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Lil Nas X and the Future of Country Music and Country Rap

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Certainly, Lil Nas X’s auspicious genre mash-up sent the music industry spinning off its axis. ‘Old Town Road’ is definitely a hit.

Lil Nas X, Billboard
via Columbia Records/Rolling Stone

It perfectly bends banjo strums and heavy rumbling bass. Its lyrics both embody the rural imagery of cowboys and country life and hip-hop allegories.

The hook, catchy. The beat, on point. And, it debuted on Billboard’s cross-genre Hot 100 chart, the Hot Country Songs chart, and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart all at once.

Lil Nas X’s Viral Song

The viral phenomenon blew up so fast that radio professionals had to take it down from Youtube to play it on the radio instead. ‘Old Town Road’ became such a perplexing song, the music industry scrambles to decide what exactly to call it.

Listen to Lil Nas X’s song here!

https://youtu.be/5ho88VXJTBg

Controversy

However, festivities are short-lived as the country-rap hit was removed from Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart.

https://twitter.com/TwitterMoments/status/1110999950605910016

According to a Rolling Stone report, Billboard quietly removed the song and informed Lil Nas X’s record label, Columbia Records, that his inclusion was a mistake. In a statement they released to Rolling Stone, the publication explained why they made the decision:

“Upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard‘s country charts. 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.”

Lil Nas X declined a request to comment on Billboard’s decision.

Country’s Adherence to Tradition

Lil Nas X, Billboard
via Youtube Screengrab

As Rolling Stone pointed out, this issue puts a precarious spin on a complicated racial dynamic in the music industry. Country music, much like most of the pillars of the lucrative business is still keen on adhering to the strict traditional values of the genre. So is this still a key playing of an institutionalized problem? Or is the song really cannot be considered a country song?

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