'People assume I'm a rapper': can country music get over racial prejudice?


In November, something unprecedented happened in the world of country music: two black artists reached No 1 spots in the same week. Jimmie Allen, a 32-year-old singer and songwriter from Delaware – an east coast state not normally associated with country – became the first black artist to chart a No 1 debut single for country radio airplay with his song Best Shot. And YouTube-covers-artist-turned-country-star Kane Brown hit the top spot on the Billboard album chart with his second album, Experiment.

Allen first moved to Nashville in 2007 and spent the best part of a decade trying to get signed. “At first, things weren’t going my way,” he tells me. “I was something new – no one was going to take a chance on a black artist from Delaware – so I lived in my car for four months, working in a gym where I would wash my clothes and shower. I did any job you could think of, from waiter to janitor to personal trainer.” His persistence clearly paid off but Allen is emphatic about the effort it has taken. “I was one of those guys where nothing ever fell into my lap, I had to go out and work for it,” he says. “Especially since there is a lack of experience of people who look like me.”

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 14/12/18]