Lil Nas X of “Old Town Road” fame can now claim a Time magazine cover as one the many accomplishments he’s racked up so far in 2019. The 20-year-old rapper/meme king is decked out in an incredible red Phlemuns suit, a matching red cowboy hat, and cow-print boots for a cover story summarizing his speedy rise to fame: From a “college dropout sleeping on his sister’s floor,” according to Time, to the man behind the longest-running No. 1 song in history.
“Old Town Road” has held firm to the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 19 weeks straight, but its sustained viral success still feels like a happy accident. His single was already making the rounds in early 2019, thoroughly memed and popularized on TikTok. But when the song—a trap/country hybrid—was banned from Billboard’s Hot Country charts in March because it didn’t “embrace enough elements of today’s country music,” the subsequent public pushback bolstered the “Old Town Road” remix, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, and gave the song a new, and longer-lasting, lease on life.
Since then, Lil Nas X has become nothing short of a sensation: He’s collaborated with Cardi B on his EP, received props from Dolly Parton, and made paninis with Gordon Ramsay. At the end of Pride Month, he came out, a move he told Time was more harrowing than his joking tone suggested on Twitter:
For a lot of reasons, Lil Nas didn’t initially plan to come out. He had been taught from a young age that homosexuality “is never going to be O.K.,” and he feared he would lose fans: “I know the people who listen to this the most, and they’re not accepting of homosexuality,” he says. [...] But during Pride Month, something changed for Lil Nas. “I never would have done that if I wasn’t in a way pushed by the universe,” he says. “In June, I’m seeing Pride flags everywhere and seeing couples holding hands–little stuff like that.”
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Lil Nas X has also managed to maintain popularity beyond “Old Town Road” and its billion remixes. For example, “Panini” (emphasis ours):
Lil Nas’ seductive trap hit “Panini” already has 149 million streams on Spotify–more than the Beatles’ “Help” or Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”
And so it’s confirmed: Lil Nas X is bigger than the Beatles. And he deserves it. Paul McWho?