Op-Ed: Billboards Decision To Remove Lil Nas X’s Song From Country Charts Sheds Light On Unfair Double Standard Placed On Black Artists
Hi there. In case you haven’t guessed by the byline, I go by the name Prince Hakeem. While you’re currently becoming more familiar with me through my work on entertainment news and reporting, I’d like to inform you that I also express my thoughts and social commentary based around these entertainment and media stories.
In today’s musical landscape where the internet has become the powerful equalizer, the opportunity and space for the musical genres to blend and infuse together has never been greater.
One such case is the emergence of Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’. In a very crowded rap market where new kids are popping up overnight, Lil Nas X decided to breakout in an unique and different way. Using his Georgia country background, the rap artist released a record that successfully mixed elements of country and trap hip-hop together. Nas X mirrored many of the traits and troupes traditionally associated with Country and focused them through the lens of a rapper’s narrative. It’s honestly one of the best efforts in what many are coining to be “trap-country”. The unique sounds included a banjo guitar instrumental and rattle sub bass being carried by Nas X’s country twang vocals.
Things were going good for Lil Nas X and his breakout record. It gain major momentum and popularity through the tik tok app and other social media platforms. The music video so far has garnered 14 million views just within three weeks of it’s release. The most astonishing feat was it’s debut at number 19 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs category. Old Town Road was being received by many as an innovative and creative entry into Country music. Well many discluding Billboard music. The music charting organization has been in the news for removing Lil Nas X’s record from the Hot Country Songs charts category. They stated that after carful review, Old Town Road didn’t “embrace enough elements to be considered country”.
“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.”
In addition to this statement, a spokesperson also noted that, “Billboard’s decision to take the song off of the country chart had absolutely nothing to do with the race of the artist.” Sure it didn’t
This development brings to light a very glaring double standard held in regards to black artists specifically. When it comes to black artists there is an automatic need for many in the industry to pigeon hole them into just being Rap/Hip-Hop and R&B. There’s always major reluctance and pushback against black artists who seek to expand their artistry and music across genres. In the case of country music, it appears that white artists are conveniently allowed to crossover and experiment with elements from other genres including rap, pop, and EDM. They are allowed to simultaneously retain their status within Country while also enjoy added visibility and success within other genres by way of their burrowing and incorporating those sounds into a Country template. You see it with Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem”, Florida Georgia Line, Bebe Rexha, and many Sam Hunt singles. While Lil Nas X may not ever be a bonafide country artist, he basically did the same these aforementioned artists have done. Old Town Road is just as much of country inspired rap record as Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly.
So why the complete erasure of his record by Billboard? By all intents, this was not a gimmicky attempt to troll. He and his label, Columbia Records, submitted Old Town Road to streaming platforms as a country record. It was wrong for Billboard to stifle his ability to express his country versatility.
This isn’t Country music’s first foul. Let’s not forget the pushback Queen Beyonce endured when she marketed and performed her country inspired record Daddy’s Lessons. She was infamously shot down by the Country Grammy committee when it came to submitting the record for any awards within the Country category.
This problem is also not exclusive to country music either. While the notion that genres like country, pop, and rock are generally still considered for music for “white people”, it furthers adds to the limiting of space and opportunity for the black artist. It’s also become a loosely open secret regarding pop’s reluctance to play music by black artist within the genre.
While there are too many example I could list off, all I have to say is this, open up your mind alongside the internet audience and quit holding back the black artist.