MUSIC – Three years ago, he was still sleeping in his sister’s living room with a bank account in the red. Today, nearly 10 million people are subscribed to his Instagram account and each of his tweets ignites the web. Rapper Lil Nas X, 22, releases his first album this Friday, September 17 Montero.
A highly anticipated opus where we find his hits in particular Industry Baby Where Sun Goes Down -which have hundreds of millions of views on YouTube-, but also featuring with Sir Elton John, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion or Miley Cyrus. Since December 2018, and the success of his rap title with country accents Old Town Road, Lil Nas X never stops talking about him.
Montero Lamar Hill (real name) was born in 1999 in Lithia Springs, Georgia. His parents divorced when he was only six years old and he moved to live with his mother and grandmother in a difficult area of Atlanta before moving again with his father three years later in the small town of ‘Austell.
“I didn’t want to go (…) but it was better for me”, he confided to the magazine. Rolling Stone in April 2019. There was so much shit in Atlanta that if I had stayed there I would have fallen into the wrong hands ”.
A genius of social networks
During his teenage years, the young Montero Lamar Hill spends a lot of time working on his social networks. “I was making humorous videos on Facebook, then I went to Instagram and I jumped on Twitter,” the rapper told the same media. “This is where I was really a master. It was the first place I could go viral. ”
It is therefore through tweets and Instagram and Facebook posts that Lil Nas X has forged a reputation. “He can appear to be a celebrity overnight,” adds the New York Magazine, but its success is the product of a 21st century marketing plan that spanned several years. ”
Back in the summer of 2018. After a year at West Georgia College, Lil Nas X decides to quit everything to get into music. He publishes a few pieces that do not meet their audience. After an evening spent on YouTube in November 2018 – he then lives with his sister -, he buys a beat on the internet and writes the hit Old Town Road.
The track is released in early December and is slowly, but surely, gaining popularity. In March 2020, Lil Nas X flies to New York, signs with the Columbia label and records the remix with famous country singer Billy Ray Cyrus – Miley’s father – which will break sales records across the Atlantic and elsewhere. .
Since then, successes have been linked (Panini, Rodeo, MONTERO, Industry Baby…) and Lil Nas X keeps breaking the codes of “traditional” rap. Starting with his coming out in a tweet on June 30, 2019, on the occasion of Pride Month.
In an interview with the BBC a few days later, the rapper confirmed to be gay. “It’s something (his coming out, Editor’s note) that I had considered never to do, to take it all with me to the grave, but I don’t want to spend my whole life preventing myself from doing what I want ”, he confided.
“Rap music continues to revolve around heterosexual hyper-masculinity”
A coming-out all the more difficult for him as the rapper recognized with our colleagues at the BBC that homosexuality is not “really accepted (…) in the country or hip-hop community”.
“Rap music continues to be very homophobic and revolve around heterosexual hyper-masculinity, analysis for Then24 Richmond University sociologist Matthew Oware, author of I have something to say: Race, Gender and Social Consciousness in Rap.
“In this industry, gay men are often seen as weak,” he adds. This explains why Lil Nas X still suffers the negative repercussions of his coming out. It is an expression of the homophobia and misogyny present in American society, and therefore in the rap industry ”.
Not to discourage Lil Nas X so far. Quite the contrary. Last March, the rapper revealed MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name), a song where he talks bluntly about gay sex. The clip, mixing biblical references, Greek mythology, queer imagination, lap dance with Satan, ulcerates the conservatives, including among his fellow rappers.
If Lil Nas X is not the first mainstream rapper to openly express his homosexuality – Frank Ocean in 2012 or Tyler The Creator in 2017 did it before him – he is the first to speak in such a direct way about gay sexuality in his songs. Codes that he borrows precisely from “traditional” American rap – where sex is very present and women often hyper-sexualized. “In this, he is not very different from other rappers,” laughs Matthew Oware.
In his latest clip, Industry Baby, the rapper stages himself in a very queer prison where we find him in the middle of a boiling choreography, very naked, with his male inmates.
“When Lil Nas X came out, he wasn’t as open about his sexuality,” Oware recalls. It came with time, perhaps thanks to the kind reception and the positive comments he receives from his fans ”.
Result: nothing seems to be able to stop Lil Nas X. On June 28, at the Bet Awards ceremony, he stood out by kissing one of his dancers full on the mouth after a pharaonic performance.
More recently, he had another coming out: that of “power bottom”. An expression that we could translate, in gay sexuality, by “the penetrated who holds the reins” or the “powerful passive”.
“We teach our liabilities to restrain themselves, to make themselves small. We tell our passive, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim for fame, but not be too famous, otherwise you will threaten the assets, ”Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter June 29.
We teach our bottoms to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to bottoms, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the top.
– MONTERO 🦋 (@LilNasX) June 29, 2021
As recalled Libé in an excellent post by Guillame Lecaplain, “in a world where ‘motherfucker’ continues to be thrown all the time to people whom one wishes to demean, to say that one is, motherfucker, breaks a serious taboo”. And the rapper risks breaking many more.
See also on Then24: Rapper Lil Nas X Responds To Homophobic Charges After “MONTERO” Music Video