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Lil Nas X Talks Beyoncé & Shaboozey’s Country Music Success: ‘I Wish This Would Have Happened for Me’

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Lil Nas X‘s Billy Ray Cyrus-assisted “Old Town Road” might be the longest-running No. 1 single in Billboard Hot 100 history (19 weeks), but that doesn’t erase the conflicted feelings the Grammy-winning “Industry Baby” rapper has regarding his controversial reception in the country music space back in 2019, compared to how Beyoncé‘s and Shaboozey‘s country tunes have been embraced in 2024.

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While he’s “happy” for the two, Lil Nas X told the BBC on May 19, “I wish this would have happened for me. I wasn’t even able to experience this.”

Lil Nas and Billy Ray took home the 2019 CMA Award for musical event of the year, but, for the “Montero” singer, even that triumph pales in comparison to how Black artists are currently being received in the mainstream country space. Half a decade after the domination of “Old Town Road,” Black artists are making history in the genre.

At the top of 2024, Beyoncé’s smash hit “Texas Hold ‘Em” became the first song by a Black woman to top Hot Country Songs, as well as the first country song by a Black woman to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100. Months later — following the release of Queen Bey’s Cowboy Carter, the first album by a Black woman to top Country Albums — Shaboozey’s J-Kwon-interpolating “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” reached No. 1 on Country Songs, making him and Beyoncé the first Black artists to score back-to-back leaders in the chart’s 66-year history. “A Bar Song” has since reached No. 3 on the Hot 100, marking Shaboozey’s third appearance on the ranking in 2024, following his dual Cowboy Carter features: “Spaghettii” (No. 31, with Linda Martell) and “Sweet * Honey * Buckiin’” (No. 61).

Cowboy Carter also features collaborations with several ascendant Black country stars, including Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts, Tiera Kennedy and Willie Jones. Upon the release of “Texas Hold ‘Em,” Billboard reported massive streaming boosts for Black women in country music, ranging from Martell to Rissi Palmer and K. Michelle.

Lil Nas’ own post-“Old Town Road” music has further explored his affinity for rap, pop and rock, but he’s hinting at a return to country music, confirming to the BBC that he’s been “trying out some country [sounds] here and there over the last couple of years.”

“I want to feel connected to it and not force it,” he said.

Five years ago, “Old Town Road” — which ultimately won the Grammy for best pop duo/group performance — achieved the rare feat of simultaneously appearing on the Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The song spent a single week at No. 19 on Hot Country Songs before Billboard removed the country-trap hit from the ranking for “not [embracing] enough elements of today’s country music” despite being Lil Nas X labeling the song as “country” in the track metadata upon its Dec. 3, 2018, release.

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The ejection of “Old Town Road” from the Billboard country charts sparked a flurry of debate regarding the acceptance and recognition of Black artists in the country music space, and the industry’s apparent compulsion to solely box Black artists into the hip-hop and R&B genres despite the musical composition of their songs. Some even drew parallels to 2016’s “Daddy Lessons,” widely regarded as Beyoncé’s first proper country song, which did not chart on Country Songs despite a No. 26 peak on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and a subsequent remix with The Chicks.

Since “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X has successfully transitioned from viral meme to bonafide pop star cultural lightning rod. Both of his official projects — 2019’s 7 EP and 2021’s Montero LP — reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. He’s also added a bevy of Hot 100 hits to his arsenal, including “Montero (Call Me By Your Name” (No. 1), “Industry Baby” (No. 1, with Jack Harlow), “Panini” (No. 5) and “Thats What I Want” (No. 8).

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Taylor Swift Tells Fans ‘Talk Amongst Yourselves’ While Expertly Handling Eras Tour Wardrobe Slipup

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