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Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" is an undeniable hit. But is it country? Not according to Billboard.
The 19-year-old's viral record has become a viral hit in recent months, thanks in large part to the #yeehaw challenge popularized on the TikTok app. Participants use the hashtag on videos in which they are seen transforming into cowboys, while "Old Town Road" typically plays in the background.
The #yeehaw challenge exploded, so much so that "Old Town Road" debuted at No. 19 on the Hot Country chart earlier this month. Unfortunately for Lil Nas X, his time on the chart was short-lived, as Billboard concluded the track was simply not country enough.
"Upon further review, it was determined that 'Old Town Road'; by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard's country charts," Billboard told Rolling Stone this week. "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."
Billboard's decision fueled longstanding questions about country music's suspected race issue. Was "Old Town Road" removed from the country chart because Lil Nas X is black? Many fans and industry figures seem to think so.
But what does Lil Nas X think of the track's removal? The ATL rapper share his thoughts on the controversy during a recent interview with Time magazine, explaining why "Old Town Road" deserves a spot on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as well as the Hot Country Songs chart.
"The song is country trap. It's not one, it's not the other. It's both. It should be on both," he told the publication.
He continued: "I believe whenever you’re trying something new, it's always going to get some kind of bad reception. For example, when rap started, or when rock and roll began. But with country trap, I in no way want to take credit for that. I believe Young Thug would be one of the biggest pioneers in that."
Lil Nas X also spoke about the original message behind "Old Town Road," and how the meaning has changed following his newfound fame.
"'Old Town Road' came after a period of feeling like I was out of options. I was living with my sister. She was pretty much fed up with me being there. That's where the chorus lyric came from—it was me saying, 'I want to leave everything behind,'" he explained. "But during the month of me making [it], I gave it a different meaning, so that the 'Old Town Road' would be the symbol for success. The horse would be not having too much, but having what you have, in order to get to where you’re trying to go."
You can read the full interview at Time's website.