Darius Rucker made the successful transition to country music after achieving massive success with his band Hootie & the Blowfish. Still, as a Black artist in country music, Rucker has experienced situations no white artist ever would. In a new interview with NBC News that aired on the third hour of Today, Rucker opened up about the racism he's experienced in his life as well as in the music industry.
"You become a rich black man, you think racism goes away, it doesn't. There's people that hate you more because you're rich," he said. "Driving a nice car, getting stopped, knowing you're not speeding or anything, you just get stopped. Of course, when they recognize me everything is cool. 'Why'd I get stopped officer?' 'You were...' No I wasn't. No I wasn't speeding. I know I wasn't doing that. I got stopped because I was a Black guy in an expensive car. It's happened a million times. It's not gonna change until enough people say it's wrong."
Rucker shared that his children were the reason he, as Harry Smith put it, decided to "refocus" after the killing of George Floyd. "Watching them go through this... I think they're just at that age now where they have to look at it," Rucker said. "I've lived with racism my whole life. Made me really sit back and go, 'I just can't keep living my life like everything is OK because everything is not OK."
He also shared that he and his son regularly have conversations about how to act if he gets pulled over while driving. "My son's the youngest and he's about to start driving, and all the time we have to talk about it. When you get stopped, keep your hands on the wheel, don't do anything until they tell you. We've seen it so many times, something as innocent as a traffic stop or something and then all of a sudden somebody gets shot. I don't want that for my boy. I don't want that for my daughters, I don't want that for anybody."
He also recalled going to radio stations earlier in his career and having programmers tell him that they wouldn't play his music because of his race. "You get to the point where you go, 'That's just how it is.' When I was going to radio stations and you got guys telling me, 'We're not gonna play you 'cause you're a black guy,' I'm like, 'OK, that's just the way it is,'" he said. "But I can't live like that anymore. I can't just go, 'It's OK.' Go on with my life and let somebody say something I know they shouldn't say."
While acknowledging that he's "sure" he's "already lost fans" for speaking about racism, Rucker pointed to The Chicks as a prime example of how "one sentence could end your career in country music." In 2003, The Chicks were performing for a London audience when lead singer Natalie Maines commented that she was ashamed then-president George W. Bush was from Texas. "Look at the Dixie Chicks," Rucker said. "Biggest things in the business, they say one sentence, every station stops playing their music. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life. It wasn't about their politics; it was about their music."