By now, almost everyone has heard of rapper Lil Nas X. His first single, "Old Town Road," released in 2019, quickly climbed the charts and became one of the most popular songs of the year. The single is unique in that it combines two genres - country and hip-hop; an unlikely combination that he would become known for with future multi-platinum hits like "Montero" and "Panini."
In August 2021, Lil Nas X became the most streamed male rapper of all time with over 50 million monthly listeners. In a short time, the rapper has gained international fame and a loyal fan base around the world.
Even though the rapper is the talk of the town today, like many other artists, he came from humble beginnings.
Now 22 years old, Lil Nas X was born in 1999 under the name Montero Hill and grew up in Lithia Springs near Atlanta, Georgia. After his parents divorced when he was six years old, he initially lived with his mother and grandmother. He attended high school in Georgia and graduated in 2017.
In his first year of college, where he had started studying computer science, Lil Nas X was dissatisfied with his future job prospects. He dropped out of college and began seriously pursuing music in 2018. During this time, he held part-time jobs and moved in with his sister. He posted his first songs on the popular streaming service SoundCloud, but initially had no success.
However, after producing a few songs and finding his footing, Lil Nas X released Old Town Road in December, which reached the Billboard Top 100 in March. The song entered the Billboard Country Hot 100 shortly after, but was rejected by country fans for its unconventional genre shift and criticism that it didn't really qualify as a "country" song.
Soon after, however, the song gained even more popularity when Billy Ray Cyrus, a well-known country singer and songwriter, collaborated on a remix of Old Town Road. This led to the single skyrocketing to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Photo: BANG Showbiz
From then on, Lil Nas X continued the success of his song by collaborating with other popular artists and celebrities, maintaining the spotlight while working on his next songs to be released. In the summer of 2019, his mega-hit single went multi-platinum and reached millions of streams around the world.
Refusing to be a one-hit wonder, Lil Nas X gained lasting popularity on the social media platform Tik Tok, with fans around the world using his song as the backdrop for their viral Tik Tok videos. Dubbed "Yeehaw Challenge," millions of users danced to the song, helping it achieve chart-topping status. Lil Nas X gathered many loyal fans on the Tik Tok and Twitter platforms and was on the verge of releasing an album of hits.
In June 2019, Lil Nas X released "7," an album of eight songs with features from well-known artists, including Cardi B and DaBaby. At the end of the year, Lil Nas X was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best New Album. He ended up winning a total of two awards: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video. From here, he began working on future songs and albums, releasing a Christmas song called "Holiday" in 2020.
Around the same time as the release of his album, Lil Nas X came out as gay to his family at the age of 20. He followed this private coming out with a public announcement on June 30, 2019, tweeting:
"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 to c7osure 🌈🤩✨"
Nas, who was initially considered relatively ambiguous, declared in an interview in early July that he was gay and clarified his sexuality. The announcement immediately spread across social media and news outlets, generating tremendous coverage for the singer.
Lil Nas X's coming out was met with homophobia from some groups, but was received very positively overall. He quickly became an LGBTQ+ icon for many kids and teens, which further increased his popularity. He continued to interact with his fans on social media platforms and entertained the masses with his content.In 2021, Lil Nas X returned to the music scene with his single "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," which immediately hit the charts like a bomb and gained huge popularity in a short period of time. The song quickly reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the singer's second #1 song in two years.
The song was not without controversy and drew criticism from several groups after the release of Montero's music video. The video features satanic themes, which prompted religious organizations to speak out against it. However, the controversy only boosted the popularity of the video and the song, which reached around 47 million streams in one week alone.
Today, Lil Nas X remains popular, especially among younger people, and appeals to many through his continued use of social media and interactions. Most recently, he released the song "Industry Baby" in July 2021, along with another popular rapper Jack Harlow. Nas continues to achieve high rankings on the Billboard charts and continues his legacy as one of the most popular musicians of this decade.