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The Country-Rap Song Taking Over Nashville? It Isn’t ‘Old Town Road’



The second most-viewed version of Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up” on YouTube — after the original, audio-only clip — is a video in which he teaches the country singer Lainey Wilson the song’s accompanying dance.

“The Git Up” is an instructional number: almost every lyric is a direction for where to place your foot, your arm, your cup. And it has been extremely popular on TikTok, the social-video sharing app. In the casual video, the two dance side by side in a parking lot, Wilson taking her cues from Brown, sashaying and spinning and doing the butterfly just a split second behind him. It’s all very amiable and inclusive — it would be hard to feel like you couldn’t be in that parking lot, too.

There is, however, one twist to this feel-good story. “The Git Up” has just arrived at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, an unexpected turn of fate given that the song is, well, if not exactly rapped, at least melodically spoken. And its performer is black, still a relative rarity in the country music industry.

And yet not even four months have passed since Billboard heaved Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” off the same chart, saying it “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” (The remix with Billy Ray Cyrus, an actual onetime country star, fared no better, apart from spending 14 weeks and counting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.)

The apparent about-face shows that the country music industry isn’t strict in its dogma, only in its hypocrisy. It is historically cloistered, presenting significant roadblocks to outsiders — the charts reflect those pressures. (Just ask the women of country music.)

But there are several reasons “The Git Up” thrived where “Old Town Road” failed. Brown is signed to a country music record label (BBR Music Group). He deploys a country twang earned growing up spending summers in the rural South. He plays lap steel guitar.

The most crucial reason might be structural. “Old Town Road” didn’t arrive through Nashville’s front door. It rose up from the SoundCloud murk with an arched eyebrow, fortified by the language of memes. On TikTok, where young people transformed into cowboys to its theatrically comic country boom-bap, it was a shared idiom. It leapfrogged right over the country music industry to the pop world, leaving Nashville in the cold, and resentful.

“The Git Up,” on the other hand, is a direct invitation. You see it in the videos. The one in which Brown coaches Wilson is one of a few circulating online where he gamely demonstrates the dance for white people. In another, he suffers the rhythmlessness of the longtime radio and TV personality Storme Warren, who currently hosts a morning show on Sirius XM.

In the clip featuring the renegade syndicated morning radio host Bobby Bones and the singer Caylee Hammack, Brown appears mysteriously in the background about halfway through, like a curious judge, before joining in.

There’s at least one — and likely soon to be many more — of Brown demonstrating the dance for hapless radio D.J.s around the country (though credit goes to Otis Oshow of 94.9 The Bull in Atlanta, who appeared grateful to have an opportunity to show off his rhythm).

Where “Old Town Road” demanded engagement on its own flamboyant terms, “The Git Up” is an extended hand of camaraderie. These videos are testaments to cross-cultural understanding, and they are premised upon a fundamental lack of it. What Brown offers here is cachet, a little confidence, an opportunity to safely transgress while not fundamentally disrupting the genre’s power dynamic.

Brown, 34, has a career that predates “The Git Up,” working behind the scenes with both country and pop stars, including Fergie and Kane Brown. “The Git Up,” he’s said in interviews, is part of a sound he calls “trailertrap” — “country music with 808s, hi-hat snares, kick drums and beatboxing.”

Or in other words, the same country-rap framework that Lil Nas X was working with (albeit flecked with irony in his case), and which has been deployed in Nashville by country rappers like Colt Ford and crossover stars like Sam Hunt. For the most part, that sound has been held at bay by country tastemakers. “The Git Up” is still more of a viral concern than a radio presence in Nashville. Though it has received a smattering of spins on country radio, it hasn’t even appeared on Billboard’s country airplay chart.

So even if the song’s a little dim, “The Git Up” appearing on a country chart, and topping it, is significant. Whether the track is being included on the basis of its genre bona fides is dubious at best — it is the very definition of a novelty song.

“The Git Up” is the Hokey Pokey, the Hustle, the Macarena (which is not, in fact, about a dance, though it was popularized via a dance). It could have been a “Hee Haw” sketch. The lap steel — played by Brown — is just a touch fuzzy, as if plucked off some old 78 r.p.m. record. It is warm, welcoming shtick.

But while “The Git Up” is lighthearted fun, it doesn’t make much of a case for Brown as an artist. As a singer, he has an interesting, rich voice, as heard in a video of him singing a Chris Stapleton song backstage at the Grand Ole Opry a few days ago.

But he doesn’t rely on it in his music. Brown recently released an amiable but largely banal self-titled EP that features songs that feel ideologically half-cooked, stitching together genres but not hiding the seams (though it contains two songs — “Georgia Power” and “Tn Whiskey” — that more credibly fit in with contemporary country than “The Git Up”).

If “Old Town Road” was a provocation, politically and aesthetically, then “The Git Up” feels like a step backward. Its acceptance is a victory for excluding those who push hard against old tropes as much as for those who seek a toothless path to inclusion.

At the end of “The Git Up,” Brown raps, a few times, “That was not so bad, was it?” — a slyly pointed coda aimed at skeptical insiders who might be leery of a country-rap song, or a viral dance craze, or a black performer in the country music industry. Or maybe it’s just a metaphorical arm around the shoulder — an act not of defiance, but reassurance.

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Kyoto Studio Devastated by Fire Is Revered by Anime Fans



The Japanese animation studio that police say was targeted by an arsonist in Kyoto on Thursday has long been a fixture in the anime world, known for its “slice of life” stories and detailed scenery that entices fans to visit the actual locations depicted onscreen.

Kyoto Animation, known by fans as “KyoAni,” was founded by Yoko Hatta and her husband, Hideaki Hatta, in 1981. Most of the studio’s production has taken place in the building that was the site of Thursday’s fire, which killed 33 people and injured dozens more. The Kyoto police said a 41-year-old man was believed to have set the fire by igniting a flammable liquid around the studio.

Stevie Suan, a professor at Hosei University in Tokyo who has a doctorate in Manga Studies, said in a phone interview that Kyoto Animation is known for high quality, meticulously detailed works — some of which have become hits among anime fans. From their artful scenery to the precise design of characters’ eyes and hair, Kyoto Animation is considered a standout studio with international appeal.

In an industry that often relies on contractors and freelancers to execute projects, Kyoto Animation has been lauded for hiring much of its staff full-time, Dr. Suan said. It is often cited as an example of a company that offers its employees a dependable work environment to develop their artistry.

“It’s a horrendous shame how much talent is being lost,” he said, “These are the top of the top in their industry.”

Some of the series created by Kyoto Animation can be streamed on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Funimation, a major distributor of anime. Here are four of the studio’s most popular works:

One of Kyoto Animation’s early hits was a series called “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” a high school drama that turns into an elaborate science fiction story. The series is based off a Japanese light novel, a genre similar to young adult fiction in the United States.

As it rose in prominence, Kyoto Animation became known for its intimate storytelling and character interactions, said Patrick Macias, the editor in chief of Otaku USA Magazine, a bimonthly title about anime.

“They’re really stories about people and the relationships between people,” Mr. Macias said in a phone interview. “It’s everyday life through the filter of anime.”

The “Lucky Star” series follows a group of girls attending high school outside Tokyo, including an intelligent female protagonist who is distracted from her studies by anime and video games. It’s a classic example of the “slice of life” genre, Dr. Suan said, which centers on everyday scenarios, lighthearted humor and lovable characters, in contrast to heavier and darker anime dramas.

“Lucky Star” became an early example of an anime series that inspired “sacred pilgrimages,” a trend in which fans travel to landmarks depicted in the series, Dr. Suan said. One popular site is the Washinomiya Shrine, a Shinto landmark that was reproduced in “Lucky Star.” A more recent series by Kyoto Animation, called “Tamako Market,” galvanized fan pilgrimages to a shopping street in Kyoto, where they could imagine walking the same paths as their favorite fictional characters.

Certain scenes in Kyoto Animation shows are so treasured by fans that the studio publishes books with detailed drawings of the frames, according to its website.

A more recent Kyoto Animation phenomenon is “Free!,” a series that has also spawned films, one of which was released this month. The initial anime series, released in 2013, centers on a group of boys who swam together in elementary school and reunite in their high school years to form a swimming club. The plot follows the ups and downs of the boys’ friendships and sports careers.

Ian Condry, a professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a phone interview that “Free!” stood out in the anime world because of its visual focus on the male body rather than the female body. Criticism is sometimes directed at anime studios for their focus on sultry poses by female characters that are shot with the “male gaze” in mind, Professor Condry said, but “Free!” sparked a discussion about male bodies being the focus of the lens.

The recent Kyoto Animation film “A Silent Voice,” showed that the studio was skilled not only at telling lighthearted “slice of life” stories, but ones that deal with heavy human emotions as well, Dr. Suan said. The film centers on a deaf girl and a boy who bullied her when they were younger. The boy, Shoya Ishida, now in high school, wishes to make amends with the girl, Shoko Nishimiya, who was once his victim.

“A Silent Voice,” showcased the storytelling range of a studio beloved for its skill in animation, Dr. Suan said.

“They’re generally known for animation that is quite intricate, and usually on female characters,” he said. “But they have a range.”

Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London.

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Patrice Rushen Found Success in Jazz and Dance Music. She Hasn’t Been Forgotten.



When she was 17, Ms. Rushen and her band won a competition that earned them a spot at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and she found herself swarmed by interested labels. She signed with Prestige, and she released three albums between 1974 and 1976, all while attending U.S.C. From the start, her music was of the fusion zeitgeist: Some of the five original tracks on her 1974 debut, “Prelusion,” were full of wound-up swing and acoustic instrumentation, but on others, Ms. Rushen doubled her Fender Rhodes keyboard with a woozy ARP synthesizer, while the drummer Ndugu Chancler tended to a slinky rock beat below.

By 1976, when she released her third and final Prestige album, “Shout It Out,” she was writing funky jazz-pop — in the mold of the Mizell Brothers or the Stanley Clarke-George Duke Band — and she was singing on top of it, in a wispy, beguiling, ingénue’s voice that betrayed her age in ways that her musicianship never did.

She had also become an in-demand side musician, playing with jazz-fusion titans like Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Turrentine and Donald Byrd. By the time she signed to Elektra she had a significant following among jazz audiences, and among black radio stations’ more open-minded listeners.

With Elektra, she found that her mixed identity confused even the executives who’d signed her. “Haven’t You Heard,” a coy disco burner from her 1979 album “Pizzazz,” reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, but when she delivered the follow-up, the label told her there were no hits on it. The album was “Straight From the Heart,” and its first track was “Forget Me Nots.”

“Sometimes they wouldn’t be ahead of the curve,” Ms. Rushen said. She and her management paid to promote the record themselves, and “Forget Me Nots” became a radio mainstay, hitting No. 23 on the Hot 100.

When things caught on, the benefits didn’t escape her. Learning from jazz history, Ms. Rushen had been diligent about claiming her publishing rights. “That was a very big thing,” she said. “To know that the mechanism was in place, if things caught on, for that catalog to be of value.”

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‘Orange Is the New Black’ Taught Us What Netflix Was For



Some of the inmates are nonviolent offenders; others have killed. Some have suffered bad breaks, abuse or straight-up injustice; others are dangerous, vicious and unrepentant.

“Orange” extends understanding to all of them (as well as to bullying guards and cynical prison executives) while not simply excusing anyone. If it’s jarring in how it can shift from laughter to shock, slapstick to shivving, it may be because accepting the complexities of real, flawed humans in a flawed system is jarring, too.

This has honestly made the seven years of “Orange” a tough balancing act. It was strongest in its first four seasons, at the end of which the young, hopeful inmate Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) was choked to death while being restrained by a guard. Her wrenching, violent end alienated some viewers to whom it prodded at the wounds of real-life police brutality cases, or recalled an ignominious history of series killing off lesbian characters.

The incident was polarizing, but it was not handled lightly or forgotten. In retrospect, it was the fulcrum of the series’s whole run, and its repercussions continue through the end of the final season. In Seasons 5 (set during the resulting riot) and 6 (dealing with the riot’s aftermath), the series tilted more toward the somber, and the comedy felt more discordant.

Season 7 — not to violate the perimeter of Netflix’s maximum-security spoiler list — is, if not the show’s best, a return to form. The centerpiece is the story of Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (the outstanding Danielle Brooks), facing life in prison for a murder she didn’t commit during the riot. The first person Piper met in Litchfield, Taystee, in retrospect, is the actual aching heart of “Orange.”

The season steers between nihilism and false hope. It recognizes that the weaknesses of the justice system and the forces behind the cycle of crime may be intractable. (In another blunt metaphor, a reform-minded new prison official asks how she can adjust a chair in her office; “You can’t,” she’s told. “It’s broken.”) Yet it holds out the possibility of redemption, small acts of decency and strokes of luck.

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