How Did Lil Nas X Become Internet Famous

Thanks to modern technological advances, it has become easier for artists and producers to write, track, collaborate, sample, edit, and share new music faster and farther than ever before.

Today’s biggest artists and producers have the ability to reach new listeners all over the world at the push of a button, unlike past generations that would have to wait for a cassette or CD to physically ship overseas.

But it’s not just the web that is fueling younger breakout artists like Lil Nas X, whose debut single “Old Town Road,” exploded across the internet in record time.

No. It’s largely thanks to the growing popularity of social media. To be more specific, how fans are able to use their influence and status to impact the music industry.

It’s not the first time this has happened either. Prior to the long-awaited release of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo (2016), leaks of “Father Stretch My Hand Pt. 1,” had fans hyped to hear Metro Boomin’ on the beat.

Combined with the increased popularity of the six-second clip-based social media platform, Vine, the track was transformed into a viral internet meme almost overnight.

Vine no longer exists, however, a new video-based social media app, Tik-Tok, appears to have stepped up in its place.
The song, which according to Rolling Stone, became an Internet sensation so rapidly that radio stations even resorted to ripping the song from YouTube, went on to chart at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts simultaneously.

The viral sensation was later removed from the Country music charts by Billboard, who released the following statement about the decision: “When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While ‘Old Town Road’ incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

Although the use of 808s and trap melodies are indicative of the Southern Hip-hop patois, the track is contemporary at heart. But it’s colorful use of imagery is what has fans debating whether or not it qualifies to cross-over into country.

This is not something completely unprecedented after all. Remember that Kid Rock started his career as a self-taught rapper/DJ before his country-rock influence would take over.

What about the Nappy Roots? They used a lot of country elements. So does Ludacris, Bubba Sparxx, and Yelawolf. Could they also be considered country?

It makes sense that a song doesn’t chart in two specific genres, however, the popularity of Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road” does raise questions about where the lines are drawn and if there really is a market for cowboy rap?

Originally published via Medium.com on March 27, 2019

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