So I’m newly fascinated by the song “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line.
Wait. Let me state that differently: I’m newly fascinated by the remix of “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line—featuring Nelly.
Why, you ask, does this interest me? Well, I suppose because it seems so damn deliberate. When the original “Cruise” song came out (minus Nelly), it was a big hit for the duo—two guys (Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard) who met a few years back as students at Belmont University in Nashville. But it’s strictly country, and if you watch the original video there’s (quite literally) not a person of color to be seen. In fact, the video (to me) oozes a certain Dixie pride! something that would strike an ugly cord in many. Hard to explain—but watch and tell me I’m wrong.
I absolutely, positively guarantee you someone at the record label held a meeting with someone else, who held a meeting with someone else and someone else. They liked the song, and were encouraged by the numbers, but thought the “urban market” (as it’s still crudely called) was lacking, and not enough mainstream FM radio stations were picking the tune up. “What we need,” someone surely said, “is a rap interlude.”
“But who?” someone else asked.
I’m picturing a room. One with a couple of flat-screen monitors, a long mahogany table, a bunch of iPhones churning out whatever iPhones in meetings churn out. The executives are in their 40s and 50s.
“Would Jay-Z do it?” guy says.
“How about Kanye West?” guy says.
“Well, we can’t call LL.”
“Kid ‘n’ Play still around?”
“Not that I know of.”
Then, it hits them. Nelly. He’s available, he’s had a strong career, he’s 38 (but looks 28), he worked with Tim McGraw a few years back, and that went well enough. The two guys from Florida Georgia Line are patched in via conference call.
“We’re thinking of adding Nelly to your song.”
“But the song doesn’t have a rap in it,” says Hubbard. “It’s a country song.”
“Right,” says someone. “But our polling shows rap interludes work well.”
“I don’t know,” says Kelley. “We put our hearts into that song an—”
“You don’t have a choice,” says someone, “if you want another album …”
Nelly is called. He records the verse at home in St. Louis. He flies to Los Angeles to shoot his video scenes. He wraps his arm around Hubbard and Kelley when he’s told to wrap his arm around Hubbard and Kelley. He pretends to drive a car. At day’s end, he receives his check.
And so it is.