NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville, Tennessee, is known as the country music capitol of the world, where on any given night, you can hear musicians playing chords on their guitars and musicians like Drew Dixon singing from the souls.
But take a deeper look at the history of the music scene there and you’ll quickly learn that much of the foundation was built by African American artists.
“Black music has always had a presence in Nashville. Black music has always been here,” said Shannon Sanders, a two-time Grammy Award winning record producer and an executive director with BMI, one of the music business’ leading royalty and publishing companies.
Sanders knows African American musicians helped pave the way for what Nashville has become today. And after being overlooked for decades in the city, he says Black artists are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
“We’ll be able to have the best of national Black music and the best of local Black music live in the same space,” he said.
Sanders is talking about the recent opening of the National Museum of African American Music.
“It feels good to feel the city embrace more of its musical heritage,” he said.
From the pioneers of Rock and Roll to the future funk, people of color say its inspiring to see the impact that African Americans have on Music City.
“It is definitely important to see the hand that we have played in music throughout the decades,” said Dominique Grant, who was touring the museum.
There are musical genres that sound much different than what’s being played at honky tonk bars on Nashville's historic Broadway.
“We are such a dynamic city and now we’re at that turning point to really recognize all of it,” said Eric Holt, JD, a professor of music business at Belmont University.
Holt also works with the promotion company Lovenoise and represents several African American artists in Nashville like Bryant Taylorr, a rising star on the local and international hip-hop scene.
Taylorr had one of his songs used in a commercial during this year’s the Super Bowl.
“It’s not like any rules to making it out of Nashville, or making it out of anywhere that you are,” he said.
Taylorr says for years, Black artists were looking to leave the southern city and explore other options.
“We want to move to Atlanta. We want to move to L.A. We think those are the spots for our music," he said. “R&B and hip-hop really hasn’t been accepted here, or so we thought.”
But now, the country music capital of the world is keeping more of its homegrown talent by producing music that combines different sounds and different cultures.
“We’ve evolved to a point to where the fusion of country music and hip-hop music have come together," Taylorr said. "And where do you go for that? You have to reach out to the Black community for what’s starting to pop.”