Hip hop star Lil Nas X is having an eventful week. After his first ever performance outside the US on Saturday, when he joined Miley Cyrus on stage at the Glastonbury festival in England, he took to Twitter on Sunday to come out.
Although the 20-year-old didn’t specifically say ‘I’m gay’, he asked fans to listen closely to the lyrics of new song C7osure. It was about not living with regrets and being true to himself.
He also pointed to the rainbow on the cover of his debut EP, saying he thought he’d made it ‘obvious’. He then retweeted tweets from fans mentioning him being gay.
On Monday, it was revealed that his country-inspired track, Old Town Road, had become the longest-running hip hop track to top the Billboard Hot chart. It’s been at the summit of the charts for the past 13 weeks.
The track is now only the twelfth song in Billboard’s Hot 100 history to be at number one for 13 weeks or longer. It beats the run of Eminem’s Lose Yourself and Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again, among others.
Why the coming out of Lil Nas X is a big deal
Most consider the worlds of hip hop and country music (Old Town Road straddles both genres) as not overly gay-friendly. This makes Lil Nas X’s coming out a big deal.
Unsurprisingly, although he’s received many messages of support, he’s also been subjected to homophobic comments. Some fans say they plan to unfollow him or stop streaming his music.
Lil Nas X first responded on Monday with a slightly cryptic tweet: ‘just cuz i’m gay don’t mean i’m not straight.’
An Instagram posting yesterday suggested the negative comments were getting to him. It featured a sad-looking emoji pointing a gun and the comment: ‘Say one more home of phobic thing to me.’
However, a little later, whilst on his first promo tour to Paris, his mood had turned more playful.
Mocking some of the messages he’s seen, he said: ‘just got news that i’m gay and i will no longer be streaming my music. i’m sorry that shit is just not ok.’
This was followed shortly after by a tweet saying: ‘Next n**** to say something offensive to me getting kissed’.
That tweet has been liked almost a million times.
Since then, he has posted more about his Paris trip and chart success. This includes going Platinum in France and his new track, Panini, charting in the US.
Support from other celebrities
Many others in the music industry have posted supportive messages.
Miley Cyrus tweeted Monday, ‘SO proud of my baby brother @lilnasx 🌈❤️🌈❤️ In your corner forever my friend!’
British producer and singer MNEK said, ‘we also stan an openly gay black kid going diamond with his first single. the culture loves it. Truly.’
we also stan an openly gay black kid going diamond with his first single. the culture loves it. truly. @LilNasX
— thicc n tired (@MNEK) July 1, 2019
Actor and singer Daniel Newman tweeted, ‘Fuck! Coming OUT proud when you’re at the Top of the rap Game!!! Do you guys realize how monumental this is?!?! It’s a whole new world now when being gay is an asset! unheard of. So proud of @LilNasX & all #LGBTQA Heroes that changed the world for everyone’
Sirius XM broadcaster Larry Flick told GSN how Lil Nas X’s career will by impacted by his announcement remains to be seen.
‘It’s an interesting choice for Lil Nas X to come out now, given that there has already been a large conversation here in America over whether the single is “country” enough, i.e. can a black man make country music.
‘Clearly, he decided to just jump on the momentum of being a renegade and just go for broke.
‘It remains to be seen if hip-hop purists will support him. I sadly suspect not. But it will make him a bigger mainstream star. He will be seen as a political pioneer, and it will hopefully allow his music to be more interesting.
‘He undeniably is not striving to be a typical rap artist, and this will add to his cachet as something unique, while still being commercially viable.’
Importance of radio
Noted Los Angeles based producer and singer Ellis Miah agrees.
‘Lil Nas X has been a disruptor in music since Old Town Road became viral,’ he told GSN.
‘Coming out still carries a risk for artists. Some more than others. It’s undeniable that some genres carry a tougher burden. Country and urban music definitely can be tricky to navigate.
‘I think him coming from YouTube and Soundcloud and drawing younger fans has been helpful. It seems younger audiences care a bit less on about this.’
However, Miah warned that how radio directors react to Lil Nas X’s announcement could still have a big ‘make or break’ impact.