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From Humble Beginnings: Lil Nas X

September 6, 2019Sam Lang

We have all come to know the country-trap rapper Lil Nas X through his smash-hit “Old Town Road”. Spending 19 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 was no easy feat for the Georgian rapper. The story behind the song is probably a lot longer than you would think too. Born in a small city just outside of Atlanta in 1999, his life would soon be uprooted at age 6 due to his parent’s divorce. Three years alter he moved north to Austell where he proclaimed he was glad that happened because “There’s so much shit going on in Atlanta—if I would have stayed there, I would have fallen in with the wrong crowd.” This was exactly around the time when meme culture was beginning to claim it’s own weird little spot on social media. Lil Nas X watched this trend like a hawk and took note on what made certain content pop and what made it flop. Taking to Instagram and Twitter, he made witty memes while building a small following.

He attended Lithia Springs high school, graduated in 2017 and studied for a year at UO West Georgia. While majoring in Computer Science he was doing well but was growing increasingly bored and unhappy. He dropped out in July of 2018 and knew he wanted to work on music. He released his first EP “Nasarati” on SoundCloud. He didn’t take music too seriously and posted his music on Twitter. Song after song he was beginning to learn the ropes of the rap game. Melodies were coming easier, cadences were flowing smoother and he began to quickly develop his catalogue. He was figuring out his rap persona with Naserati and threw around a lot of crazy ideas aiming at a wide appeal. His song “Carry On” was an ode to his late grandmother, whose death filled him with great sadness, anxiety and other looming feelings. During this time he was living with his sister who was beginning to question why her brother was sleeping on her couch the whole time and not doing anything with his life. This was the turning point in his career.

His sister told him that he had to get out. This shift drew him to lyrics such as…“Take my horse to the old town road and ride till I can’t no more”, which is referencing that his life will soon be upturned and that it’s time to ride out. Scrolling through YouTube, he found a particularly ear-catching beat by Dutch producer YoungKio. The guitar sample was undeniably sexy, the drums were clean and simple and the whole instrumental was practically made for him. He contacted the native Dutchman and they got to work on creating the next #1 Billboard hit. Seemingly unknowingly at the time.

The track went viral early 2019 thanks to the popular “Yeehaw Challenge” on social media app “TikTok”. His song, which was heavily promoted by Lil Nas on Twitter too, was featured in many popular TikTok videos and thus blew up. Popular country star Billy Cyrus heard the track from his wife and knew he had to get on it. He found it’s fresh take on country to be appealing and wanted to get in the studio with the young Georgian rapper. Blowing up the song even more, “Old Town Road” was now in the stratosphere. Posting on Twitter, Billy said: ” I was thinking, what’s not country about it? What’s the rudimentary element of a country and western song? Then I thought, it’s honest, humble, and has an infectious hook, and a banjo. What the hell more do ya need?”.

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