“Every time someone says ‘We got it, you are gay’ I become 10% more gay”, Tuitaba Lil Nas X shortly after launching the Industry baby the video that has blown the heads of half the planet (three million views since its premiere, seven hours ago). So what, as you have commented on occasion, He never thought he would be able to come out of the closet. Luckily, growing up in the 21st century in a small conservative community in Georgia is not like growing up in the 20th century, and while there is still a lot to do, a smartphone and an internet connection can open the mind, especially if used wisely.
Lil Nas X knows he is the king of virality. He grew up making memes, running a Niki Minaj parody account, and became famous three years ago with Old Town Road, a song country who became famous through one of those Tik Tok challenges and with which she won two Grammy Awards. But he also knows that you can be the master of the Internet, have a legion of followers and still be a victim of an unfair system: despite being the second best-selling song of 2019, Old Town Road was withdrawn of the list country Billboard for “not meeting the parameters of the genre”, parameters that many understood as racist.
It was then that he decided to make his homosexuality public, denouncing, incidentally, the homophobia that continues to prevail in the American music industry in general and in the world of hip hop in particular. But when he pulled out Montero Earlier this year Lil Nas X went from being an advantageous member of Generation Z (so far, he has only a dozen songs on the market) to becoming a kind of idol of the new activism, the one that mixes personal experiences with the expertise to capture the digital pulse of the moment. The video of Montero, besides a confession (Montero is his first name) is a fantasy queer in which the artist flirts with the devil himself, one of those productions that blinds and makes thirty-somethings feel very old, a visual and political manifesto that exceeds 300 million views on YouTube nine months after its premiere and from which Lil Nas X knew how to make money, obviously, because if we have learned something in recent years, it is that activism is not at odds with the (good) marketing.
Of the fame of Montero the very expensive network of merchandising that the artist orchestrated to continue in the gap: a Nike Air Max shoe customized or rather, demonized, for him MSCHF artistic collective, which were sold with a drop of blood: 666 pairs for more than a thousand euros. Nike soon dissociated itself from the invention and denounced Lil Nas X last spring. Now, with the trial about to take place, the rapper has turned it into a new masterpiece, Industry Baby, perhaps the most interesting music video of recent times.
If Lil Nas X was put in jail for plagiarizing Nike, he would denounce in four minutes the American structural racism and homophobia that has undergone the hip hop scene for half a century. He would clean his Grammys in the cell, implying that the success of certain people does not keep them away from institutional injustices, he would wear a pink prison uniform and would hack the logo of the Jordan until it becomes that of a club striptease typical. It may seem like a minor detail, but the still patriarchal rap culture bases part of its clothing on the prison uniform (the breadth of its garments is an implicit vindication of the American legal double standard) and on a provocative and defiant attitude that does not allow a iota of sensitivity to its aesthetics.
If Lil Nas X were thrown in jail, he would literally follow Beyoncé’s dance steps, finally erasing the mental barriers between female and male R&B music videos. We all know what they are. Although, in case there was any doubt, I would put a white rapper, Jack Harlow, to whip an exuberant police officer, redounding in the stereotype to subvert him.
But, above all, if he ended up behind bars, he would comply with each and every one of the stereotypes of the prison myth, that deeply homophobic story installed since time immemorial in the collective imagination and in which a handful of “very heterosexual” men are left ‘ desecrate ‘because they cannot suppress their sexual drives: they would drop the soap, they would accidentally brush against their companions, they would fantasize about the burly white policemen. In fact, in the trailer that precedes the video, the artist He films his own trial, with a judge who “coincidentally” calls his young female lover (ahem) seconds before giving his verdict and ends up simply accusing him “of being gay.” A black gay in jail, with all that that entails not only in real life, but also in anyone’s mind.
To delve into the homophobia and machismo that backbone the hip hop environment, just take a look on Google or watch the documentary Beyond Rhymes and Bites (2006), in which activist Byron Hurt interviews several popes of the genre reaching controversial conclusions. Interestingly, it was Kanye West (who not coincidentally co-produces Industry Baby) one of the first to raise his voice against the blots that drag the scene in a rrevealing interview on MTV in 2005. It was he too who broke up, at least for him mainstream, with the traditional aesthetics of rap, finally opening the musicians’ imaginary to signatures and styles less male. What Kanye West might not know is that Lil Nas X, his most gifted student, would end up stealing the limelight: West just published Donda, his new album. But the internet no longer seems to care after seeing the Lil Nas X clip. And if there’s one thing Kanye hates, besides cheap clothes, it’s being stolen the limelight.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.