Writer’s Note: Originally written for Infusion Magazine, a digital version of the article can be found here on pages 40-41.
Lil Nas X roared into the spotlight in 2019 with his hit single “Old Town Road” and from there he has only gotten bigger and better. After the release of his first hit single, many people saw Lil Nas X as a one-hit-wonder, even saying he wasn’t going to have a career after 2019. But boy, were they mistaken.
Since then, Lil Nas X has been breaking many barriers and changing the music industry for the better. To put it plainly, he is unapologetically himself. He is not just his true self on social media, where he posts and responds to fans in whatever way he wants, but it flows right into his music and the way he markets himself.
When Lil Nas X came onto the music scene, he immediately started to change the way the music industry works. Not only did he rise to fame by using the internet and social media, but once his hit “Old Town Road” was taken off Billboard’s Hot Country Charts, he fought to make sure it was put back on.
Billboard chose to remove the song because they believed that it did not embrace enough elements of today’s country music. The decision caused controversy, especially since country music is considered an overwhelmingly “white” genre. People also pointed out that several white country artists, like Sam Hunt, have used elements of hip-hop and rap in their songs, and their music has never been removed from the country music charts.
In June of 2019, Lil Nas X came out as gay, assuming his place as one of the few openly Black queer musicians in the industry.
The music industry has a history of homophobia that still lingers today. In July, rapper DaBaby made homophobic comments at the Rolling Loud Miami music festival, which were met with a lot of backlash on social media.
Lil Nas X has even spoken out about homophobia in the music industry, tweeting that many Black male artists are not interested in working with him.
“Honestly, I don’t feel as respected in hip-hop or many music places in general,” Lil Nas X told Billboard. “But these are communities that I am a part of, whether people would like it or not. This is something that I wanted to do because not that my entire album is rap, but there are rap tracks on my album. I am a rapper. I am a pop star. I am a gay artist. But it’s like, I belong in these places, you know?”
In August, Lil Nas X even surpassed DaBaby as the most-streamed male rapper on Spotify with currently over 58 billion monthly listeners. He also released his debut album “MONTERO” in September with huge success celebrating Black queerness.
“I’m 33, and this Lil Nas X album is breaking my heart…Legit tear up listening to him express his heartbreak about queer love in all its forms (unrequited and reciprocated). I’m glad we’re here now, just wish I had this when I was a teen…” says @the_ocalypse on Twitter.
The album features his hit song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” which also sparked controversy and conversation when the music video was released in March. The music video includes scenes of Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance and strip dancing down to hell, unapologetically being himself.
The list describes in detail what Lil Nas X has done to change the music industry. Not only does he market differently from other artists, but he also does it effectively. To promote his new album, Lil Nas X posted pictures with a fake baby bump on Instagram representing “his baby,” and using the tactic up until the “birth” of his album.
He also had billboards up ahead of the release of his album, with one saying “Do you hate Lil Nas X? You may be entitled to financial compensation” and adding for people to visit welcometomontero.com.
Lil Nas X is still at just the beginning of his career and he has already done so much. We can’t imagine what he will do next, but he will continue to open doors for more Black LGBT+ creators to come into mainstream music and start important conversations.
“Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place,” Lil Nas X told Time. “Not to sound self-centered, but it feels like I’m chosen, in a way, to do this stuff.”