2020 was a lot of things. But fuck all of the negativity. So much of the good in 2020 belonged to Nashville. A cultural renaissance in the Music City revolving around a few arenas of art and music turned the Ville into the world’s emerging creative capital to watch. Hip-hop, Neo-Soul and R&B — all of which have strong roots not only in the South, but in Nashville, too — paved the way for their orbiting cultural spheres — fashion, videography, photography, and social statement — to likewise thrive at a communal scale. And through that communal lens — through the power of creatives and community working hand-in-hand — timeless albums, the directors of tomorrow, community and social leaders, and more will one day trace their roots to what was happening creatively in Nashville’s underground art and music scenes in 2020.
As a magazine, we spoke on the stories unfolding there a lot — arguably too much. But once enveloped in a renaissance, it’s hard not to constantly dive deeper and deeper underneath a tidal wave of vibrant creativity. There were more mainstream projects to cover that we ignored in favor of covering the work of artists who truly deserve an outlet and weren’t getting one, because to be frank, everything that came out of Nashville this year — every single, project, album, music video, magazine release, fashion upstart, and community program — was every bit as enticing as anything else in the cultural sphere, and even more unique.
Nashville’s aesthetic is one built from grass-roots authenticity The rappers there rap with a draw, a meaningful pen, and a Southern tradition in storytelling ability. The vocalists there sing with a force of emotion that draws to mind generations of Soul slinging crooners who have, too, called home to the South. The visual artist there are experimental and wildly independent, rivalling the work of much more established, much more financially endowed names elsewhere. The leaders — creatively, socially, communally — were some of the most important names in a year defined by social statement and the creativity that brought it to limelight.
There was no scene that worked harder nor worked together better. Every artist in Nashville seems to work with every other; support every other. And that constant stream of collaborative efforts ensures that the creative genius of one artist is able to flow to another — that their two sounds create something new — that something new spurs even further creative risks taken and even more resounding success. Every project that came from Nashville in 2020 was not only collaborative, but was also celebrated for being collaborative, and that small market mosaic equation for support is one that worked better for Nashville than any formula has worked for any scene elsewhere.
Nashville is blueprint not only for how to craft a creative community of artists all rising up the ranks in their respective fields, but blueprint also for simply how to create. Perhaps it’s their collaborative nature; perhaps it’s the fact that the scene had been crafting and creating for years without much outside coverage prior to 2020; perhaps there is just something in the water; but, whatever it is, Nashville’s 2020 is an enigma — a true renaissance — whose artists, creatives, and other names truly earn whatever it is that will undoubtedly come their way; whose influence rooted in the releases of 2020 will come to define where hip-hop and R&B culture go in the future.
2020 was filled with stories, and all of the negativity that hit elsewhere in the world also hit Nashville. In fact, if anything, before the world at large began to fall to shambles, Nashville learned how to respond to trauma and severity in early March as a series of tornadoes ravaged the community. But Nashville, as they would come to respond to the pandemic, to protests, to racial reckoning, to bombings; to growth, to frustration, to isolation, and to the simple underline of pain, responded creatively and communally. A rebuilding effort in the shadow of the tornadoes spurred by the creative community there built them a foundation on which to rely, to communicate, and to work even as hit after hit knocked over the world, but seemed to elicit creativity, art, and strength from Nashville.
And at the end of 2020, as Nashville faces even bigger hurdles, we choose to tell their story — to claim 2020’s good in Nashville’s honor — because as so many struggled, Nashville’s underground creative communities used their work to give strength to those who were searching for it; relatability for those who needed it; an escape for those stuck at home; and promise for those looking for a new start in a new year.
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