Name: Lil Nas X
Location: Atlanta-Los Angeles
How We Know Him: His genre-bridging hit “Old Town Road” set records, disrupted pop culture and defied odds.
Why We Chose Him: A proud member of the LGBTQ community, Lil Nas X smashed pop culture, hip-hop culture and Black cultural norms.
What’s Next: Catch Lil Nas X on stage. He’s wrapping up a national tour.
While the digital era affords creatives a route to promote their work to the world with just a push of a button, only a very few will truly go down in the record books as game-changers. Those that will not only make true impact in their category but also break down doors for future talent and change the overall perception of their medium. Even if society doesn’t see the effects of their work in real-time, chances are they will be able to look back and see how they helped advanced the art form for the better. Lil Nas X should be recognized as an innovator.
Born Montero Lamar Hill, the Georgia native was at a major crossroads at the early age of 19. As a burgeoning online personality, he decided to drop out of college to pursue his music career. In October 2018 while staying at his sister’s house he would come across the track that would change his life forever. He purchased an instrumental online from a Dutch producer YoungKio for 30 dollars. He would go on to write to the banjo riff-driven track which would become “Old Town Road”. Not only would he seamlessly blend Rap with Country via a simple but very catchy melody but his approach to promoting the single was also unique.
X would go on to put his previous experience as a social media personality to use and started pushing “Old Town Road” via hundreds of memes. This would prove to be a wise marketing strategy as the song quickly went viral via the TikTok app. Millions of users posted clips wearing traditional country music garb while doing the #YeehawChallenge to the song. A record label bidding war for Hill would commence and he would sign with Sony Columbia in March 2019. The major label support would push the song even further but that same month Billboard would remove the song from their Hot Country Songs chart citing “While “Old Town Road” incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” The trade magazine’s decision made headlines with many feeling the disqualification was unjust and blatantly racist. The snub would turn to be a blessing in disguise.
In an effort to embrace the rising star on the behalf of Country music, icon Billy Ray Cyrus would join Lil Nas X on the remix further propelling the song to never-seen heights. “Old Town Road” has gone on to break several records including holding the longest run at the number one slot on the Billboard 100 singles chart. While on this incredible wave of success he used his celebrity to champion the rights of the LGBTQ community by announcing he was gay on the last day of Pride Month. He has since graced the cover of TIME Magazine proving that a destiny delayed is never a destiny denied.