The catchy country, funky jam “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X has the internet buzzing after becoming a musical sensation that rapidly climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart and knocked out stereotypes of what defines the country music genre. But it’s rise to the top of the chart was short-lived and many say it has to do with race.
Billboard removed “Old Town Road” from the Hot 100 chart, the Hot Country Songs chart and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, saying it doesn’t fit the bill for what a country music song is. It notified Lil Nas X’s label, Columbia Records, that the song was ranked by mistake, according to an insider with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Rolling Stone reports.
But many have cried foul, saying it has everything to do with race, given Lil Nas is a Black artist with a country song that crossed genres. The song has a memorable hook that made it a fan favorite on the app TikTok, with its fusion of hip-hop and a banjo strumming and bumping baseline. It also features references to the Western-themed video game “Red Dead Redemption 2.”
Billboard released a statement to Rolling Stone, saying, “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.”
That explanation didn’t fly with CMA nominee Meghan Linsey.
— Meghan Linsey (@meghanlinsey) March 28, 2019
Billboard decision of course was disappointing to the artist Nas X who defended his song.
just because old town road has funny lines doesn’t mean it’s parody. it has a theme. anybody with ears can tell i put some kind of effort into that song.
— nope (@LilNasX) March 27, 2019
Billboard maintains, however, that race was not at play.
“Billboard’s decision to take the song off of the country chart had absolutely nothing to do with the race of the artist,” a Billboard spokesperson told Genius.com.
“When do we get to the point where [black artists] can be accepted and played on other formats?” the insider said to the outlet. “That’s still the question.”