Buzz began to grow when “Old Town Road,” which the Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X described as country-trap, arrived on three charts simultaneously: the Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Country Songs. With silly lyrics delivered in an exaggerated drawl (“cowboy hat from Gucci/Wrangler on my booty”), the track had become an online sensation through memes on social apps like TikTok, where young people made short country-themed videos set to the song.
But Billboard soon removed “Old Town Road” from the country chart, calling its initial inclusion a mistake because the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music.” (The song’s beat samples an instrumental number by Nine Inch Nails, which includes a plucked banjo melody.) Many critics of the decision questioned whether race was a factor, and noted modern country’s frequent use of rapping and digital drum sounds from hip-hop.
In a savvy chess move, Lil Nas X, who signed to Columbia Records amid the song’s rise, released a remix on Friday featuring the veteran country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who argued for it to be embraced by the Nashville establishment.
Hosted by Phillip Scott
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