Rapper Lil Nas X is enjoying the radiant glow of parenthood after giving birth to his first album, titled “Montero,” on Sept. 17. The artist has been sharing his “pregnancy” with his social media fans and even released a comedic video to showcase his “birth” experience. Thankfully, Lil Nas X does not have to feel the burden of single parenthood alone. Several featured artists including Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion have helped make “Montero” the album that many presume has already become the album of the year.
Montero Lamar Hill, known by his stage name Lil Nas X, has quickly become one of the biggest names in the hip-hop and pop industry. Against all odds, the young, gay, Black artist shattered the boundaries oppressing him and paved his way into the country music scene. He rapidly ascended to fame after creating the hit song “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus. The song sat at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 19 consecutive weeks, breaking a record left unscathed since 1958. His song and hilarious internet personality made Lil Nas X the most nominated male at the 2020 Grammy Awards. On the night of his new album’s arrival, Lil Nas X’s breakout hit became the first song to reach a 15x-platinum status.
Lil Nas X is no longer the one-hit-wonder that many first considered him to be. In a Super Bowl LV commercial with Logitech, Lil Nas X gave fans a teaser of his album’s title song, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” A little over a month later, speakers all around the world were blasting the song on repeat.
The song ignited joy from loyal fans but enraged a lot of the conservative-leaning “Old Town Road” fans due to its queer themes and homoerotic lyrics. To push their limits even further, he released a demonic, sexually charged music video in which the artist rides a stripper pole down into Hell and gives Satan a lap dance.
As a gay man with a Christian upbringing and an internet following full of haters, Lil Nas X initially believed that his sexuality was invalid and sinful. This song and music video, however, allowed him to express his rebellious side and make space for unbarred and proud homosexuality in the music industry. Commentators like Treye Green on NBC praised Lil Nas X for finding a way “to make outrage his fuel, cooly and calculatingly using the never-ending criticism to highlight the way the LGBT community continues to be marginalized, silenced and underestimated.”
To promote his new song and upcoming album, Lil Nas X partnered with MSCHF, a company involved in several viral stunts, to release a pair of limited-edition Nike Air Max 97 shoes like the ones Satan wore in his music video. A total of 666 iconic Satan Shoes were made for sale at $1,018 per pair and miraculously sold out in under a minute. What seemed to bother trolls is that the shoes contained one drop of human blood. In response to the controversy, Nike clapped back with a trademark lawsuit to block the future sale of the shoes.
On July 16, Lil Nas X posted a video on TikTok to tell his fans about his upcoming court date and that he could face jail time. Viewers noticed an intriguing new Jay-Z royalty kind of beat in the background. Three days later, a trailer released to Twitter revealed Lil Nas X acting in the role of judge, lawyer and defendant in a court case about the Satan Shoes. This video ends with the judge sentencing him to five years in “Montero State Prison,” a scene that also introduces the music video to his second new single, “Industry Baby” featuring Jack Harlow; the video, released on July 23, picks up where the court video left off, with the two rappers now escaping prison.
“Industry Baby,” a song that begins with a catchy brass fanfare, is a fan favorite about flaunting to those who minimize your accomplishments. Lil Nas X grew up watching the rap industry grow and now he’s shaping this growing community into something bigger and better. Following the release of the controversial “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” a lot of people expected him to learn his lesson and tone it down a notch. In an interview with Genius, Lil Nas X airs his public refusal to let anyone tell him what to do and proclaims he will continue to keep writing lines that stir the pot and create a conversation. He hopes that it will inspire young rappers to do the same.
The first two singles released on “Montero” were typical of Lil Nas X’s style — something you can blast in your car radio as you race down the freeway, windows down. The first half of the album gives Lil Nas X a chance to boast about his booming success and express self-love. Several songs mirror the angsty and brash style of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby.” “That’s What I Want” is the upbeat, thumping song you might hear at a high school football game, which happens to be the exact setting of the song’s music video. The rapper manages a difficult triplet rhythm with apparent ease in “Dolla Sign Slime” to boast about being at the “top of the game, only 22.” And it’s nearly impossible to avoid bobbing your head to the beat of “Scoop.”
For an artist with a hilarious internet personality fueled by trolls and hateful comments, it is surprising to hear several songs on “Montero” that are full of loneliness and depression. The second half of the album shifts to a darker perspective and Lil Nas X makes it very easy to get absorbed in his compelling stories about parental neglect and emotional baggage. Songs like “Lost in the Citadel” and “Void” allow the singer to be vulnerable with his audience. Both highlight the artists’ lowest lows, indulging in a toxic relationship and struggling with suicidal thoughts. Even when he’s singing upbeat songs and making out with cute football players in a music video, not everything is sunshine and rainbows.
The rapper intentionally disguises the songs “Tales of Dominica” and “Dead Right Now” with cheery beats and an emo falsetto to tell the story of his broken home and unsupportive parents. In the latter song, Lil Nas X explains that he lived in his sister’s house in the summer of 2018 before “Old Town Road” went viral. His father was upset that he left school to pursue music and told him it was too much of a risk. Lil Nas X paints his mother in a much darker light, exposing her for lying about being clean and abandoning him when he needed her most. “You know you never used to call,” he sings directly to his parents, “keep it that way now / I’ll treat you like you’re dead right now.” Even in his low moments, he laments that he “can’t go running back to home” and cannot face his mother.
Although these songs make “Montero” feel grim, Lil Nas X manages to keep things light with gentle beats in songs like “One of Me” and “Sun Goes Down,” which Pitchfork calls “a letter of support to Nas’ high school self (and, by proxy, the thousands upon thousands of queer kids who will listen to this album).” He pities his younger, closeted self for working in the fast-food industry and living a life full of “hurt and heartbreak” and acknowledges “I know that you want to cry / but there’s much more to life than dying.”
An overwhelming majority agree that “Montero” is an album without skips — every song is worth your time. “The album may be the year’s most beautifully constructed,” pop music critic Mikael Wood writes in the Los Angeles Times. Although he mainly sticks to the familiar hip-hop and rap genres, Lil Nas X’s songs are a beautiful stylistic amalgam. Listeners are in awe of his vocal range and his successful efforts to ensure that every song is individually unique. Each song brings a different, significant story to the table and gives listeners a chance to see who Lil Nas X truly is. By keeping a smile in the face of hatred and negativity, he has inspired millions of his fans around the world.
And, for the love of God, somebody give his stylist a promotion for that hyper-realistic baby bump!
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