From the early 2000’s through the present day, the Moonshine Bandits have been releasing their own unique take on country rap, a brand they call “CaliCountry” to make it perfectly clear that they are “country” but not from where you’d stereotypically assume is a country place i.e. the Southern part of the United States. These Bandits – Tex and Bird – are “country” by virtue of how rural their hometown of Los Banos is compared to the urban sprawl of places like the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you were going to find a pickup truck driving, Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking, blue collar living community in Cali, it would definitely be in a place like Los Banos. At the same time based on my own personal experience Los Banos would be the “big city” compared to where I grew up; a place where the nearest town had no stoplights, one stop sign, a post office, a bank, and barely enough people to justify any of those things.
In the end that’s what the Bandits mean when they say “we’re all country.” In their view it’s a state of mind, not the size of your hometown or its latitude and longitude. They tend to make anthemic songs that reflect that mindset in much the same way Everlast does his white trash blues and the Kottonmouth Kings do their stoner rip rock. If you either have their mindset or embrace their musical stylings, songs like “Stomp Like Hell” are going to be right up your alley, flying the flag for their version of country rap as high as they can. Again “country” doesn’t mean dueling banjos and Daisy Dukes, but it does mean they’ll sing the hook and rap about being “good ol’ boys” on the track.
“In the zone, I’m on one
Get another shot, I’m gone son
Flash them lights when the bass go thud
Good ol’ boy ’bout to cut a rug
Ride that bull baby get the saddle
Buck it so hard make the bottles rattle
Bump that facial, make it shake
Snap them necks ’til they finally break
Hard to handle off a bottle of Jack
Boots all scuffed up in the back
Threw it like a boomerang, brought her back
Didn’t know God made a broad like that”
If that song is still somehow a little too hip-hop for those who hear the word “country” and expect actual country music from the country music genre, they might take more of a shine to their 2017 version of “Take This Job (and Shove It)” with the outlaw country singer who made it famous crooning on it – David Allen Coe. As the Bandits rap about how much they can’t stand their employers (“Here’s my damn notice, I ain’t givin two weeks”) Coe puts his signature twang all on the track.
And as is their custom on Moonshine Bandits releases, they find like minded Average Joes to rap with. I apologize for the intentional double entendre but it had to be done, because Colt Ford is both a labelmate and a kindred spirit. He’s a little more traditionally country that the Cali boys he raps with on “Dad’s Pontoon” but in terms of the affection for all things rural they are peas in a pod. At times like these I really ponder the “two Americas” problem, because those who grew up in an urbanized modern world may have just as hard a time understanding these views and lifestyles as do those of a “redneck” persuasion the “liberal elites.” Country rap might be our only shot at bridging the gap between the two, so by all means Colt take it away – straight from Athens, Georgia to your eardrums:
“Hey y’all, all aboard
Moonshine Bandits floatin with Colt Ford
Out here chillin on the pontoon
Start with the sun, end with the moon
We got cold beer, and brown liquor
That mason jar’ll get you there quicker
That good green, mean good things
My Southern charm, is a girl’s dream
I’m so buzzed like a bumblebee
I got so many girls in front of me
Pontoon pimpin’ what it’s ’bout to be
You better watch yo’ girl, she’ll be gone with me”
It may not seem like it but there is something to relate to besides the tired cliches of “we all bleed the same” and the necessary cynicism in hip-hop about it being whitewashed the way Elvis Presley did rock ‘n roll. Everybody wants to have a good time. It’s the most fundamentally human thing there is and it doesn’t know religion, race, or geographical place. Even if you abstain from drinking, you probably don’t from dancing. Even if you believe dancing is a sin, you probably enjoy the company of a willing partner. Even if you’re not interested in companionship, you’d probably enjoy floating on a lake drinking some cold iced tea and listening to good music. If none of those things seem appealing then you’re probably not reading this review – you’re in a convent with no internet and the only time your lips move is to praise the Lord (unless you’ve taken a vow of silence). Therefore I’m not writing for you nor are the Moonshine Bandits making music for you. They made it for the other 99%, and since almost none of us has Gates or Trump money, that’s a category we ALL fit into.
Besides an appreciation for eating well, drinking plenty and having good fun now and again, the Moonshine Bandits fit into hip-hop’s oral traditions by telling stories with an ability to color the blank canvas of your imagination. On “Renegade Rides Again” you can see the protagonist in your mind’s eye as clearly as a movie. And again unless you live in a celibate retreat far removed from “sin” we’ve all probably seen or known a woman who was “Hell on Wheels” whether urban or rural. I’m not saying that the CaliCounry stylings of the Moonshine Bandits are for everyone. Quite possibly it’s too country for a large portion of the readership. For the open-minded or those who already enjoyed the musical stylings of Bubba Sparxxx (who also guest stars on “51fifty”) there’s something to appreciate about these California rednecks and their PBR-soaked version of hip-hop. You might feel “country” yourself by the end.