Three years ago, we went to the ‘Old Town Road’


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 26: Lil Nas X, winner of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Old Town Road” and Best Music Video for “Old Town Road (Official Movie)”, poses in the press room during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Ja’Qaylin Harrison, Staff Writer

Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, was a lot of things to a lot of people: the 337th day of 2018, the peak of Sagittarius season, etc. For a then 18-year-old Atlanta native and self-proclaimed “Barb” by the name Montero Hill, who would come to be known by millions as Lil Nas X, this was the day that transformed his dreams of internet fame into a reality, one in which he would become the curator of “Old Town Road,” which currently holds the title for the highest RIAA-certified single of all time.

“Old Town Road,” to many, is a pioneering “country trap” single, combining a cowboy hat tipping sound similar to that of country music aficionados like Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw, with the bass-boosted sound commonly heard in today’s top hip-hop tracks. The song’s beat, which Lil Nas X bought from Dutch producer YoungKio for $30, samples a track titled “34 Ghosts IV” from rock band Nine Inch Nails’ sixth studio album “Ghosts I–”

Recorded at Atlanta-based recording studio CinCoYo, the song took Lil Nas X less than an hour to record. Shortly after, Nas began to promote the song through a series of memes, with the song going viral through the 2019 #YeeHaw Challenge, which was created by users on the video platform TikTok. Through this challenge alone, the track was viewed over 67 million times as of July 2019, with a large portion of its viewers being children who were attracted to the song’s catchiness and presumed theme of horses and tractors.

The song’s original version would debut at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, later reaching number one, and number 19 and 36 on the Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. This version, at one minute and 53 seconds in length, became the shortest number one song since “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (1:50) by Herman’s Hermits in 1965 and the fastest single to attain Diamond status from the RIAA.

A remix featuring country music royalty Billy Ray Cyrus further solidified the song’s place in music history, landing the song at number one for a record 19 weeks on the Billboard and Canadian Hot 100 charts. The song also hit number one in a number of other countries including France, Norway, Belgium, New Zealand and Austria.

The song also stirred quite a bit of controversy after Billboard removed it from the Hot Country Songs chart for not having “enough elements of today’s country music.” Had this not happened, the song would have been the number one song on the chart for the week of April 6, 2019.

Despite this, the song still managed to bring Lil Nas X and Cyrus unprecedented success, with the duo receiving Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and Best Music Video, winning the latter two, at the 62nd Grammy Awards 

Since “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X’s career has only continued to soar, with his debut EP, “7,” being released in June of 2019. The album received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year in the same year as “Old Town Road” and spawned the Top 5 hit “Panini” and the Top 40 single “Rodeo,” which featured Cardi B.

On Sep. 17, 2021, Lil Nas X released his debut studio album, “Montero.” The album includes the chart-topping songs “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” “Industry Baby” with Jack Harlow, and the Top 10 single “That’s What I Want.” The video for “Montero,” released in March, spurred enormous controversy, with some conservative groups accusing Lil Nas X of “devil worship.” The album has received five nominations at the 64th Grammy Awards, which will take place in January.

While “Old Town Road” may have been our first trip to the Lil Nas X rodeo, we can rest assured that the eccentric rapper is always working on something that’s going to blow our mind into another dimension, galaxy or level of consciousness. 

Happy Birthday, “Old Town Road,” and congratulations, Lil Nas X!