With ‘Montero’ Album, Lil Nas X Is Here To Stay
Lil Nas X has ushered us into a new cultural era with his debut 15-track album “Montero.” Lil Nas X first gained widespread attention with his 2019 hit “Old Town Road,” which broke cultural barriers by putting a hip hop spin on the country genre. It had the world questioning what we consider “country music.” It is still the longest-running №1 song in U.S chart history. Since then — through outlandish outfits and genius internet marketing gimmicks — he has sparked a conversation around homophobia in hip hop and the church. With “Montero,” Lil Nas X invites us into his world. Through these 15 tracks, we get a very intimate sense of what it is like being a black gay boy trying to make it in a world that is constantly trying to oppress you.
I have to admit, I was skeptical of Lil Nas X’s genius from the start. I was part of the crowd that connected him to a younger Gen Z audience, and I felt removed from hits like “Holiday,” “Panini” or “Rodeo.” However, over the past year, his music has matured and, like fine wine, has become palatable for the masses. Through the songs in “Montero,” we feel his vulnerability — wanting to be loved, suicidal ideation, the feeling of not being good enough, wanting to quit it all and the complex issue of family that is so familiar with many black gay boys who are now seeing themselves represented in hip hop music.
The beauty in “Montero” is that it is for every outcast, non-conforming or “different” black boy out there. Lil Nas X creates a space for you to see yourself, to be validated and to know you are not alone. It is for all the black boys who wanted to take another boy to prom but chose not to due to social stigma and fear of unacceptance. It is for young black boys who will now see themselves represented by someone who looks, talks and sounds just like them, bringing healing and a sense of belonging.
Lil Nas X is not the first black queer artist nor the first queer artist to get such notariaty/platform. There were many before who had been fighting the good fight for visibility to showcase their talent. In Lil Nas X’s latest single video, “That’s What I Want,” we see “Pose” star Billy Porter pass on the baton in the form of an electric guitar. Lil Nas X is the first black gay man who has so unapologetically broken that glass ceiling. He serves as the extra booster shot that will open the door for many black queer artists working to be heard and dreaming for the mainstream spotlight.
His antics have angered conservatives and religious leaders who say he sponsors devil-worshiping. The video of his first single of the album “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” depicted him giving the devil a lap dance. He has also angered other hip hop artists who have obsessively complained about his influence on kids, missing the point about the importance of representation. He continues to fight against an industry that does not see being black and gay as valuable or sellable to the masses. After he unveiled the track record for the album, a Twitter user responded: “Lil Nas X’s album has no black male guest lol. Just women & white men. No agenda tho.” Lil Nas X responded, “maybe a lot of them just don’t wanna work with me.” They might have not wanted to work with him, but I am sure after the success of “Montero,” a lot of these artists will want in on his success.
By putting his sexuality at the forefront of his music and expression, Lil Nas X has opened space for so many black queer men, young and old alike, to see themselves represented in a way that for a long time seemed impossible. Representation has increased over the years for queer people, but it has generally been through the white gaze. Watching a dark skin, big-lipped, afro-textured hair boy kiss another boy and live his life so confidently, so unapologetically, has moved us out of the dark dusted closets we were put in by society, family and the black church.
In the track “The Art Of Realization,” Lil Nas X talks about going through life with no sense of direction and being doubtful of the journey. He arrives with “Montero” and we arrive with him — reflecting on the pain of wanting to be seen, validated and loved. The album closes with “Am I Dreaming”, a ballad with Miley Cyrus in which he cries out “..never forgot me and everything I’ve done.” We won’t forget you Lil Nas X. Your journey has just begun. We sit in joy with “Montero,” anticipating what beauty you come up with next. You are here to stay.
My top five favorite tracks from “Montero”:
- Dead Right Now
- Am I Dreaming ft. Miley Cyrus
- Thats What I Want
- Dolla Sign Slime ft. Megan Thee Stallion