Hick-Hop: Hip-Hop Meets the Hollow What began as a modest effort to ease racial tension in rural Kentucky coal country produced an unexpected musical result: Hick-hop is a compelling mix of uniquely American musical genres: bluegrass and rap. NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

Hick-Hop: Hip-Hop Meets the Hollow

Kickin' It in Rural Kentucky with the Rap Group Kuntry Killaz

Hick-Hop: Hip-Hop Meets the Hollow

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Hill Hop rapper Delivery and fiddler Beverly May rehearse on the porch at Appalshop. Photo by Petra Mayer, NPR hide caption

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Photo by Petra Mayer, NPR

It began when prisoners from urban jails were moved to new "supermax" facilities in rural Appalachia. The racial tension between white corrections officers and black inmates could be felt throughout the community.

Amelia Kirby and Nick Szuberla of the Appalshop arts center in Whitesburg, Ky., were looking for a way to ease that tension and find common ground between the cultures. They came up with the idea to combine mountain music with hip-hop. The result is being called "hick-hop" or "hill-hop," a compelling mix of uniquely American -- and disparate -- musical genres.

Music by Delivery and The Kuntry Killaz

Listen 'Hillbilly Gangstas'

Listen 'Country Boy Can't Survive'

Listen 'Pimpin' on Pennies' (Note: Adult Content)

NPR's Howard Berkes heard about Appalshop's "Holler 2 the Hood," a weekly hip-hop radio show that caters to the nascent hick-hop scene. He went to Whitesburg, where he met Delivery (a.k.a. Mike Shepherd) and The Kuntry Killaz as they worked on lyrics with African-American poet Ren Pegues.

Music by Dirk Powell and DanjaMowf

Listen 'Untitled'

Listen 'Untitled 2'

The Killaz follow in the footsteps of Dirk Powell, a renowned mountain music fiddler, and Virginia hip-hop artist DanjaMowf. The two collaborated on the first hick-hop project at Appalshop two years ago, blending beat box rhythms with a banjo and fiddle. And the mix was magical -- an oil-and-water mystery that held together in spite of the perceived differences.

Something similar is happening with the Kuntry Killaz as they work with Pegues in the Appalshop studio.