When Montero Lamar Hill–better known as Lil Nas X–exploded on the scene with his hip-hop-country crossover “Old Town Road,” it was arguably the most unlikely way to launch a rap career in history. His rise was meteoric: after Billy Ray Cyrus added a verse to the single, Nas went from being a couch-surfing college dropout to having the number one song in the country for five weeks straight.
With his debut album: ‘MONTERO’ set to come out this summer and his first ever SNL performance officially in the books, the two-time Grammy award winner has grabbed our attention with a vengeance and shows no sign of letting go.
Here are five reasons why Lil Nas X is a national treasure:
1. He knows how to roll with the punches in real time.
During a recent performance for Saturday Night Live’s season 46 finale, the 22-year-old split his pants mid-way through a pole dance routine. That’s hard to handle on live TV, but Nas had the presence of mind to cover his exposed crotch with his hands and continued on with the show like a pro as if it never happened. Verdict: Lil Nas X gets an A+ for staying cool under pressure.
2. He’s already reinventing himself
Sure, fans might have expected him to follow up “Old Town Road” with another country hip-hop crossover, but Nas is not the kind of artist who’s content to repeat himself. His single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, which just came off spending five consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Global 200 singles chart, makes it obvious that Nas knows how to blaze his own path—and keep winning by being true to himself.
3. He doesn’t give a damn
Confidently going against the grain of “what might be expected” of him as a Black man, Lil Nas X is a trailblazer for the next wave of musicians who identify as Queer, Black or both. But most importantly, since coming out in 2019, he’s bravely refused to conform to anyone’s ideas of what he should be. He is unapologetically living in his truth.
4. He recognizes his growth as an artist
Since the astronomical success of his first single: “Old Town Road,” which catapulted him into superstardom, Lil Nas X has evolved from the single dimension of his country-trap origins. “I found myself being able to grow lyrically and express more of me when I write my own songs,” Lil Nax X told Billboard after discussing the growth he discovered while creating songs for his upcoming record. The musical diversity of his recent singles, “Montero” and “Sun Goes Down,” have shown his restless creative spirit knows no boundaries.
5. He doesn’t let the haters get to him.
Just as the love, admiration, and scope of his brand has increased, so have the haters and naysayers and he’s deal with them head on. When Billboard threatened to drop “Old Town Road” from the country charts on the grounds that it didn’t contain the proper musical elements, fans rallied behind him. The controversy only made the song more popular: Nas ended up breaking his hero Drake’s streaming record. And earlier this year, when he created limited-edition “Satan Shoes”—black and red Nike Air Max 97s that featured a drop of real human blood—he created even more controversy. Priced at $1,018, the 666 pairs sold out in less than a minute, but even Nike distanced itself from the project. Instead of getting caught up in the conservative backlash, Nas proved he has a knack for trolling his haters it and isn’t afraid to clapback on twitter whenever he sees fit. He’s with all the smoke.