Dolly Parton’s nephew Sabyn grew up in Houston hip-hop


Sabyn is Dolly Parton’s nephew, and he samples ‘9 to 5’ on his new EP. He is the son of Randy Parton, who passed away earlier in the year. Photo: courtesy

Sabyn, filmmaker and rapper, is the son of Randy Parton and the nephew of Dolly Parton. Her mother is Laray Mayfield, an Emmy-winning casting director whose credits include the Amazon films “Antebellum” and “Gone Girl.” Sabyn himself directed and co-wrote the film “Boomtown” with Rachel Brosnahan and Dwight Yoakam.

But even more interesting? Sabyn cites the Houston rap scene as one of her biggest musical influences, especially the heyday of Swishahouse. (Watch a performance by Sabyn, exclusively for the Houston Chronicle, below.)

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“Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Michael Watts, Dr. Teeth,” says Sabyn, 40, who lives in Hendersonville, just outside of Nashville. “It was as if they had been shot down by a cannon. Did you just slow down and repeat 27 times? It’s incredible. This slowed down, the swag delivery just hit home with me.

He calls “Still Tippin ‘”, the song that defined the sound of Houston, one of his favorites and “one of the best hip-hop videos of all time”.

Sabyn was previously part of a country / hip-hop duo, and her music has been featured in the CMT reality series “Party Down South”. But his career at this point has been as a filmmaker. He has directed several short films and music videos and has worked on the casting of the films “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Spring Breakers”. The aforementioned “Boomtown”, released in 2017, is his biggest project to date.

“My childhood dream, my little Sabyn dream, has always been music. It took me a long time to gain confidence and find my voice, ”he says.

Sabyn was prompted to return to music after meeting her father for the first time in December 2019. The couple knew each other but had “never had traction for various reasons that don’t really matter now”, he said. They quickly made up for lost time.

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“It was definitely a painful and confusing journey. But as two men, sitting across from each other, two fathers, there was a lot that was understood that did not need to be explained, ”says Sabyn.

In an effort to deepen their connection, Sabyn took an old recording of her father singing “Tennessee Born” and asked a friend to sample and remix it. Sabyn wrote and recorded new lyrics on the beat, originally intended as a gift for her father.

“I wanted to have a piece of music that captures her talent and the beauty of her voice, but also gives me a canvas to tell a story, a tale about our relationship,” says Sabyn. “About being able to bury the hatchet, being able to learn things about my family and the fulfillment that I had obtained from us just being able to be in each other’s lives in a consistent way.”

Randy Parton in turn suggested doing the same with a song by Dolly Parton, which ultimately led to Sabyn’s new EP “Halfway There” on sonaBLAST! Recordings. The three-track project includes “9 to 5 to 9,” a revamp of the classic 1980 crossover; and a remake of “Halfway to Louisville” by country actor Johnny Berry and the Outliers.

“I try to work within the limits of a piece of music as it is constructed,” says Sabyn. For ‘9 to 5’, I wanted to continue in the story of grinding, climbing the proverbial ranks, working hard to get to where you were. It became a banger. “

Sabyn is Dolly Parton’s nephew, and he samples ‘9 to 5’ on his new EP. He is the son of Randy Parton, who passed away earlier in the year. Photo: courtesy

The original “9 to 5” served as the theme song for the film of the same name with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. He won two Grammys and an Oscar nomination. The Queen of the Country remade it for a Super Bowl commercial earlier this year.

Aunt Dolly gave Sabyn her “full blessing” for her recovery. In a statement, she said she was “very proud of my nephew”.

“Like her father, my brother Randy, Sabyn has a great gift for music. And I would like to think he gets a little out of me, ”she wrote, adding her signature wink. “Although I don’t rap, I am engrossed in the idea and hope of a bright musical future for Sabyn.”

Sabyn first met her aunt in 2012, backstage in Nashville during a performance of “9 to 5: The Musical,” which features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. He says it was “like something out of a movie”.

“It was like Betty Boop had come to life. She was super sweet and gracious,” he says. “She’s everything everyone says about her.”

Randy Parton hoped to take advantage of his son’s burgeoning success and share it with his sister. But he died in January of cancer at age 67. Although the reunion was short-lived, Sabyn sees it as a pivotal moment in her musical evolution.

“It just gave me the encouragement and fulfillment I needed, internally, to present myself in a way that I might have been reluctant to do. I think it really helped me find my voice, ”he says. “For me, this is the occasion of a dream come true. Having said that, I want to be realistic about my expectations. Even if it works out well or is okay or whatever, this is the new journey, and I stay on it.

Sabyn’s Five Best Houston Rap Classics

1. “I wanna be a baller,” Lil Troy: My best friend Cory played this song to me when we were in 10th grade. He just completely encapsulated the Southern Scammer Anthem for me. Weed, women, cars, wheelies, the deal. It was so raw and real and painted the picture the most vivid, with the easiest flow and loot. It was probably the first song I heard with subwoofers in the trunk. It’s something you never forget.

2. “Till Tippin ‘”, Mike Jones, Slim Thug and Paul Wall: Never in my life had I heard three different sounding rappers, with the same southern accent and just as boastful, boast of such a harsh and hypnotic beat. The video took it to a whole new level. The cars, the clothes, the jewelry, the frozen grills, the championship belt. It was as if I had been catapulted to another planet which was more magnificent than anything I could have imagined.

3. “Game Over”, Lil ‘Flip: The beat is what makes this song so great. I’ve never heard a track with samples like this before, and then you complete it with Flip in its prime, hitting you with everything H-Town.

4. “Drape”, bun B: This was when Bun took center stage as a solo artist. Like Biggie and Pac, this song just made me want to have a grill, which I did, to frost everything and unquestionably embrace a place and a lifestyle that absolutely fascinated me. It just made you not give an F, in the best sense of the word.

5. “Chunk Up a Deuce”, Lil ‘Keke: This track was just menacing, and with that fucked up hook, it just got me those first key notes. The delivery was so fierce, the way they flossed and represented their city. You couldn’t listen to this song and you didn’t want to throw up your set. At any rate.

—JG




  • Joey guerra

    Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. It also covers various aspects of pop culture. He’s reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He appeared as a regular correspondent on Fox26 and served as chief judge and director of the Pride Superstar singing competition for a decade. He has been named journalist of the year several times by OutSmart magazine and the FACE Awards. It also covers various aspects of pop culture including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.


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