies to The Bellamy Brothers' 1987 single "Country Rap."Neal McCoy has also recorded a hip hop version of the theme song of The Beverly Hillbillies called "Hillbilly Rap," which includes samples from other hip hop songs. American musician Everlast is often known to fuse the two genres.
In September 2004, American hip hop recording artist Nelly released "Over and Over", a collaboration with American country singer-songwriter Tim McGraw; the song peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100. Jason Aldean had a number-one country hit in 2011 with "Dirt Road Anthem," which was originally done by country rapper Colt Ford and country-rock singer Brantley Gilbert. The song was featured on his album My Kinda Party. A remixed "Dirt Road Anthem" featuring rapper Ludacris was played at both the 2011 CMT Music Awards and the 2011 Grammy Nominations Concert.
American rapper B.o.B and country singer Taylor Swift also collaborated for a country rap song titled "Both Of Us", in 2012. Swift did some vocals, mainly the chorus in a country rhythm and B.o.B performed it as a hip-hop song with some banjo guitars in the background. A similar song was made by British rapper Rae featuring featured vocals from an unknown featured artist. It features a dubstep backing over the verses, similar to that of B.o.B's "Both Of Us" and a country-written chorus sung by a Swift-sounding performer.
In 1991, hip-hop house duo The KLF released a redone version of their 1987 song "Justified & Ancient (Stand By the JAMs)," originally featured on the 1987 album 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?), recorded under The KLF's previous incarnation as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The 1991 version featured vocals from American country music singer Tammy Wynette, and was featured on The KLF's album The White Room.
In 2000, rapper Tow Down featuring HAWK released "Country Rap Tune".
In 2017 Carrie Underwood's "The Champion" featured rapper Ludacris.