Darius Rucker was the first black man to chart a No. 1 on the Hot Country Chart since Charley Pride. Rucker says that Pride helped pave the way for him as a black man in the genre.

"You know, Charley went through a lot of stuff to do what he loved to do, and he loved to sing country music. From the label not putting his face on the first three or four records, so nobody would know," Rucker tells the Wall Street Journal. "I always say, no matter what happens to me as a black man in country music, I can handle it if Charley Pride could handle all the stuff he went through."

But Rucker also says that race has nothing to do with why he got into country music and that his success in the genre has helped open it up to a whole new group of people.

"The music I like or the football teams I like or the food I eat has nothing to do with me being black. I'm black because I was born this way, I'm proud of it. Thank God I am who I am," he says. "There's so many African-American people who say to me, 'You know, I always wanted to like country music, but I didn't want my friends to give me a hard time.' They say, 'Now I can say, 'I like Darius Rucker,' and I can go to the Lady Antebellum concert, and I can go see Miranda [Lambert].' That's cool.

"It's just music, and a lot of people don't like being told what they can like," Rucker adds. "If you hear a song and you like it, you like it."

Rucker says he received a lot of hate mail after his song 'Drowning,' which questions the fact that confederate flag flies above the state house in his native South Carolina, was released, but that was nothing new to him.

"Hate mail's been a part of my life; that's just the way it is, and we still get it," he says. "There's still people who don't want me to be singing country music, but I never want to let anybody tell me what I can do."