Lil Nas X
The way Lil Nas X tells it, it sounds simple, almost mystical. “I was just kinda bored,” he told Apple Music. “I wanted to put something up. So that’s what I did.” Not only did the “it” in question—“Old Town Road”—become a global phenomenon (and 2019 Apple Music Award winner for Song of the Year), it prompted surprisingly pertinent conversations about how we define and classify music. Was it country? Was it rap? Cowboy anthem or LGBTQ camp? TikTok novelty or legitimate pop song?
It was, of course, all those things, and pity those who couldn’t live with the contradictions. Born Montero Lamar Hill in 1999, Nas grew up outside Atlanta but came of age on the internet, turning to social media and meme-making out of boredom and teenage loneliness—feelings compounded by his struggle to resolve his sexuality. (He later became the first artist to come out while his record was at No. 1, though he’d figured that between the rhinestones and rainbows and the general vibe, it would’ve been obvious.) “I didn’t know it was gonna do what it did,” he said of “Old Town Road” and its companion EP, 7. “But it did what it did.”