Montero and The Liberation of Lil Nas X: Normalize LGBTQIA+ musicians in the entertainment industry, NOW!

What do a horse, an anime series, and a lawsuit have in common? Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

If you haven’t guessed by now, let me explain to you how Lil Nas X became famous from finding inspiration from a horse, an anime series, and a lawsuit.

Let’s run through these dates. Shall we?

In 2019, Lil Nas X released his debut extended play (EP) titled ‘7’ which includes his hit singles ‘Old Town Road’, ‘Panini’, and ‘C7osure’. 

The inspiration for ‘Old Town Road’ came to him while he was living at his sister’s house. He expressed that he wanted to pursue a music career but was financially limited. He couldn’t afford to pay for rent, not even a cell phone bill.

Not wanting to be a burden to his family, Lil Nas X took a leap of faith and started his EP in December 2018. The artist created ‘Old Town Road’, but later collaborated with Billy Ray Cyrus on the remix.

‘Old Town Road (Remix)’ featuring Billy Ray Cyrus ranked number one for nineteen weeks straight in the United States. Most people assumed that his success with Old Town Road would be a dead-end, making him yet another one-hit-wonder. However, the young up-and-coming artist was determined and driven to start his legacy in the entertainment industry.

Billy Ray Cyrus Lil Nas X GIF by BET Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

Lil Nas X currently has seven songs on Billboard’s Hot 100. Four of those songs made it to the Top Ten Hits list. ‘Panini’, the second song on the 7 EP, was one of those four. Many people assumed his inspiration for Panini was a sandwich, but guess what…they’re wrong. 

The creative artist was inspired by a young pink cabbit in the anime series Chowder. Panini has a crush on Chowder, the main character, and reminds him of those feelings at every opportunity. Lil Nas X said that Panini reminded him of some of his earlier fans. 

He compared the expression of love that some of his earlier fans had for him to the expressions of love that Panini has for Chowder. However, once he became mainstream, those same fans became disloyal, and he didn’t feel the same love and support from them.

This explanation was confirmed in many interviews with Lil Nas X as well as the animated music video released that Fall featuring the rap artist Da Baby. Lil Nas X played the main character Chowder, his fans represented Panini, and the supporting character Shnitzel was voiced over by Da Baby’s verse.

Chowder Panini GIF by Lil Nas X - Find & Share on GIPHY

Not only does the music video include the characters in the show, but it also features the themes and ‘easter eggs’ that only a true fan of the series would recognize.

Da Baby wasn’t the only rap artist to collaborate with Lil Nas X. Both hip-hop mogul Cardi B and rap legend Nas were featured on Lil Nas X’s ‘Rodeo’ in that same year.

Then on the last day of Pride month, Lil Nas X came out publicly as gay through a tweet: “some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends I want y’all to listen closely to c7osure. 🌈🤩✨”. 

In ‘C7osure’ the artist expresses how he is ready to blossom into who he is instead of putting up a front for others. In the first verse, Lil Nas X proclaims: “Ain’t no more actin’, man, that forecast say I should just let me grow. No more red light for me, baby, only green, I gotta go. Pack my past up in the back, oh, let my future take hold. This is what I gotta do, can’t be regrettin’ when I’m old.”

Living life with no regrets definitely paid off for the artist. He received a lot of support from his friends and iconic artists, including SZA.

Let’s fast forward to 2021. Shall we?

In January 2021, Lil Nas X celebrated a major milestone of having the highest certified song in the United States by reaching 14-times platinum status. According to the RIAA, one equivalent song unit is equal to a single digital song sale, or 150 on-demand audio and/or video streams. The milestone maker was at the peak of his success. 

Later in March, Lil Nas X simultaneously released a controversial music video Montero (Call Me By Your Name) and a limited amount of Satan-themed Nike Air Maxes created by the New York art collective MSCHF. Many people assumed that the “Satan-Shoe” was a partnership with Nike and threatened to boycott. Thus, Nike decided to file a lawsuit against the pop star in response to the controversy.

Call Me By Your Name Montero GIF by Lil Nas X - Find & Share on GIPHY

A year and a half prior to the “Satan-Shoes”, Lil Nas X released a Jesus-Themed shoe in collaboration with MSCHF that didn’t have any controversy. Some people wondered why the debut shoe didn’t reek as much havoc, but hey this is America. *shrugs* 

After Nike resolved a trademark infringement lawsuit against the artist, Lil Nas X responded in the only way possible. Instead of cowering behind the veil of the entertainment industry, he chose to be unapologetic. Living life with no regrets yet again paid off for the artist, but he didn’t always have that confidence. His life wasn’t always full of sunshine and rainbows.

In May 2021, Lil Nas X released ‘Sun Goes Down’. In this song, he dives deep into the painful and lonely times of his life. He expresses his dysphoria with his body and skin complexion. He dealt with colorism which left him wondering if his skin was too dark. His lyrics also convey how he experienced bullying and had thoughts of suicide, an experience that’s very common in our black community. 

Sun Goes Down GIF by Lil Nas X - Find & Share on GIPHY

After getting a glimpse of his teenage experience, Lil Nas X continues to normalize LGBTQIA+ musicians in the entertainment industry by releasing another soon-to-be hit single. 

On July 19th, he released a prelude to his song ‘Industry Baby’ featuring Jack Harlow. It was a clear parody of the lawsuit between him and Nike. Then four days later, he released an even more controversial and unapologetic music video. Industry baby earned the #2 spot on the US Spotify and Apple Music Charts on its opening day with over two million streams. On YouTube, it is currently #1 on the “Trending For Music” Chart with over 11 million views within 24 hours.

At this point, people either love this guy or hate him. I’ll let you guess which side I’m on… *coughs* #TeamMontero *clears throat*

We are now at the point where we are anxiously awaiting his next creative project. Recently, Lil Nas X provided his fans with a snippet of a new song and announced the release date for his debut album ‘Montero’. 

If we can learn anything from Lil Nas X as a queer community, it is that we should be unapologetically black and unapologetically queer. We should not let the opinions of others stand in the way of opportunities that are rightfully ours. Lil Nas X changes the entertainment game because it is one that has a history of being homophobic, especially to male rappers.

Many black male queer artists were ostracized and belittled in the industry causing others to be closeted and oppressed. However, Lil Nas X demonstrates how being himself can manifest positive energy and rewards. Lil Nas X is not a “gay pop star” he is simply a pop star that happens to be homosexual. 

No matter what facet of life you find yourself in, understand that it is important to always be yourself. That doesn’t mean that you have to make bold statements like Lil Nas X. It just means that you should never belittle yourself to make others comfortable. It can be hard living as an “out” individual. Regardless of what you choose to do, make sure that you are protecting your mental health and emotions. 

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