Over the past few weeks, the internet has gone crazy for Lil Nas X and his new song, “Old Town Road.” Released in 2018, the song features a new take on country music, with hip-hop beats and rap.
The song was first released on the 20-year- old’s SoundCloud before it found fame on Tik Tok. Many people were using the song to take part in a Tik Tok challenge called the “Yee Haw Challenge.” The song started to gain traction and was soon featured on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
According to AJ+, the song was pulled from the chart because it did “not embrace enough elements of today’s country music.” Many claim this has to do with the racial divide surrounding the country music industry, as all of the artists on Billboard’s Hot Country Top 50 are white.
In a video released by AJ+, Dom Flemons, Grammy-winning American folk musician and historian, brings up the racial divide and the early influencers of country music.
“The early pioneers of what we now think of as country music, they all have these stories of African-American musicians and performers that influenced and also informed their styles.”
Soon after its removal, Billy Ray Cyrus reached out to Nas, and the pair recorded a remix to the song, which led to its revival on the country charts and where it currently sits at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100, better known as the No. 1 song in the world.
According to Cyrus, the song had personal ties to his life as a child, which led him to reach out to Nas. Cyrus took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the matter, as well as to reach out to Nas.
“It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time,” Cyrus tweeted. “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?”
When I first heard this song, I didn’t actually think it was a real song. I had seen the Tik Tok videos, so I just thought it was a soundbite from the app. When I listened to the full song, I was intrigued because it sounded like nothing I had heard before.
I’m not a big country music fan because of its repetitive messages and sound. I grew up on classic rock and soon transitioned into pop and alternative music. The messages I heard in country music had nothing to do with my life, so I stuck to my favorites. This mentality probably made me miss out on several great country songs.
“Old Town Road” features many elements that make it country, such as the intro banjo plucks, but also has the key hip-hop elements like beats and rap. The song ties together the two genres to create a song that anybody can like.
Although there have been other country/ rap collaborations, such as Tim McGraw and Nelly, this one is one that we college students can have a connection to. With his young age and college background (even though he dropped out to pursue music), he is more relatable to college-aged people.
Overall, this meme-starting song has grown on me and just about every college- aged (and older) person I know. It’s fun and has a twang of nostalgia with Billy Ray Cyrus’ addition. Country music lover or not, this song deserves every piece of recognition it has received.