The reputation of country music has always been one tainted with underlying racism and an outdated sound that targets a specific audience. It is extremely rare to find a person of color, especially a black person, occupying the genre; but that did not scare Lil Nas X one bit.
Lil Nas X first released “Old Town Road” in December 2018 and it quickly gained popularity on the social media app TikTok. “Old Town Road” blends genres of country and trap and in March, the song charted on Billboard‘s Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts simultaneously. But that same month, Billboard removed the track from its Hot Country Songs list. This brought up a conversation on discrimination in country music and the boxes that black artist are forced to be in.
A statement from Billboard on Rolling Stone stated “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.”
Although Billboard has a point about “Old Town Road” not being a traditional country song; the same could be said about many of the songs that are occupying the Hip Hop/ R&B charts. We are in an era where the fluidity in music is a common practice especially when it comes to black musicians. Artist like Juice Wrld, Young Thug, Lil Wayne, Beyonce, and many more are showing that black people being put in a box. I also need to bring up the inclusion of non-black musicians who come into black music spaces, are heavenly praise even though many are mediocre at best, Yet became the faces in black music genres.
On April 5th, Lil Nas X released a remix of “Old Time Road” featuring country legend, Billy Ray Cyrus. I am curious on what the reception of the song will now be on people who feel like the song is not country enough or are not pleased with a black face trying to infiltrate country. Until then, I honestly hope that Lil Nas X continues to break genders and turns his back on the status quo.