Lil Nas X was booted from Billboard’s County Chart, defended by Billy Ray Cyrus, and has now been reinstated to the chart by Billboard after public outcry. The entire controversy seems to have been started by people who were dismayed that the nascent rapper could have such a viral hit. However, several things should be noted here. First, country artists have been eagerly appropriating rap for two decades. Second, Nas X is not the first rapper to appear on the country charts. And third, the critiques of Lil’ Nas X also seem rooted in dismay that someone who only started doing music last May (I know) understands how to play the game so well. Nas purchased the beat from a Netherlands teen who goes by Kio – it cost $30. Lil’ Nas then made his song into a meme, injected it into several platforms, and promoted it everywhere before it finally took off on Tik-Tok. He also used characters from a video game to create a video, amplifying the song even more. This cost him virtually nothing and totally subverted the music industry. It’s no wonder Lil’ Nas is perceived as a threat by the people who control Billboard.
The etiology of the song doesn’t seem to matter to country listeners, or music listeners in general, since “country trap” isn’t so much a genre as it is a mashup of many styles. The mashup is something music has been doing forever, so any purity trolling around Nas is total sour grapes.
Writer Kyle Coroneos, who for some reason uses the non de plume “Trigger” was the person who instigated the assault on Lil’ Nas X over the song. “Furthermore, Lil Nas X is not professing to be a country artist. He’s not signed to a country label, and has no affiliation to the country industry whatsoever. Lil Nas X has no ties to the greater Nashville music campus in any capacity.”
Ah-ha! There it is – this confirms the true nature of the freakout: Lil’Nass figured out a way to create a hit without the BS of the Nashville music industry (an industry that does little to boost the artists who still craft traditional country, while it spares no expense to promote Bro Country singers who incorporate rap into their songs.)
Moreover, it sure seems like more thought went into the writing of this song, especially as compared to rap, pop, and country artists who calculatingly release cloying songs for the sole purpose of “broadening their appeal.” Lil Nas X was until last month just a teen who said the following about how he came up with the song:
“My parents were disappointed in me for leaving school to do music, so it was like a loner cowboy [song],” Hill explains. “‘I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road/I’m gonna ride ’til I can’t no more’ — meaning, just keep riding, don’t stop. I felt like that cowboy lifestyle would definitely fit that song the best.”
But as Hill worked, the track’s narrative shifted towards something more triumphant. “I changed the meaning so I thought that ‘Old Town Road’ would be that path where you just keep winning,” he says. “The horse would be not having much, but having something that you know you could use to help you get there.”
If those aren’t thoughts of a songwriter, I don’t know what is.
Klye claimed that it was a “joke” that didn’t deserve its placement on the charts among established stars. (It deputed at #19). That his comments drew the ire of Bill Ray Cyrus makes perfect sense – Cyrus was once derided by establishment country for his “Achy Breaky Heart,” which was goofy as hell but catchy as hell. Which brings up an important question – isn’t music allowed to be fun?