Rapper Lil Nas X was removed from the country charts — can a Billy Ray Cyrus remix put him back?
‘Only Outlaws are outlawed,’ Cyrus wrote in support of Old Town Road, which was deemed not country enough
"I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road," begins Atlanta artist Lil Nas X on Old Town Road, a song that blends both elements of rap and country music to make what he calls country trap.
The song made history by simultaneously charting on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Country and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts in March, but was controversially removed from the county chart for not being country enough. The song, according to Billboard, didn't "embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version."
That could soon change, as Billy Ray Cyrus put his achy breaky heart and soul into an Old Town Road remix, which you can listen to below.
Cyrus, himself an outlier to country music when his 1992 hit became a crossover sensation, sings the first hook as well as another verse about living like a rock star and spending money on his guitar on the remix, supporting the idea that Old Town Road is in fact country.
"Been watching everything going on with OTR [Old Town Road]," Cyrus wrote on Twitter directly to Lil Nas X. "When I got thrown off the charts, Waylon Jennings said to me, 'Take this as a compliment,' means you're doing something great! Only outlaws are outlawed. Welcome to the club!"
Of Cyrus's contribution, Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter, "And he murdered the s***."
Old Town Road is currently the most streamed song in the U.S., according to the Billboard charts. And it would have topped the Hot Country chart this week had it not been removed. The song evokes the genre with its imagery of riding horses and tending to a farm, mixed with a banjo sample taken from the Nine Inch Nails song Ghosts IV-34, but it also adds a trap beat underneath consisting of heavy bass and a distinct hi-hat sound. The video also consists of footage taken from the Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2.
"The song is country trap. It's not one, it's not the other. It's both. It should be on both," Lil Nas X, who is 19 and recently signed to Columbia Records, told Time Magazine. "I believe whenever you're trying something new, it's always going to get some kind of bad reception."
Country artists have long borrowed from rap, most notably Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton — who once called country rap "the sound of money, lots and lots of money" — and Florida Georgia Line, with the latter expressing the idea that the two can coexist on their song This Is How We Roll: "Mixtape's got a little Drake, little Hank."
Brian Kelly of Florida Georgia Line has also expressed support for Lil Nas X on social media. That group currently sits on the Hot Country Song chart for guest singing on Bebe Rexha's Meant To Be, a pop song with a trap beat underneath. Maybe by this time next week they'll be joined by Lil Nas X again.