Montero Lamar Hill (born April 9, 1999), better known as Lil Nas X, is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, and Internet personality. He's recognized for his meme-heavy online presence (mainly through Twitter) and being one of the biggest success stories to come out of the TikTok app through his hit Country Rap single "Old Town Road".
Released at the end of 2018, the single first gained traction in 2019 and began climbing up the Billboard country chart. The magazine then controversially removed the song from the chart, claiming that it did not adopt enough elements of the genre to be classified as country. However, using the ongoing buzz to his advantage, Lil Nas X released a remix of the song with none other than Billy Ray Cyrus, and both versions of the song wound up peaking at #1 on the general Hot 100, famously holding Taylor Swift's comeback single "ME!" from the top spot and staying at that spot for a collective, record-breaking 19 weeks.note
Lil Nas X's career continued from there by transitioning into a more mainstream pop sound with elements of trap, R&B and rock. He released his first EP 7 in late June 2019, and made headlines just over a week later (on the last day of June, which is recognized as Pride Month) when he came out as gay, becoming one of the most prominent black male artists in the LGBT community. His next release was his debut album MONTERO, wherein several of its singles ("MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)", "Sun Goes Down" and "Industry Baby") show him explicitly talking about his sexuality and/or his experiences coming to terms with it for the first time. This subject matter and the imagery associated with it have elicited both widespread praise and controversy — which he often uses as further marketing.
Lil Nas X and his music provide examples of the following tropes:
- Ascended Meme: During the infamous "Storm Area 51" movement of summer 2019, a crowdfunding campaign sprung up asking for him to perform the song as marching music for the "invaders." Nas X embraced the joke with great enthusiasm, saying that he would gladly perform at Area 51 "for free."
- Boastful Rap: "Sonic Shit", where he raps about his internet fame pre-"Old Town Road".
- Buffy Speak: On the "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" single, the a cappella and instrumental versions are respectively subtitled "But Lil Nas X Makes All The Sounds With His Mouth" and "But Lil Nas X Is Silent The Entire Time".
- The Cameo:
- Chris Rock, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, Diplo and YoungKionote all have appearances in the "Old Town Road" official music video.
- Colton Haynes plays the prison guard in the music video for "Industry Baby," but contrary to popular belief, the Samoan inmate in the yard scene is not Jason Momoa.
- Billy Porter plays the pastor in the music video for "That's What I Want".
- Closet Key: What he aims to be towards his closeted gay lover in "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)".
- Continuity Nod: During the video for "Holiday", Lil Nas X (as Santa Claus) flies past a version of Mt. Rushmore with the four faces representing his own appearance in the last four music videos: "Old Town Road", "Panini", "Rodeo" and "Holiday" itself.
- In the "Industry Baby" music video, a prison guard is seen watching the Montero (Call Me By Your Name) video, and licking his lips.
- Cool Car: Santa's sleigh is reimagined as this in the video for "Holiday", complete with robotic deers pulling it.
- He himself is named after the Mitsubishi Montero, a car his mother always wanted.
- Country Rap: "Old Town Road" is a unique take on this.
- Crown of Horns: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", the Devil's horns are actually a headband.
- Crown of Power: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", Lil Nas X takes and wears the Devil's headdress, gaining his powers.
- Curse Cut Short: In the video for "Panini", Skai Jackson at one point visibly mouths "what the fu-" before the camera cuts back to Lil Nas X air dancing using a jetpack.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", Lil Nas X easily takes out the Devil himself with a Neck Snap.
- Either/Or Title: "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)". The "Either" part is the Title Track, while the "Or" is how the song was originally announced.
- Gayngst: Sings about going through this in his youth in "Sun Goes Down".
- Gay Cowboy: After coming out, he's leaned into this aesthetic. It reached its pinnacle when he wore a hot pink Prada cowboy suit to the Grammys in 2020.
- Genre Mashup: Lil Nas X spends much of 7 blending all sorts of different sounds together. Travis Barker even shows up to do some punk rock drumming on "F9mily (You & Me)".
- Hell Has New Management: The video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" ends with Lil Nas X killing the Devil with a Neck Snap and taking his crown.
- Honey Trap: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", Lil Nas X seduces Satan with a lap dance before snapping his neck and taking his crown.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: Discussed in "Panini", acknowledging how a good portion of his initial underground fans turned on him once he became an overnight sensation. While he's frustrated by their reaction, he isn't willing to give up the fame just for them, but he does extend an olive branch in hopes that they'll change their mind and come back to support him again.
- Large Ham: Lil Nas himself: Most of his Twitter and personality in real life can be described as a shitposter, joking around and being incredibly playful with his popularity. The only time this wasn't the case was when he dead-pan tweeted that "Old Town Road" was just about horses and not some deep symbolism of gay sex following his coming out.
- Macho Camp: As of the Montero album cycle, Lil Nas X has fully leaned into this aesthetic. He and the dancers he chooses for the visuals/performances are cut, chisled and very manly - but it's clear they are also gay and campy. The "Industry Baby" video takes place in a prison with gruff dudes, all while wearing pink.
- Mind-Control Eyes: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", when Lil Nas X is mesmerized by the snake, his eyes turn the same shiny pale color as the snake's third eye.
- Miniscule Rocking: At 4 minutes and 10 seconds, "Void" is his only song to date over 4 minutes. The majority of his songs are at least a minute shorter; both the original "Old Town Road" and "Panini" clocked in at just under two minutes. Played straightest by the interlude "The Art of Realization" at just 24 seconds.
- Mock Hollywood Sign: The music video for "Holiday" has Lil Nas riding on Santa's sleigh, passing over a "HOLIDAY" sign, stylized after the Hollywood Sign.
- Mr. Fanservice:
- Dancing down a stripper pole to hell only in boxer briefs and then giving Satan a lap dance in "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)".
- A large portion of the video for "Industry Baby" involves him and other very muscular prison inmates dancing in the nude in the prison showers. A follow-up video purports to be the uncensored version, but just before it cuts to the naked dancers, it begins to load indefinitely.
- Mr. Seahorse: In 2021, as part of the leadup to the release of his debut album Montero, Lil Nas X began posting photos and video of himself with a (supposedly fake) pregnant belly, with the child's due date scheduled for the same day as the album's release.
- This culminated in a sketch called "Lil Nas X Gives Birth" being released to coincide with the release of the album.
- Neck Snap: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", Lil Nas X goes to hell, seduces Satan, then breaks his neck.
- Power Gives You Wings: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", when Lil Nas X gains the Devil's power, he sprouts dark feathered wings from his back.
- Power Glows: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", when Lil Nas X gains the Devil's power, his eyes glow solid white.
- Product Placement:
- Loads of it in the music video for "Panini". It is unclear whether it was a commentary on commercialism to fit in with the dystopian city which the video is set in and the fact that post-success Lil Nas X is now associated with so many brands, paid product placement, or (most likely) both.
- "Sun Goes Down" features him working in a Taco Bell, where he worked at in real life.
- The music video for Rodeo features Lil Nas X (playing a vampire) approaching a rack of Estée Lauder serum and testing one out before moving on with dancing and singing.
- This was hilariously mocked in his sketch "The Montero Show" where Lil Nas X criticises the blatant and nonsensical product placement ruining the entire video... only for the show's host (also played by Lil Nas X) to interrupt the interview to advertise a different skincare product.
- Record Producer: His main producers are the duo Take A Daytrip, who held his first professional recording session (where they created "Panini") and have worked with him ever since.
- "Old Town Road" samples the Nine Inch Nails track "34 Ghosts VI," which bizarrely gives NIN's Trent Reznor a songwriting credit on the biggest hip-hop song of 2019.
- The chorus melody for "Panini" accidentally sounded so eerily similar to the chorus melody from Nirvana's "In Bloom" that Kurt Cobain ends up being posthumously credited as a songwriter.
- His earlier song "Sonic Shit" from Nasarati is more-or-less built by sampling Lil Yachty's "NBAYOUNGBOAT" and sound effects from Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Satanic Panic: Reignited this in reactionary conservative media with his video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", which features him descending into hell and allowing himself to be free in the vices he's been consumed in. It also invoked a Gay Panic as said vices being addressed have to do with flamboyant sexual expression.
- Screw Yourself: As a corollary of Loads and Loads of Roles, in the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" Lil Nas X plays both the Adam/Eve figure and the snake seducing him, ending up with them kissing.
- Self-Titled Album: A variant; Rather than being titled after his stage name, the song and album Montero are titled after his given name.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: He sang with Elmo on an episode of The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo.
- His name is a combination of Lil Wayne, Nas and DMX.
- "Sonic Shit" references, among other things, Sonic the Hedgehog (obviously), Migos, Paul Walker, and The Get Down.
- Among other things, the music video for the Billy Ray Cyrus/Young Thug/Mason Ramsey remix of "Old Town Road" features Keanu Reeves Naruto running and a purple crow with Thanos's head. Your guess is as good as ours.
- The namesake Straw Fan of "Panini" is named after a character from Chowder, whose signature character trait is die-hard obsession to a single person. There's even an official music video animated directly after the show.
- The music video for "Rodeo" features a Saw reference, vampires, similarities to "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, Doritos Cool Ranch and The Matrix.
- A scene from the music video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" references FKA twigs' video for "Cellophane", as it involves the singer pole dancing, approaching a heavenly winged figure then plummeting underground.
- The title of "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" is taken from André Aciman's homonymous novel and its film adaptation.
- The music video for "That's What I Want" draws in part from Brokeback Mountain.
- Sky Face: In the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", when Lil Nas X is running from the snake, he sees a face in the clouds.
- Snakes Are Sexy: The snake in the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" plays the role of a seducer.
- Straw Fan: "Panini" is about a fan who became displeased with Lil Nas X after he suddenly gained national fame and recognition.Lil Nas X: Ay, Panini
Don't you be a meanie
Thought you wanted me to go up
Why you tryna keep me teeny?
- Stripperiffic: A Rare Male Example in "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)": Lil Nas X spends the latter half of the music video in nothing but boxer briefs and thigh-high heeled boots.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: The video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" ends with him willingly going to Hell on a stripper pole, giving Satan a lapdance, then killing him and taking his crown. The entire video serves as a Take That! to conservative Christian homophobia. If he's going to Hell, he might as well do it as fabulously as possible and take over in the bargain.
- Winged Humanoid: The video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" features an angelic winged figure hovering over Lil Nas X, and at the end Lil Was X gains demonic wings on his back.
- You Are Not Alone: Sings about bullying, homophobia, and Gayngst growing up, and assures others everything will be alright in "Sun Goes Down".