- Rapper Lil Nas X’s viral country trap hit “Old Town Road” was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country chart in March because it did “not embrace enough elements” of the genre.
- The song’s removal sparked discussions on the genre of country music and representation among musicians.
- On Friday, Lil Nas X dropped a remix of “Old Town Road” with ’90s country star Billy Ray Cyrus, who had voiced his support for the rapper.
- Billboard promoted the remix in a tweet, encouraging listeners to stream it, despite not including the song in its country charts. The original song is No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
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In March, 19-year-old rapper Lil Nas X’s viral country trap hit “Old Town Road” was stripped from Billboard’s Hot Country chart after the company determined it did “not embrace enough elements” of the genre.
In the days that followed, Lil Nas X’s song sparked discussion on the definition of country music, its changing musical components, and representation in the genre.
On Friday, Billboard promoted the hit – despite taking it off its country chart – after the rapper collaborated with ’90s country star Billy Ray Cyrus on a remix of “Old Town Road.”
Here’s how Lil Nas X went from having his hit be a TikTok meme to the focus of the country music’s ever-changing genre.
Lil Nas X’s trap-country fusion highlights now genres are changing
Lil Nas X, who’s real name is Montero Hill, grew up in Atlanta and signed with Columbia Records earlier this year, according to The Associated Press.
His song “Old Town Road” makes references to the Western-themed video game “Red Dead Redemption 2” and cowboy imagery while fusing a trap beat and a banjo from a Nine Inch Nails sample.
The song has been a hit on TikTok for months, thanks to the Yee Haw Agenda and “Red Dead Redemption 2.” It broke into Billboard’s Hot Country chart in the week of March 16, debuting at No. 19.
Billboard said Lil Nas X’s song did not “embrace enough elements” of country
Three weeks later, Billboard decided to remove the song from the country chart, said it did not “merit inclusion.”
“When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. 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,” the statement said.
The decision was slammed by critics who suggested the rapper was being singled out because of his race.
Critics noted that pop crossover songs are routinely included on country charts, and that there is an under-representation of people of colour in the country music industry.
Billboard said in its statement that its removal had nothing to do with race.
“Billboard’s decision to take the song off of the country chart had absolutely nothing to do with the race of the artist,” the statement said.
Fans and musicians supported Lil Nas X
Fans and musicians supported Lil Nas X, with country singer and “The Voice” runner up Meghan Linsey saying on Twitter: “That is some BS. It’s got plenty of ‘country elements’ and its as ‘country’ as anything on country radio, tbh.”
Shortly after “Old Town Road” song was removed from Billboard’s country chart, Lil Nas X pinned a message on the song’s Youtube video.
“Old town road was sadly removed from the billboard country charts yesterday,” the statement reads. “I want to say thank you to all of you who help me get it there in the first place tho! i love y’all fr!”
Rappers and country stars have collaborated before, too, with Nelly making songs with Florida Georgia Line and with Tim McGraw, and Ludacris featuring on Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” at the CMT Awards in 2011.
Billy Ray Cyrus collaborated with Lil Nas X on an “Old Town Road” remix
On April 3, Billy Ray Cyrus tweeted his disappointment in “Old Town Road” being removed from Billboard’s country chart.
.@LilNasX Been watching everything going on with OTR. When I got thrown off the charts, Waylon Jennings said to me “Take this as a compliment” means you’re doing something great! Only Outlaws are outlawed. Welcome to the club!
— Billy Ray Cyrus (@billyraycyrus) April 3, 2019
On Friday, Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X released a remix to “Old Town Road,” which has been receiving praise across social media.
A video of the recording session showed the rapper dancing along as Cyrus sang his parts of the remix.
— Billy Ray Cyrus (@billyraycyrus) April 5, 2019
the rumors are true i teared up a little lol pic.twitter.com/w2plXWI7Gy
— nope (@LilNasX) April 5, 2019
The song quickly went to No. 1 on iTunes. The original song is No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
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