Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" sparks a heated discussion on genre, race, and hypocrisy.
Rapper Lil Nas X went viral upon the creation of Country-inspired hip-hop banger "Old Town Road," which ultimately found itself atop the Billboard Hot 100. In an unexpected twist of fate, the Red Dead 2 fuelled creation happened to infiltrate the Country charts, a place where an 808 kick drum is more myth than reality. Unfortunately for Lil Nas, the song was ultimately pulled from Billboard's Country charts, with Billboard issuing a statement to Rolling Stone Magazine:
"Upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard‘s country charts. 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.”
While it's possible that Billboard thought the move would prove innocuous, a few select voices in the hip-hop community came forward to speak out against the decision. For one, Ski Mask The Slump God branded the incident "Discrimination," implying that the entire process stemmed from a flimsy line of reasoning. "This Didn’t Come From Me But If My Song Was Taken Off Of A Platform Because They Decided It Doesn’t Live Up To The Genre Enough For Them," he writes, prompting a heartfelt thank-you from Lil Nas X.
One of the most brilliant insights came from 9th Wonder, who pointed out the double-standard where hip-hop placement is concerned. Buuuuut. So many artists end up on the Billboard Charts as “Hip-Hop”, and if we don’t accept it we don’t want the genre to grow, and we are purists and stuck in our ways," he writes. "But they kick homie off the country charts tho, because it’s not country to “them”.... Got it." It's certainly an interesting and thought-provoking take, given that many of Billboard's top hip-hop chart placements come via crossover artists, who deftly tow the line between hip-hop and pop: IE, including 808s and autotune in their composition.
The Rolling Stone article, which originally cited an "insider," provides another thought-provoking insight into race relations in the music business. "When do we get to the point where [black artists] can be accepted and played on other formats?” they ask. “That’s still the question.” That question prompted a response from Joe Budden, who raised questions of genre ownership with a sharp statement.
In the end, many interesting points are raised, especially where the hypocrisy of genre-fusion is concerned. Can a country song have an 808? It's certainly interesting to mull over, and will likely ruffle the feathers of a few close-minded types. Where do you stand? And more importantly, should a line be drawn where the genre of "hip-hop" is concerned? And if so, who should hold the pencil?