The year 2021 has been, to say the least, Lil Nas X’ year. The 22-year-old rapper made his artistic debut back in 2019, when he released the anticipated “Old Town Road (Remix)” with legendary country music star Billy Ray Cyrus. Upon release, “Old Town Road (Remix)” has reached the number 1 spot on the US charts and stayed there for 17 consecutive weeks; That’s longer than any song has ever stayed number 1 on the US charts. Prior to reaching commercial success, “Old Town Road” was originally released independently by Lil Nas himself in December 2018. This was during the “Yeehaw Agenda”, where artists would incorporate elements of the Wild West into their aesthetic. Of course, because the world is mostly presented through the internet, and memes have become its own genre of internet entertainment, the Yeehaw Agenda also became a meme on twitter and tiktok, where people would make satiric content about the aesthetic and slang from the south:
Lil Nas X (like many people of his age) was very familiar with these types of memes at the time. So of course, in good old Gen Z fashion, he started making memes of his song “Old Town Road” to help promote his debut single. His memes and song eventually went viral, especially on Tiktok. It was after this that “Old Town Road” was picked up by Columbia Records and “Old Town Road (Remix)” was released. Needles to say, Lil Nas X managed to land himself a record-deal and top the charts in a couple of months all through the language of Gen Z internet alone.
Shortly after the release of his debut single, Lil Nas made headlines again when he came out as gay on the last day of pride. This sparked controversy, especially in the Hip Hop community, which Lil Nas is primarily a member of. As he put it himself on twitter:
While he has lost some fans after his announcement, there was an overwhelming positive reaction towards the rapper, especially from the Gen Z youths of the internet. Whether it was the positive response that gave Lil Nas the confidence to continue as his authentic self, I can’t be sure, but over the next two years, Lil Nas X has become a force to be reckoned with.
In early 2021, Lil Nas released his new single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, his first single from his later released debut album “Montero”. The song was an instant success, and the music video became a topic of hot discussions. When I said Lil Nas X was a force to be reckoned, I really wasn’t kidding. The music video became extremely controversial, because of the various explicit religious symbolisms. Even Satan made an appearance in his video. Lil Nas was obviously putting his own spin on the traditional (and often times homophobic) agenda of western religion doctrines, and some people were not happy about it. However, Gen Z was, as they say, here for it. What makes Gen Z different from other generations is the unapologetic and self-awareness that they have. Gen Z, in general, know their worth and are not afraid to show and defend it. That’s why Lil Nas X’ bold and unapologetic presentation of his sexuality and style has especially been praised by the Gen Z community. Moreover, seeing a Hip Hop artist be as authentic and relatable as Lil Nas X, is inspiring for many youths, especially from the LGBTQ+ community.
It seems that Lil Nas X’ success and likeability can’t be stopped, and I for one, hope it never will. All hail the king of Gen Z!