The EP is fun, but confirms that Lil Nas X doesn't quite know what to do.
By now, we all know the story. As told by The New York Times, NPR, Complex, Teen Vogue, Fader, Rolling Stone, and Time Magazine, 20-year-old Montero Lamar Hall, otherwise known as Lil Nas X, is from Atlanta, Georgia, and he's currently (and unexpectedly) the biggest pop star in the country.
We all know he got his start online, curating 15-second musical quips, one of which would grow into the beast that is "Old Town Road." Hall had been pushing his music on Soundcloud for months, but none of it took until he tapped into the micro-niche of meme culture with "Old Town Road." By flooding the internet with witty and unique memes to promote the song, the curiosity of internet-culture-obsessed teen's grew quickly, with Hall remaining mum on any further details of the song. The quip caught national attention after social media influencer nicemichael used the track in one of his trendy dance videos on Tik Tok.
But, frankly, Lil Nas X could have gotten there on his own. "Old Town Road" was born for the internet. The song's quick length, simple beat, and earworm of a chorus made it perfect for sampling online in an abundance of hilarious ways. Throw in Hall's internet savvy personality, unique marketing creativity, and embrace of the already growing "YeeHaw Agenda," and the song was destined to take over the world with or without nicemichael's steady fanbase. Billboard's racism definitely helped, too!
Inevitably, as "Old Town Road" catapulted into the spotlight, so did the 20-year-old college dropout. To his credit, Hall embraced the black cowboy aesthetic in an amazingly authentic way. He struck up a deal with Wrangler jeans that left racist country fans reeling, and in almost every conceivable public appearance he wore a sophisticated yet unique take on cowboy attire. Then came "Old Town Road's" Billy Ray remix, and then the Diplo remix; with each new rendition being promoted as a standalone project, they revitalized a song that could have easily lost buoyancy after a few weeks in the spotlight. But at some point, Lil Nas X was going to run out of road, and Montero Lamar Hall was going to have to show people who he was.
During an appearance on Deus and Mero, he was introduced by the hosts as the "King of Country." "Wait, wait, wait, I don't want to say that," Hall chimed in. "I don't agree with that last one." In an interview with Complex, Hall was asked to explain who he was: "I'm from Atlanta, but I don't really consider myself an 'Atlanta rapper.'" So the question remained: Who was Montero Lamar Hall, and why was he so resistant to embrace a definition? On 7, Hall's messy but charming debut EP as Lil Nas X, he shows us that he's still on that journey, navigating the cesspool that is internet culture in the hopes of finding his next hit and an identity more authentic than a meme.
Yesterday, Lil Nas X released "Panini," an equally silly earworm that borrows almost nothing from the country-pop influence of "Old Town Road." The rapper credited Kurt Cobain as a songwriter, borrowing the song's melody from Nirvana's "In Bloom." On "F9mily (You & Me)," Lil Nas X worked alongside Blink-182's Travis Barker to craft a pop-punk track that Barker admits was initially meant for his band. On "Kick It," Lil Nas X experiments with lo-fi Jazzhop; on "Bring You Down," he plays around with Garage Rock. Almost every song is its own experiment, with Lil Nas X seemingly waiting to see which vibe people enjoy most.
"Yeah I'm going to talk about everything in my music," he told Complex. "[In the past] I was making music more that I thought people would want to hear." This sentiment has left critics like Pitchfork feeling duped. "We don't learn a single thing about Lil Nas X on 7 other than he might have actually been born in a Reddit test tube in 2018." But what is there to know? He's confirmed hundreds of times that he's just a kid from Atlanta who stumbled into fame completely by accident. His music isn't born out of personal emotional turmoil or a form of creative catharsis; its sole purpose is to be consumed by the masses as lighthearted entertainment. He rhymed "Panini" with "meanie," "teeny" and "genie," for god's sake!
Montero Lamar Hall doesn't pretend to know what he wants Lil Nas X to be, and 7 proves that he frankly still has no idea. It's impossible not to admire his willingness to experiment and share his identity crisis with fans, even if the result isn't a necessarily cohesive or groundbreaking album. It's enjoyable for now, but even Hall, who has openly struggled with anxiety, admits this simply can't go on forever. "Why's it always what you like?" he sings cryptically to the masses on "C7osure (You Like)": "Ain't no more actin' / man that forecast say I should just let me grow." The track offers a poignant moment of vulnerability. Lil Nas X has been backed into a corner thanks to his viral success, and while it's all fun and games for now, it's clear that the rapper doesn't know how to turn his trending goofiness into the respected, bona fide rap career he's strived for since the beginning. Lil Nas X has arrived thanks to the power of social media, but the question still remains: Now what?
- Lil Nas X Drops EP 7, featuring Cardi B and Old Town Road | EW.com ›
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- Lil Nas X: Everything we know about his EP 7 | EW.com ›
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- Lil Nas X is a meme star, sure, but his debut EP reveals a star, period ›
- Lil Nas X: 7 EP Album Review | Pitchfork ›
Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.