These are heady, well-earned times for rapper Lil Nas X.
Less than a year ago, the college drop-out was living on his sister’s floor.
Fast-forward to the release of his mega-hit single, “Old Town Road,” now the longest-running number-one song sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks now.
Along that journey, Lil Nas decided during Pride Month to come out as gay as his single continued its meteoric trajectory.
And now, the chart-busting country/hip-hop artist is covering TIME Magazine.
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When @lilnasx's debut single “Old Town Road” exploded online early this year and began climbing the charts, industry prognosticators anticipated a quick rise and fall. It’s now the longest-running No. 1 song in history, having occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks. It’s been streamed more than a billion times on @spotify alone. All of this has made “Old Town Road” the defining sound of the year, a slurry, genre-busting interpolation of two quintessential American musical genres: #country and hip-hop. Yet even from his perch, writes Andrew R. Chow, Lil Nas is still an outlier. There aren’t many black stars in country #music; there aren’t many queer stars in #hiphop. There aren’t many queer black stars in American culture, point-blank. The fact that Lil Nas has risen so far and so fast testifies not only to his skill, but also to the erosion of the systems that for generations kept #artists like him on the sidelines. At a time when debates about categorization and identity are ubiquitous, Lil Nas X represents a more unified vision of the future, one in which a young #queer black man can dominate popular #culture by being unapologetically himself. “Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place,” he says now. “Not to sound self-centered, but it feels like I’m chosen, in a way, to do this stuff.” Read more at the link in bio. Photograph by @kelianne for TIME; animation by @brobeldesign; “Old Town Road” (p) 2019 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment
In an interview for the venerable publication, Lil Nas explains what having THE number one song represents to him.
“To me, ‘Old Town Road’ being the longest-running number-one song of all time means that…everybody has great taste in music,” says the 20-year-old with a sly smile before adding, “I’m joking.”
“My reaction, just like, me…I was in a complete state of shock,” he adds in a candid moment. “I cried a little bit.”
For someone who grew up poor, being shuttled from one divorced parent to another, it can only be mind-boggling that, in addition to the chart action, “Old Town Road” has been streamed – on Spotify alone – over a billion times.
TIME notes how disparate the stars that have aligned are that brought this to be.
“There aren’t many black stars in country music; there aren’t many queer stars in hip-hop,” writes Andrew Chow for TIME. “There aren’t many queer black stars in American culture, point-blank.”
“The fact that Lil Nas has risen so far and so fast testifies not only to his skill but also to the erosion of the systems that for generations kept artists like him on the sidelines,” adds Chow.
Chow points to social media and streaming platforms for ‘democratizing’ the path to possible success in the music industry today.
That said, Lil Nas isn’t doing the cocky walk any time soon.
He tells TIME, “Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place,” adding that he feels “chosen” to be in this place at this time.
The country-trap artist didn’t expect “this time” to include coming out, but, here we are.
“I know the people who listen to this the most, and they’re not accepting of homosexuality,” admits Nas. “I never would have done that if I wasn’t in a way pushed by the universe.”
As “Old Town Road” continued its reign at number one, the U.S. entered Pride Month, and the artist says he saw “Pride flags everywhere” and “couples holding hands.”
And so, he tweeted one of the most casual ‘coming out’ moments in music history.
some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure. 🌈🤩✨ pic.twitter.com/O9krBLllqQ
— nope (@LilNasX) June 30, 2019
deadass thought i made it obvious pic.twitter.com/HFCbVqBkLM
— nope (@LilNasX) June 30, 2019
What’s next for the young musician?
“I definitely feel the need to use my platform to spread positivity and do good things for the world,” he says thoughtfully. “I don’t want to be, in the last minute like, ‘Dang, I should have said something about this, you know?”
“From here, I just want to keep making whatever my ears catch hold to and happen to love.”
Read the full profile over at TIME.com.
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When @lilnasx recorded “Old Town Road” last fall, he was hoping it could be his way out of an unhappy life. Born Montero Lamar Hill outside #Atlanta in 1999, Lil Nas grew up poor, living with one parent or another—his mother and father split when he was 6. As he spent most of his teenage years alone, he began to live on the Internet and particularly Twitter, creating #memes that showed his disarming wit and pop-culture savvy. “It was like, I’m able to go viral, but I’m not promoting anything that’s gonna help me,” he says. “Until music came along.” A gifted vocalist since he was a child—his father is a gospel singer—Lil Nas began writing and recording songs in his closet. When, around last Halloween, he stumbled across a banjo-driven beat by the teenage Dutch producer @youngkio, he saw an opportunity to combine trap—a Southern-born #hiphop subgenre propelled by vicious bass and crawling tempos—with #country, which was experiencing a surge of popularity on the Internet. “Because it’s two polar opposites coming together, it’s funny no matter what it is,” he says. For the history of #music, artists like Lil Nas were the exception, writes Andrew R. Chow. Now, by definition, Lil Nas is the rule. Read more at the link in bio. Video by @khomariflashfilms and @alexandra_robson for TIME