Lil Nas X is a rapper from Atlanta who wants you to know that “Old Town Road” isn’t his only song. It may not make much of a difference though, because that’s the song that’s currently captivating America’s youth, landing on not just the Billboard Hot 100, but also the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and the Hot Country Songs charts all at the same time — the first song to do so. Although it isn’t the first rap/country mashup — Nelly tried something similar way back in 2004 with Tim McGraw on “Over And Over” and plenty of rap songs have utilized country guitars and banjos in their instrumentals — for some reason, “Old Town Road” landed at the right time to somehow appeal to both ostensibly opposing demographics.
It probably helps that the visualizer for the song on Lil Nas X’s Youtube channel uses screen captures from the popular video game Red Dead Redemption, which likely puts it in front of a much broader audience than if it were, say, just Lil Nas X and his friends mugging into a camera. It’s also notable that “Old Town Road,” comes on the heels of the so-called “Yee Haw Agenda” on social media, wherein young Black people have vocally embraced cowboy culture after generational stereotypes have dictated for years that Black people don’t or shouldn’t like country music. Beyonce, Solange, Da Baby, Megan Thee Stallion, and other artists have adopted the accoutrements of country for the past several years — ramping up in the last several months — and “Old Town Road” has landed right in the midst of a movement, garnering plenty of attention for its fortuitous timing and goofy lyrics about horseback riding.
Of course, that didn’t stop Billboard from removing the song from the Hot Country Songs list after complaints that it didn’t embrace enough country elements. Given the fact that producer YoungKio sampled the strings from a 2008 Nine Inch Nails instrumental, Lil Nas X probably won’t complain too much about the distinction. If anything, he’ll be more busy trying to get people to pay attention to his other, more straightforward rap songs like “Carry On” and “No Love,” which have all existed on his Soundcloud page for much longer with just a fraction of the streams. Now that Lil Nas X has signed a deal with Columbia Records, he’ll be hard-pressed to follow up the success of his viral hit without changing up his real sound in the process.