Wrangler On His Booty: Lil Nas X On The Making And The Magic Of 'Old Town Road'

The artist behind the country-trap hit, who celebrated his 20th birthday and topped the charts this week, is less beholden to any genre than he is to the shape-shifting nature of online identity.
"I never want my name to be more hot because of controversy than my music," Lil Nas X says. "It's like a blessing and a curse." Source: Eric Lang

Magical things keep happening to Lil Nas X. Crazy, serendipitous things. Take last Sunday, just two days before his 20th birthday: He's sitting in the stands at L.A.'s Staples Center, when out of nowhere the ball in play falls into his possession. "Like literally, I was at the Lakers game, and the ball flew in my hands," he says. "It was just a sign in a way. Or, at least, that's how I felt. And I'm not even a superstitious person, but yeah."

The next day he met an even bigger fate. Having already consumed the nation in a debate over race, genre and their unholy miscegenation over the last century in the music industry, his country-trap ditty "Old Town Road" topped the Billboard Hot 100. It wasn't totally unexpected, especially after he released a twangy remix last Friday featuring another country disrupter, Billy Ray Cyrus. But in the aftermath of Billboard removing "Old Town Road" from the Hot Country Songs chart the week prior — while declaring that the song "does not embrace enough elements of today's country music" — his success proves the gatekeepers comically incapable of reining him in as he hops genres, busts formats and breaks all the old-school taboos.

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