Jimmie Allen Talks New EP “Bettie James,” Dealing With Racism In Country Music

Jimmie Allen is one of the biggest artists in country music. He talks to AllHipHop about being a black man in the genre, his collaboration with Nelly, BLM, the confederate flag and more!

In 2018, and 2019, country music star Jimmie Allen shook the Billboard charts with back to back number one hits. In 2018, his single “Best Shot” took over the #1 slot on the Country radio charts. Jimmie proved to be a fan favorite with his second single “Make Me Want To,” which also hit #1, marking the first time in history that a black artist launched their career with two consecutive No. 1 singles on Country radio.

Now the Delaware native is back with a new EP featuring a few of music’s biggest legends. The platinum-selling singer/songwriter’s star-studded collaboration project “Bettie James” is out now via Stoney Creek Records/BBR Music Group.

Jimmie assembled an amazing lineup for the seven-track EP “Bettie James,” which was co-produced by Allen and Ash Bowers. The new music was inspired by and named after his late father, James Allen, and late grandmother, Bettie Snead, who passed away in September 2019 and February 2014 respectively.

Jimmie checks in with AllHipHop just prior to his historic performance at the Grand Ole Opry to discuss being Black in country, how his family inspired his new EP and Nelly’s amazing songwriting skills.

With a new four-month-old baby and new music on the way. Jimmie talks to AllHipHop with a whole lot to be thankful for.

AllHipHop: Jimmie, What’s up, man?

Jimmie Allen: Man. Good to see you. The family is good. I got a little girl four-month-old so me and my fiance are adjusting to being the parents of a daughter. It’s a completely different thing, a completely different ballgame.

AllHipHop: What’s the difference between being a boy dad and a girl dad?

Jimmie Allen: Being a boy dad is kind of like you “do your thing, do what you wanna do. Being a girl dad, it’s like every little thing I’m like, looking around. And I know as she gets older, I know one day she’ll get a boyfriend and ahhh, I’m taking my time to that, having a boyfriend and all that other stuff and, you know, making sure you know, boys got their minds in the right places.

AllHipHop: 2020 has been a very interesting year with Coronavirus and racism but I really wanted to talk to you personally about the current state of social justice, as an African-American that’s in a predominantly Southern white music genre. How, how have you personally been dealing with stuff like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the countless others African-American lives that have been taken?

Jimmie Allen: Man, it bothered me. Like it messed me up for a while man. That’s why, I didn’t post anything or say anything for a couple of days, like five-six days. I had people on my socials like Jimmie when you gonna say something about George Floyd. I wanted to say something. But at the same time, when I say something I want to be meaningful, you know what I mean?

I feel like I’m in a position to where I can say something. and people would listen in my area of music. So I had to let people know I’m hurt. This is wrong. We’ve got to change it. I’m definitely tired of seeing Black people just killed man for just the simplest things that could easily be solved through a conversation or simply being handcuffed, and put in the car. So when I post I let people know my frustration and how it hurt me and how as a father of a Black son, I’m definitely concerned for his safety and mine.

I got pulled over one time in Virginia when I was headed to Delaware driving after “Best Shot” went #1. This cop pulled me over and was like “do you know, I stopped you?” He’s just like really aggressive, off the jump. “Hey, man, you got any weapons in your car? You got any kind of drugs?” I’m like “Nah, man.” He was like, “I need to search a car, I’m having to get up the car right now.” So dude started pulling on the door handle.

Luckily this other officer pulls up. And he says, “Hey, is everything okay over here? What’s going on?” He looks at me and says “wait aint you Jimmie Allen that sings ‘Best Shot’?” I’m like “Yeah.” He said, “Well, I’m gonna go talk to the guys.” He talked to them, calmed them down, but my thing is, what if I wasn’t Jimmie Allen that sang “Best Shot”? Man, it bothered me. So I wanted to say something about how there is injustice. And if you know if people don’t see it, I feel like you you’re lying to yourself. It’s there.

To us when we want the change, I want them to see it the way I see it right now. The reality is man, it takes time. The same thing growing up, there’s a lot of things in my denomination that I was taught. That wasn’t really biblical. It was just tradition. So I had to unlearn a lot of stuff I was taught. And in the process of unlearning, I’m questioning why did people even teach me this to begin with? But my delivery should be in a way to where it’s not aggressive to the point where they don’t listen. Because we want people to hear what we’re saying. And we want change. And I feel like the way is to say how we feel but in a way to where they can process it. Because if someone doesn’t see the world through your eyes, and experience everything you experienced, we can’t expect them to just understand it right away. You know, they actually have to see it.

When I tell people that Black Lives Matter, sometimes they hit you with all lives matter. But all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter. So if Black lives don’t matter. How can all lives matter? It’s that simple to me. I don’t understand what the big issue is people have saying Black Lives Matter.

AllHipHop: The Confederate flag is a big symbol that is used throughout the South. I’m sure it’s in your face constantly when you’re moving through different venues. How do you deal with the flag and how do you feel about these Confederate monuments that are coming down?

Jimmie Allen: Man, it’s good to see people taking the stand towards taking them down. It’s crazy how you have you know, when people want to take down something that has to do with the mistreatment of Black people there’s an issue. If there was the Hitler statue up that would have been down. There’s no question about it. History or not man, wrong is wrong and right is right. The crazy thing is I’ve had some interesting experiences. I remember one time I was at a show. And this dude came up to me and said I loved your concert, I’m a true fan. He quoted songs off my record and said, “can you sign my vest for me?” I was like, “Yeah.” He turns around his vest is a big old confederate flag. Well, I signed right in the middle of it.

I also have to keep the mindset of some people honestly, in their heart, don’t see a problem with certain things that might affect me or you. And that’s where you have to take into account, just because things don’t affect you personally, doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. The same thing with the whole Washington Redskins thing.

My great grandmother didn’t let me watch no Redskins games in her house. She said, “to me, it is a derogatory term.” She said, “imagine there’s a team called the Washington Black Boys, the Washington N-Words.” There would be a problem. How we treated Natives has been suppressed over so many years, we become numb and don’t even think about it like that. But again, just because you don’t think about it, doesn’t mean it’s not right.

AllHipHop: Have you had to deal with racism moving within the country music, not necessarily just fans but in the corporate part of it just being a Black man in country? Have you had to deal with people saying crazy stuff to you in meetings or that kind of stuff?

Jimmie Allen: Oh, yeah. There was a guy that worked for a certain record label. We are sitting in the meeting, and this guy says, “Jimmie, I like you, man. You’re super cool for a Black guy.” Then he proceeds that say “well I like to music, but I’m not sure how our fans feel about your people. Or if your people would support you.” I turn the guy who was with me and I’m like, “he is racist as hell.” So I said, “I’m out of here bro.” I could have snapped and said something. But again our actions are a choice. No matter how mad and frustrated I was, I wasn’t going to let this guy’s negative mentality force me to say something or do something that would hinder me from reaching my goals. It was hard to bite my tongue, I’m not gonna lie. But he no longer works for that label or any label. He’s currently unemployed in the music business.

AllHipHop: So let’s get into this new EP “Bettie James.”

Jimmie Allen: I named it after my grandma who died in 2014 and my dad died last year, September 2019. I’ve always wanted to leave their legacy in a trail through my music. My grandma, she was quiet and was an usher at a church. But she was a fisher as well. And she taught me a lot about being patient. My father was the one that taught me a lot about being yourself and taking risks. So I was taking a risk with this project with the different artists I wanted on it. And at the same time, I was patient in my creativity and writing the songs and finding the right artists for the right songs.

AllHipHop: I have to ask you about this Nelly collaboration. I have never heard Nelly sing like this before. I’ve heard Nelly jump on country songs and I heard him do what Nelly usually does, but I honestly on this track, I had to listen back a couple of times I realized he was singing on this song.

Jimmie Allen: I don’t think people quite understand how talented this dude is. If you go back and listen to all his other records, he was hitting y’all with that slick, singing rap thing for a minute. And he gets down man. I remember sitting there writing with him saying like, “I’m writing with Nelly.” This might not be a big deal to people, but it is a big deal for me. You know growing up in Delaware I remember being in middle school, high school, and college bumping Nelly. And to be in a room writing and creating with him was awesome man. So hats off to Nelly, I appreciate you for taking the time to sit down and write with a dude you never met before man. He’s a real one for sure.

AllHipHop: You’ve got a lot of big names on this project, but I had to ask you about Darius Rucker. As a trailblazing Black country music star himself, did he give you any personal advice or any conversation that you guys have been able to have on how to navigate?

Jimmie Allen: Yeah, man, because Darius is in one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Hootie & the Blowfish, he took over the rock world and now the country world. He told me, be yourself. Don’t let anyone dictate how you respond to what you do, what you say. No matter what you do people are going to have opinions about it.

But you have to be comfortable with yourself you know what I mean? And that’s my ultimate goal. To let younger Black people know that might want to do country, to do it! Young Black people that might want to be a rocker. We can’t let people can let society put us in the box as Black people and say you can only do Hip-Hop and R&B bro.