Austin Tolliver is here to put on for his own genre: country rap. With songs like “Ride 4 Me” and “Tip My Hat,” the rising star proves he has what it takes to become one of the greats, and mediocre is certainly not in his vocabulary. With his father being a professional football player in the NFL for over 13 years, the recording artist was always destined for greatness — only he’s here to tackle the music industry versus sports.
While the Louisiana native played football at New Mexico State University and college baseball at Texas Tech University, it was during his move to Nashville that he truly became enthralled with music. His ability to fuse both genres of country and hip-hop into one is one that does not go unnoticed, drawing influences from the legends from Tupac and Nelly to Tim McGraw and Billy Ray Cyrus.
In describing himself, Tolliver states, “I consider myself to be an eclectic man. I’d like for everyone out there to know I am the white Nelly and I take that moniker with pride. If you want to call me that, totally fine. Either way, I’m just a down-home boy who loves to get down and have a good time.”
And now, he’s ready to unveil his debut full-length album titled Ride 4 Me. Arriving on April 22nd, the 12-track project boasts lead singles “Yodelay You Down” and “Ride 4 Me,” showcasing his talents as a songwriter and simultaneously eager to bring the tracks onto the stage as a performer.
AllHipHop: How would you describe your sound?
Austin Tolliver: A lot of people say country rap, but I don’t like to put myself into a particular category. Because I grew up in a time in Louisiana where you could listen to all genres at a bonfire from George Strait, Garth Brooks, Vince Hill, and next thing you know Tupac, Nelly, and Luda came on. My whole thing is a gelling of sounds to give everybody something that they can hold onto.
AllHipHop: You’re from Louisiana, how does that play into your life and career?
Austin Tolliver: Louisiana is wild as hell! If you’ve been to Mardi Gras, you know it can get even more wild. Louisiana influenced me in a musical standpoint from the ability to blend cultures together, because we all grew up together. It’s really cool because I went to a public school that was almost 50/50 down the middle: white, black, whatever you want to put it at. None of us had a problem, all of us got along, because we all grew up in the same neighborhoods on the same streets and jamming the same tunes. I’m trying to send this message of positivity out to where people can understand it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world, we could all party together baby. That’s what Louisiana taught me and that’s what it teaches everybody that goes down there. I tell everybody: if you go to Louisiana, you’re going to Louisiana to awaken your spirit because it’s going to show you a different world.
AllHipHop: When did you move to Nashville? I know you were playing football in college.
Austin Tolliver: My wife and I moved to Nashville about 7 years ago. My wife’s family was already living here. We had to come up here and help raise my brother-in-law’s while they were going through high school.
AllHipHop: Is that when you fell in love with country music?
Austin Tolliver: Nah, I’ve been a country music guy my whole life. I grew up on country music, hip hop music, blues music, everything. I fell in love with country when I was a kid. My dad used to jam to Tim McGraw, Vince Hill, Garth Brooks, and Trey Lewis…his musical taste inspired my love for it.
AllHipHop: When did you realize you could do music for a living? Was there a turning point?
Austin Tolliver: No, really it was all a bet. A buddy of mine, Ty Clark, bet me that I wouldn’t go to a studio and beat his song, so I said ‘bet that…bet I could get a record deal before you.’ Sure as s### here we are, and he still yells at me. I owe my buddy Ty for my start in the music business. Without him calling me and challenging me, I don’t know if I’d be where we’re at right now. And I’m really proud of where we’re at right now.
AllHipHop: I know you were a great football player. Do you miss it at all?
Austin Tolliver: Eh, football is different to me. I grew up with a dad who was in the NFL for 13 years. My dad got drafted in 1989, and I was born in 1988, so technically I’d already gone through an entire NFL career before I was even a teenager. He played for San Diego, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, and Green Bay as a quarterback. My whole life was sports, I was going to follow the same path to be a football player, but life took a different direction. My dad said ‘you can entertain the world in a different way.’ I said ‘hell yeah let’s do it,’ and here we are.
AllHipHop: Is Austin Tolliver your real name?
Austin Tolliver: Yeah, that’s the name the government gave me I guess. My mama put it on my birth certificate so that’s my damn name. If you want to know who I am, just Google my name. I don’t care!
AllHipHop: What did “Tip My Hat” do for your career?
Austin Tolliver: Oh, “Tip My Hat” started this whole thing. It was the first single that my label (Average Joes Entertainment) released after I signed with them. They put me in a position to shoot up the social ranks in the social media world. When “Ride 4 Me” came out, it changed the whole landscape career wise. Now, we’re steadily building every single day. I owe a lot of my success to that one record “Tip My Hat,” I put it on everything I possibly can.
AllHipHop: How’d it feel for “Ride 4 Me” to hit a million views on Youtube?
Austin Tolliver: See that’s what’s crazy, “Ride 4 Me” is at 1.5 million views on YouTube now. I know it’s over 4 million on Spotify and over 3 million on Apple Music. That song went nuts and it went nuts on social media. We had an idea for the music video to incorporate all my social media supporters. As soon as we did that, the video came out, and the song went crazy. That helped elevate me into a different level of the entertainment world. You go from the minor leagues to the big leagues, but you’re still sitting on the bench trying to force somebody out so you can get in the game.
AllHipHop: What can we expect from your full-length album, Ride 4 Me?
Austin Tolliver: My album’s going to put me in the game and put somebody else on the bench, that’s the whole idea. I hope people understand that Ride 4 Me is a story about my life and personal experiences. I also hope people will gravitate towards it, while learning who I am as an artist and as a person. It’s going to catapult me to the next stage… we’re competing with the big boys now.
AllHipHop: What is it you want fans to take away from the project?
Austin Tolliver: Learning who I am as a person, not just as an artist. I want fans to understand that I’m telling the story of me in all these songs. What I went through in my life, what we and my wife of 15 years have gone through and overcame… all that b####### is out there. At the end of the day, what I want everybody to understand is, it’s a ride. And if you’re taking the ride… guess what? We’re trying to blast off!
AllHipHop: How did you meet your wife?
Austin Tolliver: I met her in college, after the first month I was there. In 2007, I walked into a tanning salon and told her I needed a table for one, because I thought it was a breakfast spot. It was called the Sunshine Inn and it really wasn’t a breakfast spot, it was just a tanning salon. Essentially she told me to go F myself, so I turned around and walked away. After seeing her in some short shorts, I waited for her for 8 hours to get off work… we’ve been together ever since.
AllHipHop: You waited for 8 hours?!
Austin Tolliver: Yeah, like a creeper… just stayed in the parking lot with a lawn chair. It worked though, then I had a conversation with myself over text messages because she wouldn’t answer me. Sure enough, she went out with me that night and here we are.
AllHipHop: How does she feel about your music?
Austin Tolliver: She’s awesome because she doesn’t give two s####. She lets me go out there and be who I am, and doesn’t get jealous of the fact that who I am on stage isn’t who I’m bringing home. I’m out there having a good time, entertaining everybody that I can entertain for their hard-earned money. But when I come home, there’s a difference when I walk in my door than when I walk on a stage. I gotta make sure my house always sees that difference, and I don’t just become one man. She does a great job of seeing that.
AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio at all times?
Austin Tolliver: Tequila, Jon Connor, and a microphone. Because if we don’t have a microphone, we’re really f##### up.
AllHipHop: Best encounter you had with a fan?
Austin Tolliver: Ooh, I had a lot of those. The best encounter I’ve had with fans was when I played a show in Prattville, Alabama and they sang my songs back to me. That was pretty cool, that’s never happened to me before. It was pretty dope. I’ll never forget that for as long as I live…that somebody sang my s### back to me. I remember thinking ‘bro, this is pretty dope! This is what Adele feels like.’
AllHipHop: Any features we can expect?
Austin Tolliver: We got Bezz Believe on this album, we got Colt Ford on this album. Coming up soon we’ll have Phillip Good on some singles. We’ll have, hopefully if I can make it work, get Jelly Roll on a track. We’re in the same circles right now, our names keep coming up. It’d be dope as hell if we can get something together. I also got one with Karen Waldrup. Karen Waldrup is off the chain. If you don’t know who she is, you need to look her up. She’s awesome.
AllHipHop: What do you like to do when you’re not doing music?
Austin Tolliver: Really and truly, I’m boring as hell. If I’m not doing music, I’m usually either doing something my wife needs me to do, cleaning up my yard or going to the gym. I’m very regimented. I like having a structure that allows me to get from A to B to C to D. If I don’t, I lose myself, so I try to stay to that structure to allow myself to be me.
AllHipHop: Who do you listen to at the gym?
Austin Tolliver: Oh s###, I listen to a wide variety. Elvie Shane, Muscadine Bloodline, Tupac, Nelly, Biggie. My playlist is weird. You’ll see Lenny Cooper pop-up, then next thing you know Vince Hill pops-up. I listen to everything.
AllHipHop: Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Austin Tolliver: Yeah, take over the damn world! I don’t know who you talked to in the past, but I ain’t in here to be mediocre. I ain’t in here to be second place. I’m going to take over this genre and someone’s going to have to compete with me for it. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m the best in the world, but I’ll tell you right now… I’m gonna be.
AllHipHop: Do you feel Lil Nas X paved the way for country rap to exist?
Austin Tolliver: No, I feel like he paved the way for being disrespected by the genre. I just don’t understand why he felt he needed support on “Old Town Road” from country legend Billy Ray Cyrus after already being a #1 hit, just to feel accepted into the country community. I personally think he should have kept it as his song which already had country tones to it, and be cool with whatever genre it may ‘fit’ into. Someone who did pave the way is my buddy Colt Ford, he’s had such an impact on country rap…not to mention is still having an impact. He’s on “Lifestyle” with me on this new album I’m putting out.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
Austin Tolliver: Y’all just listen to my s###! Come party with me, I love y’all. Make sure you listen to Shirley too ’cause obviously she knows what she’s doing, because she’s over here doing interviews!