Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X has scored himself a smash hit song. However, he's also sparked controversy about genre and race.
The song, "Old Town Road," originally rose to prominence in 2018 through the video sharing app TikTok as part of a meme. It eventually rose on to the Billboard charts, achieving the rare feat of landing not only in the top 100 pop songs in the country, but also hitting No. 19 on the country charts.
However, this was when the controversy started. The song was disqualified from being a country song and taken off the country charts in March of 2019. Claims of racism immediately started emerging from fellow rappers, including Tyga and Ski Mask the Slump God.
However, an even larger conversation has begun over what music does and doesn't qualify as country. Even though the song does have some twang to it, it's built on a hip hop beat and has Lil Nas X mostly rapping with the exception of the chorus. Some say it works as country while others say it's just hip hop trying to disguise itself as country. Country singer John Rich told Fox News that the fans should decide what is and isn't country.
"[Johnny Cash] made his records in Memphis where rock and roll was happening – he’s got his hair slicked back, he’s singing about sex, drugs and rock and roll," Rich remarked. "Johnny Cash, most hardcore lyrics anybody had ever heard – he’s not country – now Johnny Cash, a pillar of country music.”
Lil Nas X has been trying to climb his way back on to the country charts through a remix of his song. The remix features 90s country icon Billy Ray Cyrus, adding his voice and credibility to the song. Apparently, however, that wasn't satisfactory enough for Billboard. The remix has yet to enter the country charts despite racking up 16 million views on YouTube and being #6 on the Trending page.