ODD COUPLE

Tim McGraw has an unlikely hit - and makes musical history - with rapper Nelly.

In his wildest dreams, Tim McGraw never imagined he'd make history with a rap star. But that's exactly what's happened. Tim's duet with one-named rapper Nelly, "Over and Over," recently took the top spot on Billboard magazine's pop Top 40 chart. What's more, the rap tune also landed on the publication's R&B/Hip-Hop chart - making Tim the first country star to ever appear on that list.

While he's happy to be part of history, Tim doesn't see longterm success for country-rap.

"I don't have any idea on the future of that," says Tim. "That's not even on my radar."

However, Tim and Nelly had been on each other's radar for a while, since meeting at the 2002 NBA All-Star basketball game in Philadelphia.

"We were talking about all our different music and different generations of music," recalls Tim. "We talked about doing something together."

Two years later, that informal plan became reality.

"Nelly had a country song he wanted me to do with him," explains Tim. The tune wasn't country by any stretch, but Tim's vocals added a certain Nashville edge. "That kind of made it country," he laughs.

Tim's not the first to mix rap with country. New duo Big & Rich rapped out rhymes on their hit "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," and rap-rock star Kid Rock has shown his country chops on duets with Hank Williams Jr. And Neal McCoy even had a rapped version of the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies TV show that was for years a novelty staple of his live shows.

But don't look for country-rap to sweep the nation. Scott Johnson of country radio station WESC in Greenville, S.C., believes it's all a passing fad.

"Different influences help keep the format young, fresh and constantly growing," he says. "But country-rap just happens to be the current phase - so we should just ride the wave and enjoy it while it lasts. And anything that attracts new listeners to country is a good thing."

Country or not, Tim is certainly enjoying the ride. "Who would have thought it would work?" he adds with a laugh.

- BOB PAXMAN

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