Moseying onto the scene with a surprise breakthrough, Atlanta's Lil Nas X merged the pastoral tones of country music with hip-hop, putting his spin on a subgenre dubbed country-trap. Like similar experiments by Young Thug and Lil Tracy, the hybrid was an unexpected success for the rapper: his debut single "Old Town Road" was a viral hit on social media and streaming, sending him toward the upper reaches of the Hot 100.
Born Montero Lamar Hill, he issued the 2018 mixtape Nasarati before releasing "Old Town Road" at the end of the year. The track went viral on social media and, once it broke into the mainstream, it accumulated millions of plays on streaming services. Sampling Nine Inch Nails' instrumental "34 Ghosts IV," "Old Town Road" clocked in at just under two minutes but managed to climb into the Top 15 of the Hot 100. While the song could have also topped the Hot Country Songs chart, Billboard made the decision to remove it from the running for not containing enough country music elements. The controversy only helped boost plays and "Old Town Road" continued its climb up the main chart. In March 2019, Lil Nas X signed with Columbia Records and issued the follow-up single "Banzup'."
Neil Z. Yeung