Music Issue 2002 

From rock to rap, from tunesmiths to composers, picking up the mixed signals of Music City

From rock to rap, from tunesmiths to composers, picking up the mixed signals of Music City

As Mark Mays notes in his survey of Nashville hip-hop in this issue, the term “Music City” is by no means synonymous with “Country Music USA.” Nearly 50 years before the first broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry in 1925, the Fisk Jubilee Singers were Nashville’s musical ambassadors, taking their spirituals and anthems of uplift to stages in England and Europe. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, jazz, big band pop and later, gospel and R&B, would define “Music City” every bit as much as honky-tonk and hillbilly boogie. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s, when major record labels like Columbia, Decca and RCA set up shop in town, that Nashville became identified with country music, eclipsing the pop, rock, soul and, in recent years, hip-hop and punk scenes that have continued to make noise here, albeit more often underground than above it.

In this, the Scene’s first annual music issue, we offer a glimpse of the broad spectrum of the artists and phenomena that make Nashville “Music City.” The stories and sidebars that follow aren’t intended as an exhaustive look at that spectrum so much as a snapshot that’s more or less emblematic of what it means to make music here. Worth noting as well is the subtext that underlies the issue: the question of what it means to “make it” in Nashville, or beyond—or, for that matter, what it means not to “make it,” whether due to circumstances beyond one’s control or by design. Most of all, we hope the writing in this issue is, in some way, as varied, engaging and inspired as the music people have been making here since the beginning.

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