Old Town Road, Billboard’s mistake

Lil Nas X has created controversy with his music, reminding us of the real problems of the industry.


Jahlea Douglas

GENESIS staff writer Junior Jenaro Delprete is a first year reporter at Elkhart Memorial High School. He specializes in music and reviews.

Jenaro DelPrete, Staff Writer

Lil Nas X is an American rapper from Atlanta, Georgia who recently topped the Billboard charts with his fusion single titled “Old Town Road.”

At only 20 years old, Lil Nas has made a permanent mark on the music industry. Although many think he is nothing more than a one-hit wonder, however, he is much more than that and I can prove why.

As many of you know, “Old Town Road” was taken off of the Billboard country charts during the last week of March 2019. The reasons given for the removal were slim to none and seemed too shallow to be reasonable. Billboard offered that this single does not “embrace enough elements of today’s country music.”

I cannot sit here and say the same as most media outlets, saying this is only to stir controversy and not to offer anything of importance. Many suggest that this has racist connotations, considering the “race records” of the 40’s which separated white and black rural country music. I do agree with this statement, Lil Nas definitely faced the same experience as a lot of African American musicians in the early 1900s did. But I would like to go a bit further than just the race records of the olden days.

In 2018, two country artists reached the Billboard #1 spot. Both of these artists were country artists of color. Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen toppled this milestone against all odds facing people of color in the music industry, who are thought to be reserved for Hip Hop exclusively.

Listening to those two artists’ discography, you hear very specific musical compositions in them: clean singing vocals, twangy guitar, and some sort of electronic drum beats. These artists were not contested in what qualified as country music. However, country music would be classified, in a majority sense, as bluesy, rural, stripped down music. 808 beats and any sort of urban music influences would not be classified as traditional country music.

Notice here as well, “Old Town Road” has the same elements that are contained in the likes of Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen: clean singing vocals, twangy guitar, and electronic drums. So I’d like to suggest that this removal of “Old Town Road” is not just a racist, unjust move for those in the music industry. I would go as far to say as this is a direct slandering of cultural clashing of urban youth. Lil Nas’ urban and hip hop inspired country tunes are just as country as any modern country song to hit the charts in recent years. The music industry, prior to his signing to Republic Records, has classified him into meme culture and urban street youth, rather than just strictly a musical artist in his own right.

This culture clash carries throughout not only the industry, but in popular culture in general.

Those who control the consumption of media and those who consume the media are completely different demographics. When the play-makers aren’t in favor of letting the younger generation take over, they’ll tear them down wherever they can.

The attempts to prevent youth culture from rising has been more and more prevalent in our society. Lil Nas finally being put back on the country charts and reaching the #1 spot proves that the times are changing. Internet culture and the urban youth are the direct mainstream consumers now. They control what media is consumed and how music is made now, the “top dogs” in the industry are no longer in complete control of what does and does not belong. Thank you Lil Nas for breaking the culture barrier for the urban internet youth.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the GENESIS staff. Reach Jenaro DelPrete at [email protected].