Inside the fantastical world of Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X is ripping up the music rulebook with his rap-country-pop sound, gender-bending style and eye-catching creative output. As he releases his debut album, we look at how the artist brings his unique vision to life

Montero Hill has come a long way from Lithia Springs, the small, conservative suburb just outside of Atlanta where he grew up. Better known as Lil Nas X, the 22-year-old artist has become a household name all over the world since the release of his viral country-trap crossover track, Old Town Road, in 2019.

Originally recorded for $50 in a small Atlanta recording studio, Nas’ infectiously catchy debut single made waves among everyone from teenage TikTokers to conservative country music fans. He swiftly released another version featuring country titan Billy Ray Cyrus, which became the longest-running number one single in Billboard Hot 100 history and made the rapper the first openly gay Black person to take home a Country Music Award.

Far from being a one hit wonder, in the two years since Old Town Road first dropped Nas has continued to give the music industry the shake up it needed. Several months after the initial furore he came out publicly as gay, joining a growing number of artists, including Tyler, the Creator, who are challenging the preconception that queer rappers can’t experience mainstream success. Since then, he has been unapologetic in embracing his queerness in both his music and creative output, including a particularly steamy, naked shower scene in the recent video for Industry Baby.

Having grown up on a daily diet of social media, Nas is fluent in today’s digital language, where meme-ability and viral stunts are arguably equally as important as making good music.