HomeWorld NewsCountry rap Kidd G tour to stop at Phenix City Amphitheater
Country rap Kidd G tour to stop at Phenix City Amphitheater
May 17, 2023
Music industry folks describe him as a country rapper. Kidd G shrugs off labels.
“I don’t think it’s rap. I don’t think it’s country. I just think it’s music,” the 20-year-old Harris County native told the Ledger-Enquirer during an interview at his mother’s home in Columbus. “… It’s just me being me.”
Whatever his music is called, him being him has been mighty successful.
Kidd G, whose real name is Gabriel Horne, soared to prominence when his songs went viral on the internet. Signing with a record label quickly followed. And now, his second tour will bring him back to the Chattahoochee Valley for his first concert in front of home fans.
So when Kidd G comes on the Phenix City Amphitheater stage May 19 (venue opens 6 p.m., concert starts 7 p.m., tickets at bigtickets.com, capacity 3,000), it will be a full-circle moment. That’s where he attended his first concert — and when his dream started.
How he emerged
Kidd G started tinkering with freestyle music at age 13 as he hung out with his older brother, Dustin.
“I like creating something that wasn’t there before,” he said.
While school buildings were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kidd G was more interested in making a country music song on his computer than paying attention to his remote classes. So he dropped out of Harris County High School during his junior year.
“I just stopped doing the work,” he said. “… I was in a whole different world.”
That song ended up being his biggest hit, “Dirt Road,” which gained attention on SoundCloud and TikTok and has generated 31 million views since its official video debuted in October 2020 on YouTube.
Kidd G lists Chase Mathew, Riley Green, Justin Moore and Colt Ford as musical influences. His great-uncle Billy Burnette played guitar with Fleetwood Mac. Without formal training, however, Kidd G compares his musical talent to fishing: He doesn’t know how to read music notes, just like he doesn’t know how to read a fishfinder, but “I just know how to catch ‘em.”
Explaining his creative process, Kidd G said, “Sometimes I’ll have these lyrics in the back of my head. I can hear an instrumental beat a year later, and I’ll finally find it. Or sometimes I just hear a beat, and I’ll start either freestyling to it or I’ll sit there and try to write my but off for an hour to it. It’s all about how I’m feeling that day. That’s all it is. That’s where everything comes from.”
Kidd G writes his lyrics and finds the beats on the internet or relies on his team to produce the music. The internet also is how he came up with the name Kidd G at age 15 while playing with an online generator for hours.
The story of “Dirt Road”
After finding the music from a track by Ryini Beats on YouTube, it took Kidd G only half an hour to write “Dirt Road,” he said. His inspiration for the song came from memories of driving around Harris County with his best friend.
“We’d just go ride, ride for hours,” he said. “It’s like the whole world disappeared.”
Live my life like a dirt road
Kickin’ up dust, slingin’ rocks
Shotgun rider, watch for cops
The neighbors hate us, want us to stop
Bass too loud, but we can’t stop
Kidd G uploaded a verse on TikTok, and “it ended up blowing up,” he said. “The song wasn’t even really finished.”
It generated 70,000 views in the first hour after he posted it.
His grandmother heard the song through his bedroom door, knocked on the door and told him, “I really like that song.”
Kidd G wondered, “Man, what’s going on with this song?”
His mother also told him she likes it, and Kidd G thought, “Man, I did something with this one.”
Indeed he did. The popularity of “Dirt Road” attracted immediate interest from music industry officials.
Six days after he posted that song, Kidd G flew to Miami to sign a production deal with Javier Sang of C’est La Vie (aka Rebel Music). He spent six months in Miami to produce more songs, such as “Teenage Dream,” which broke into Billboard’s Top 40 Hot Country Songs ranking in 2021 and puts “shotgun rider” in a different context from his “Dirt Road” lyrics:
Baby, if you roll with me
I could be your teenage dream
You could be my shotgun rider
I don’t want a one-nighter
Yeah, you’re everything I want and need
Kidd G recalled those studio sessions, lasting as long as 14 straight hours.
“It was just — I don’t know — insane,” he said. “… It’s just countless songs. To be so blessed like that — I don’t know — I’m just so thankful for it. I still haven’t taken it in.”
Kidd G insists he wasn’t worried he could be a one-hit wonder.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “If it don’t, it don’t. I just believe God has a plan for a lot of people, and it’s just going to pan out the way He wants it to pan out.”
Asked he how attained that perspective, he credits his mother, Rachel Hinnant, who works as part of the office staff at Lane Dermatology in Columbus.
“She never lets things really faze her,” he said. “… At the end of the day, as long as I have my family, I’m all right.”
His mother keeps him grounded, Kidd G noted, then added, “Everybody does. It’s a team effort. Trust me.”
In January 2021, the New York Times published a feature story about him with the headline “Meet Kidd G, Country Music’s Next Emo-Rap Star.” He saw folks around Harris County share the article and praise him, but some naysayers remarked about the slim chances of making it big in the music business.
“I don’t care of about the percentages,” Kidd G replied. “If I say it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
In May 2021, Kidd G signed with talent agency WME. His music label is Big Machine’s Valory Records, in partnership with Rebel Music and Geffen Records.
In September 2021, his debut album, “Down Home Boy,” dropped. Kidd G said in the news release that the 14 tracks are “an opportunity to show people who I am. I’m still the same down-home guy who’s all about family, friends, my hometown and making music, and I think that comes across in my music.”
The title song on “Down Home Boy” is autobiographical, tracing the arc of his rise to fame — and promising he won’t forget his roots:
Still rockin’ this flannel shirt
My boots still covered in dirt
You can take me ‘round this big ol’ Earth
And I’m still gon’ be that down home boy
Kidd G’s initial tour launched in October 2021, starting in front of about 100 fans at the House of Blues in Houston, Texas.
“It was really scary,” he said. “… After that, it’s just been a train that keeps on going.”
The seven-stop tour in four weeks also took him to Dallas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta and New York, with crowds increasing to around 1,000, he said.
“It was something you could never imagine,” he said.
Also in 2021, Billboard magazine ranked Kidd G at No. 30 on its Emerging Artists chart.
A year later, Billboard included Kidd G on its annual 21 Under 21 list of “some of the most exciting and successful young artists in the music industry,” sharing company with stars Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish.
By then, his total streams surpassed 338 million.
In July 2022, CMT (Country Music Television) called him a “genre-bending artist” for being a “risk taker” who mixes country with hip-hop for a “distinctive crossover sound.”
In December 2022, Kidd G released “The Nashville Sessions,” billed as a special collection with stripped-down versions of six singles.
Now, he’s back on the road amid his yearlong 2023 nationwide tour, comprising more than 90 shows. Such a pace can be a tough grind at times and prompt doubts that “maybe this ain’t it anymore,” he acknowledged. “… But then, I’ll hop off stage, and I’ll see someone walk up to me and say, ‘… You’re the reason I’m still here.’ You’re just like, ‘It’s such a blessing.’”
Having his friends join him in the car as they drive between cities on tour is “very, very, very fun,” Kidd G said. And seeing and hearing the audience react to his songs during the concerts is a joy, he said.
“When you can make a song that people can sing in the crowd back to you, or if you can make a song for someone to cry to, right there five feet away from you, that really shows something,” he said. “That’s the most fun part.”
Putting down his mic and listening to the crowd sing his lyrics, Kidd G said, “gave me chills just thinking about it. … It’s just a blessing. … It’s been way beyond what I expected.”
Moving to Nashville
Kidd G created a band through auditions in Nashville. He has a drummer, bass guitarist, lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist.
He was reluctant to move to Nashville, but he realized establishing a base there would benefit his career. So he moved into a house with two buddies, Brody and Christian Clementi of the country music duo CB30, the opening act for Kidd G’s concert in Phenix City.
“If I want to give people what they want to hear, and I want to better myself and better my family, then I’ve got to just take that risk,” he said about moving to Nashville. “… The music’s just gotten better and better just from me being up there.”
Kidd G admits he’s “really bad about the business side” of his music, so he trusts his team, but he’s intent on not letting anybody outwork him.
“I’ll make at least 100 songs in two or three months,” he said. “Nobody will ever hear them, but I’ll make the music, and I make it for me mostly. … I’ll listen to it. My friends will listen to it. My family will listen to it. I ain’t got to put it out. It doesn’t change not one thing for me. So it’s just always been something I’ve enjoyed. But once you lose music for enjoyment and you worry about views and money, you’re not doing anything.”
So he continues to call the Chattahoochee Valley home.
“I’ll never leave Georgia,” he said. “This is where I’ll die one day. I love this place.”
The first concert Kidd G attended was the Riley Green show at the Phenix City Amphitheater in 2019.
Kidd G recalled the thrill of being in the crowd with his friends, hearing and seeing one of his favorite artists perform and singing along. He vowed then, “One day, I’m going to play there.”
Now, he makes another promise:
“I’m going to blow it out of the water,” he said. “I’m going to sing better on that stage than anybody’s ever sung on that stage. … It’s going to be the craziest show of my life. I’m going to bring out some performers, other artists with me. I’m not going to say any names, but it’s going to be a good show.”
Reaction to success
Five of his songs have collected more than 10 million streams on Spotify:
“Dirt Road” 54 million-plus
“Teenage Dream” 32 million-plus
“Teenage Dream 2” (with Lil Uzi Vert) 22 million-plus
“People Talk” 14 million-plus
“Summer in a Small Town” 14 million-plus.
Kidd G marvels at his fast climb.
“At that moment in your life, you don’t really realize what’s going on,” he said. “Everything is 100 miles per hour at that point. It just going, going, going, going. … Once everything dies down, you look back and go, ‘Man, I want to feel like that again,’ but you don’t even realize you felt like that. It’s amazing.”
Kidd G also is amazed when fans tell him that his songs have “saved” them and helped prevent them from “doing something tragic.”
“That’s just a big thing for me,” he said. “… I guess they find the realness between the lines.”
Kidd G elaborated on that realness.
“It’s all driven off of emotion,” he said. “It’s all driven off of family, friends, fans, viewers, everything. … It’s just me having fun and giving people what I think people want and what I want to put out.”
Meeting country music stars such as Brantley Gilbert, Colt Ford and Chase Matthew, and hearing them compliment his work, Kidd G said, “takes your breath away for a minute, but I tell myself, ‘I got here from doing the same thing they did.’ So, at that point, we’re in the same room for a reason.”
What he’s learned
During this journey, Kidd G has learned some tough lessons about human nature.
“At the end of the day, everybody pretty much shows their true colors,” he said. “… Not everybody believed in me. My mom being an amazing mother, she always believed in me, and she’s had to make sacrifices for me. … People don’t really believe like in dreams all the time. They’re not going to want to take that ride with you. … I’m very fortunate for having such a good family. If I didn’t, then I don’t know what I’d do.”
He has made some tough decisions about relationships.
“You’ve got to realize who’s there with you and who’s not,” he said. “So that came with cutting a lot of people and realizing what’s there. So that’s one thing that I think changed better for me: I realize who’s really with me. Once you realize that, you can’t stop.”
He also has learned to be grateful for his upbringing.
“Gabriel and Kidd G is Columbus and Harris County,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s all he is. … The kid I was before all this, he’s still here.”
The Chattahoochee Valley is a sanctuary for him.
“I can go to Panama City Beach and have cameras in my face 24/7,” he said. “Back home, people walk up, and it’s a handshake. … People are very respectful. … I just feel so safe here.”
His ultimate goal, Kidd G said, is to be successful enough to take care of his family and friends if they need his help. After that, he said, “I just want a couple of acres, a house and a bass boat. If I get that, I’ll be all right.”
Sounds like a potential Kidd G song.
Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.