Lil Nas X is sitting pretty: As of Monday, his new track, “Montero,” is the most downloaded song on iTunes and the second-most played song on Spotify while its controversial music video boasts over 31 million views in the four days since its release. But Lil Nas X has been spending as much time fighting off his critics as he has been basking in his success. One of those critics is Kristi Noem, the Republican Governor of South Dakota.
“Montero” has been condemned by conservatives, right-wingers, and hand-wringing Christians for its homoerotic imagery, including a scene in which Lil Nas X gives Satan a lap dance after pole dancing his way to hell. For those unable to fathom living life without worrying about the looming threat of eternal damnation, Lil Nas X’s creative decision was as puzzling as it was sacrilege. But even twerking on the devil in stiletto boots couldn’t prepare them for Lil Nas X’s next stunt: Launching an exclusive pair of sneakers featuring a drop of human blood.
Lil Nas X collaborated with New York art collective MSCHF to create the MSCHF x Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes.” The revamped Nike Air Max ‘97 features a red and black colorway, a pentagram on the laces, and “Luke 10:18" etched along the side; the bible verse reads, “So He told them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’”
Oh, and there’s blood, too. But just a drop.
Launching as a limited-edition “drop” of 666 pairs, each shoe’s air bubble sole contains 60 cubic centimeters (2.03 fluid ounces) of red ink and “one drop” of human blood, according to MSCHF. They are priced at $1,018 a pair, a reference to the Bible passage Luke 10:18 that reads: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
A MSCHF spokesperson said the blood had been provided by members of the art collective, adding: “We love to sacrifice for our art.” The group also confirmed to CNN that Nike was “not involved in this in any capacity.”
Pretty straightforward: A bunch of hypebeasts and Lil Nas X are dropping an exclusive shoe. Considering the fact this same collective came out with sneakers featuring Holy Water in the soles, stunts like this aren’t too shocking.
(Nike released a statement saying they were not involved in the creation of the modified shoes.)
But for many, the shoes were the last straw. Basketball player Nick Young said his kids will never listen to Lil Nas X’s breakout hit “Old Town Road” ever again (before claiming he was “hacked in the Name of Jesus”); Candace Owens suggested the sneakers are part of Black America’s downfall; right-wing pastor Greg Locke mentioned them in his Sunday sermon and called Lil Nas’s entire schtick “devil worshiping wicked nonsense” and “a bunch of satanism, a bunch of wickedness, a bunch of devilism, a bunch of demonism.” (Lil Nas X said he’s going to sample Locke’s sermon.)
Even Kaitlin Bennett, better known as “Gun Girl,” tried to dunk on Lil Nas X, with little success.
But professional right-wing provocateurs and basketball players starting Twitter beef is to be expected. A sitting governor getting in on the action, less so. But Kristi Noem decided she had time Sunday to dip her toe into the Discourse™.
In response to the Satan Shoe, Noem tweeted, “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive.’ But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.”
She went on to say that we’re in a fight for the “soul of a nation,” a bold claim coming from a woman who spent the last year campaigning for President Trump, a chaos agent, and encouraging her constituents to ignore covid-19 safety protocols over the course of a pandemic that has killed nearly 550,000 Americans.
Lil Nas X replied, “ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!”
Noem responded with a bible verse from Matthew 16:26 reading, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Lil Nas X ended the back and forth a line from “Montero”: “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin.’”
In other words, Lil Nas X isn’t going to bother fretting over his immortal soul. He’s here to do two things: Make music and do some gay shit.
This is all Satanic panic, the redux: The same actors claiming moral fortitude are making a fuss over harmless creative pursuits and patting themselves on the back for it. Lil Nas X grinding on Satan in a music video isn’t a precursor to moral decay, but reactionaries love creating a bogeyman and using them as a receptacle for their anxiety about the so-called “gay agenda” and wild conspiracy theories about pedophilia. The people denouncing Lil Nas X should know that they’re wasting their time: Lil Nas X is a Barb, a diehard Nicki Minaj fan, and Twitter beef and Twitter trolling comes naturally to them. He’s not going to be silenced by a bunch of hand-wringing parents forbidding their children from listening to “Old Town Road.” If anything, it’s making him stronger.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly associated the holy water sneakers with Kanye West. There’s no connection, but it certainly sounds like something he’d make.