Country Music News

Kane Brown worried his 2021 ACM win was a “handout” amid country music’s race reckoning

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Erika Goldring/Getty Images for CMT

In 2020, alleged racism and bigotry in country music moved to the forefront of the conversation unlike in any year prior, thanks in part to work from Black artists like Mickey Guyton, as well as a galvanized Civil Rights movement nationwide.

But there’s a difference between an artist receiving support and becoming a so-called ‘token’ artist, and that’s a line that the genre continues to learn to walk. In a roundtable conversation in Billboard, Mickey and Kane Brown reflect on their experiences as Black country artists, while Brothers Osborne also joins the conversation to add input from band mate TJ’s recent experience of coming out as gay.

As an example, Kane points to the fact that he won his first-ever ACM Award for “Worldwide Beautiful” this year. “And it wasn’t like, ‘Congratulations on winning your first ACM. How does it feel?’ It was like, ‘How does it feel being Black and winning your first ACM?’ So in my head, I was like, ‘I feel like I’m about to win this award because of everything that’s going on right now.’ I felt like they were just giving me a handout.”

Fortunately, Kane goes on to say, he was surrounded by people who convinced him that he won the award because he was deserving. But the Brothers Osborne agree that they felt an extra push to collaborate with Black artists last year amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We had people coming to us being like, ‘You should collaborate with Kane or Mickey.’ And I’m like, ‘I would love to collaborate with them, but I don’t want to collaborate with them just to be like, ‘Hey, I like Black people,’” says TJ. “Hopefully, it should be implied already.”

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