In the video for Breland’s blemish single, “My Truck,” the twangy articulate accession is mouthed by a aloof Marlboro Man type. But again comes Breland, agile and enthusiastic, advance him out of the anatomy to booty over the singing, accouterment an article assignment in brand and ancestral expectations. “My Truck,” one of the year’s best artful singles, is a chatty admixture of country circumlocution and articulate arrangement with hip-hop bluff and cadence. “Wood-grain birr with the matte-black finish,” Breland sing-raps, “and it bout my shawty with the big ol’ butt.”
Breland fabricated the song aftermost September, in amid autograph R&B demos, as both an exercise and an advancing bit of strategy. “I’ve had a Billboard Pro associates for years,” he said afresh in a FaceTime account from his Atlanta home, cutting a shirt that apprehend GODFIDENCE. “I was acquainted of the actuality that the better almanac of all time is a country-trap song by an alien artisan from Atlanta and now no one abroad is putting out songs that complete like that. Wide open. Why on apple would I not accord it a shot?”
“My Truck” — his aboriginal attack — manages to be antic after actuality kitsch, agilely all-embracing the barter adeptness of the South while admixture in some active lyrics and arched-eyebrow meta-commentary about actuality a atramentous aerialist in a commonly white space: “Scuff these Jordans/You can say you abhorrence me.” It’s a little bit of a cartel from accession blithely divebombing into rural aesthetics.
“I’m the fourth-wall breaker,” Breland said. “It is absurd for me to abide in this amplitude and not accede the actuality that it’s a little weird.”
Breland — a 24-year-old genre-fluid pop-minded aptitude with a agile singing articulation and an autogenetic adeptness to actor Young Thug-esque breeze patterns — savvily jumped into that vacuum. On Friday he’ll absolution his self-titled admission EP (on Bad Realm/Atlantic), abounding of breezy, automatic songs that accomplish ablaze assignment of the borders amid country, hip-hop, R&B and pop, including country-themed allurement (“Horseride”), country-textured R&B (“Wifi”) and hip-hop-accented pop country (“In the Woulds,” with the country singers Chase Rice and Lauren Alaina). It’s a huge swing, and additionally absolutely logical.
Breland’s access is a almsman to both the country rap tunes that bedeviled the South in the 1990s and 2000s and additionally the hip-hop-inflected country that’s been a assiduous attendance in Nashville in the 2010s, best consort by Sam Hunt (and beneath impressively by endless of his peers).
Yet Breland, built-in Daniel Breland, wasn’t aloft in either of those traditions — he grew up in a New Jersey domiciliary of actuality singers, and sang and abiding a cappella with a accumulation alleged the Phantoms aback he was in academy at Georgetown. He started authoritative his ancient appropriate as a able songwriter then, too, and during his green year, he begin himself alive in Far Rockaway, at the home of the French Montana associate Chinx (formerly Chinx Drugz). One night, Breland recalled, “He larboard and said, ‘I’m activity to go do this show.’”
He never came back: Chinx had been murdered. “That let me apperceive that hip-hop apparently wasn’t activity to be for me,” Breland said. “I don’t anticipate that I’m absolutely cut out to be in the trenches like that.”
After graduation, Breland confused to Atlanta and began autograph predominantly R&B songs, about 2,000 in three years, he estimates, with alone flickers of success. But he was diligent, and additionally absorbing abundant of a accompanist that aback he acquaint Chris Brown covers, Brown would sometimes repost them. He got acclimated to administration snippets of new assignment on his Instagram story, which is area he aboriginal acquaint the “My Truck” hook, and accustomed advance to absolution it on his own.
“‘My Truck’ can be a actual polarizing song,” Breland said. “The catechism for me to acknowledgment was, ‘Do I accept that I could cull this song off?’” And again the acknowledgment that I had was: ‘Why not, right? Why not me?’”
Since then, he’s angled bottomward on the sound. He formed with the Nashville-based Sam Sumser and Sean Small, who’ve accounting and produced for Lizzo and Usher, and additionally Mitchell Tenpenny and Walker Hayes.
“You don’t apperceive if it’s a joke, arena off the accepted craze, the country-trap thing; we went into it acquisitive it was added aboveboard than aloof a one-song thing,” said Sumser, who forth with Small formed on two songs on the EP, “Hot Sauce” and “In the Woulds.” “This kid is way added than a quick meme.” (Charlie Handsome, who has produced for Post Malone, Kanye West and Khalid, produced on two songs as well.)
Breland additionally bent the ear of Hunt, Nashville’s pre-eminent hybridizer. In backward February, they wrote music calm in Hunt’s producer’s flat in Nashville, and they accept affairs to reconnect in June. (The two accept developed a able affinity — Breland coaxed Hunt into his aboriginal Instagram Live session.)
“I absolutely knew from audition ‘My Truck’ that he was talented, but actuality in the allowance with him, it was accession level,” Hunt said in a buzz interview. One of the account they kicked about was a “My Truck” remix with Hunt on it. Over the abutting few weeks, Hunt wrote several verses, and acclimatized on two, including lyrics that are, Hunt said, “as far into rural country as I’ve anytime gone”: “Toolbox abounding of bedraggled dove-shot empties, addled old clodhoppers and a Mossberg pump/Pull up on you at the red light, homie, bandy some Bone Thugs on and accomplish your apart change jump.”
For the video, he bought the affectionate of auto barter he had in apperception aback autograph the verse, a 1993 Chevrolet C/K 1500 4×4. Part of the action of the song — in accession to audition Hunt sing Breland’s boast, “Young, affluent and I’m pretty” — is audition Hunt, a dank country singer, angular into the melodies and patterns Breland established, a proof-of-concept for added advancing blends of country, R&B and hip-hop on the horizon.
The aboriginal “My Truck” had aboriginal abutment from 97.9 The Box (KBXX-FM), Houston’s affecting hip-hop station. “This sounds like Houston, it sounds like our station,” said Terri Thomas, its affairs director, who had accomplished out to Breland via Instagram absolute bulletin aural account of audition “My Truck” in aboriginal February. Aback they batten after that day, Thomas said, “I told him, ‘By the end of the day, you’re activity to be the new antecedence at the label.’” The song has aback been played broadly throughout the South, area barter adeptness is gospel.
Thomas has additionally accustomed some spins to the Sam Hunt remix, but as of yet, Hunt’s attendance on the song hasn’t helped it able the awfully bourgeois country radio ecosystem. According to advice provided by the radio tracking account Mediabase, “My Truck” has been played on alone a scattering of country music radio stations a scattering of times. (It has rural fans, admitting — the song soundtracks affluence of addled barter and ATV videos on TikTok.)
Much of the acclimation act for Breland affective advanced involves allure both sides. He has two managers — one from the apple of hip-hop and R&B, one from country. The coronavirus communicable led him to abolish his promotional tour, a annoyance for John McMann, Atlantic’s chief carnality admiral of pop and adroit promotion, who was agog to get the airy Breland in apartment with radio accommodation makers: “He’s the arbiter congenital artisan to do the promo game, go from bazaar to bazaar and breach bottomward the doors,” McMann said.
Instead of a tour, Breland did Instagram Live performances for added than 50 radio stations while bound bottomward with his ancestors in New Jersey, area he was originally quarantining. And he opened up a challenge for songwriters to accord verses to “In the Woulds.” He posts comedic videos on TikTok, including “How to Accomplish a Drake Song in 1 Minute” and one, for “Horseride,” in which he stands on his father’s aback as he crawls beyond the active allowance floor.
“The one affair that I didn’t appetite to do was lose steam,” Breland said. “You apperceive how music is — the sounds change every six months, for real.”
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