Time's latest cover star is none other than Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 spot holder Lil Nas X, with the accompanying interview including a look back on how "Old Town Road" proved early doubters quite wrong.

"Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place," X told Andrew R. Chow. "Not to sound self-centered, but it feels like I'm chosen, in a way, to do this stuff." 

The feature also includes comments from collaborator Billy Ray Cyrus, Columbia Records CEO Ron Perry, and fellow country genre expander Darius Rucker.

"I was doing radio tours, and one guy looked me in the eye and said, 'I love the song, but I don't think I'll play it,'" Rucker, who also fronts Hootie & the Blowfish, said of his early experiences when going solo in the country world. "The perception was that the audience wouldn’t accept an African-American singer."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When @lilnasx's debut single “Old Town Road” exploded online early this year and began climbing the charts, industry prognosticators anticipated a quick rise and fall. It’s now the longest-running No. 1 song in history, having occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks. It’s been streamed more than a billion times on @spotify alone. All of this has made “Old Town Road” the defining sound of the year, a slurry, genre-busting interpolation of two quintessential American musical genres: #country and hip-hop. Yet even from his perch, writes Andrew R. Chow, Lil Nas is still an outlier. There aren’t many black stars in country #music; there aren’t many queer stars in #hiphop. There aren’t many queer black stars in American culture, point-blank. The fact that Lil Nas has risen so far and so fast testifies not only to his skill, but also to the erosion of the systems that for generations kept #artists like him on the sidelines. At a time when debates about categorization and identity are ubiquitous, Lil Nas X represents a more unified vision of the future, one in which a young #queer black man can dominate popular #culture by being unapologetically himself. “Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place,” he says now. “Not to sound self-centered, but it feels like I’m chosen, in a way, to do this stuff.” Read more at the link in bio. Photograph by @kelianne for TIME; animation by @brobeldesign; “Old Town Road” (p) 2019 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

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Cyrus, adding his own perspective on the importance of "Old Town Road" and its continued charts success (particularly in the wake of initial country pushback), explained how X's hit could be the push that other burgeoning artists need to pursue a similar path.

"A lot of walls were taken down by this song," Cyrus says. "I think a lot of artists out there can look at this and say, 'Hey man, this is a green light.'"

Elsewhere, X discussed his Pride Month coming out message, noting that he was aware that "the people who listen to this the most" are homophobic.

"I never would have done that if I wasn't in a way pushed by the universe," X explained, echoing previous comments he gave to Paper. "In June, I'm seeing Pride flags everywhere and seeing couples holding hands–little stuff like that."

Looking ahead, X—having already collaborated with Cyrus, Cardi B, and Travis Barker—revealed he's working with Pharrell Williams and has plans on further genre experimentation. The 7 cut "Rodeo," featuring Cardi, is also soon getting a video.

Of the 23 weeks X's breakout hit "Old Town Road" has spent on the chart, 19 of those have been from the vantage point of the No. 1 spot, marking a historic run that currently sees the song besting recent hits from Shawn Mendes, Billie Eilish, Drake, and Justin Bieber.

Catch the Time experience in full right here.