Pride Month Spotlight: Lil Nas X

Lisa Marino, Radio General Manager

[Eds Note: This article has been published in partnership with Spinnaker Radio to feature LGBTQ+ music artists and celebrate Pride Month.]

After breaking into fame with his first hit, Old Town Road, Lil Nas X has exponentially grown in popularity. Nas is an American rapper and creates a variety of music in the genres R&B/soul, country, and hip-hop. He writes music in a unique way as he often combines these genres.

As a young child, Nas dealt with his parents’ divorce. Nas first lived with his mother and grandmother at six years old when his parents separated. When Nas was ten years old, his father gained custody rights. Nas and his siblings were then raised by his father and stepmother in Atlanta, GA.

Nas had inner conflict with his homosexuality growing up. Viewing the mistreatment that homosexual people receive made Nas want to keep his sexuality a secret forever. He also grew up attending the church where his father sang in the gospel choir. Nas was convinced that he spiritually was not allowed to admit to being gay.

Although Nas was not social in his high school, he was an avid social media user. Nas dedicated a lot of his time to building online fanbases on Instagram and Twitter. His undercover Nicki Minaj fan account (@NasMaraj) attracted substantial attention on Twitter, but Nas denied being its owner because he thought it would make people think he was gay.

In 2018, Nas dropped out of the University of West Georgia after one year of majoring in computer science. This is when Nas took the chance of pursuing music. Nas would create music in his room and buy $20 recording sessions on Tuesdays at the Atlanta studio, CinCoYo.

When Nas released his first hit, Old Town Road , he promoted it by making about one hundred internet memes. The song soon went viral on TikTok because of what became the #Yeehaw challenge. In this challenge, TikTok users would dress up as cowgirls and cowboys and dance to country music.

Three months later, Old Town Road was listed on the Hot Country Songs, the Billboard Hot 100, and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. In August 2019, it became number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record 19 weeks straight.

On June 30th, 2019 Nas publicly announced that he is gay. He explained that the already released song C7osure is about accepting his homosexuality.

Another popular song by Nas is Sun Goes Down released in May 2021.

Photo courtesy of Lil Nas X.
Photo courtesy of Lil Nas X.

When delving into the lyrics, a heart-felt message is found. In the song, Nas has a conversation with his younger self.

An interesting interaction happens between the chorus, verse, and post-chorus. The lyrics in the verse are Nas’ reflections on his childhood self-image. Nas explains how he always felt different than those around him; he only felt comfortable when he was alone, listening to Nicki Minaj. The first verse states that Nas had feelings that he was gay but prayed for the thoughts go away.

The chorus then plays the role of Nas as a child. The depressed feelings Nas felt when he was younger are relayed in the lyrics, “I wanna run away…don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life…”

Nas then gives an encouraging message to his younger self in the post-chorus. He says that his self-worth should not be affected by people who bully him for being different.

Sun Goes Down opens with an electric guitar chord progression. The vocal hook of the song is played, and a hit-hat embellishes the sixteenth notes. This gradually introduces the mellow groove of the song.

A guitar chord progression with added bass guitar and drum set plays under the vocals of the second verse. Subtle background (BG) vocals come in on the third measure to fill in the instrumental lulls between phrases. BG vocals are sparse throughout the rest of the verse.

Violin and cello tracks play a legato, harmonious line toward the end of the verse. While most of the lyrics of the verse are about Nas’ negative thoughts, the bright strings are only sounding under the positive lyrics. The strings are under lyrics including the words, “loved,” “happy,” and “proud.”

BG vocals of harmonies over the melody line begin the second chorus as well as smooth tracks of in the chord progression. Including the various BG vocals adds texture to the second chorus, differentiating it from the first.

Photo courtesy of Lil Nas X.
Photo courtesy of Lil Nas X.

In the last post-chorus, the violin line increases in prominence. Percussion is cut out for two bars as the violin is turned up and panned to the center. Percussion continues to come in and out of the song as the violin is panned to the left.

Centering the pan of the violin while the percussive line is absent allows the strings to clearly be heard. Panning the violin to the left when the percussion is reintroduced lessens the possibility of the strings getting lost in the mix. The gradual shift from a center pan to a left pan keeps focus on the strings while other instruments add to the groove.

Smooth vocal adlibs are sung over the violin, guitar, bass, and percussion after the post-chorus. The final bow of the strings rings with reverb as the percussion and bass cut out for the final time.

The same electric guitar chord progression from the intro ends the song.

Lil Nas X’s music can be found on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. 


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