Culture / Music

Lil Nas X, past lives and the mystique of viral Stardom

Tales of an ex twitter troll.

There’s no question that, although “Country Trapstar”, Lil Nas X’s smash, Old Town Road has been the bane of everyone’s life for the better part of this entire year; charting on the Billboard hot 100 for 8 weeks, Old Town road is in a league of it’s own. Catapulting into superstardom from the strength of his debut single, perhaps what seems like a game of pure chance has been more of a steady, slow brew. With thanks to the resurgence of the Yeehaw Agenda, re-popularised by the release of Solange’s fourth studio album, When I get Home. The term, coined by Bri Malandro, was reclamation of southern, country aesthetics by black Americans through clothing. From cowboy hats to chaps, Lil Nas X’s song became the movement’s soundtrack.

The 20 year old received downpours of backlash form country music fans for the song’s appearance on the country music chart, which was controversially removed for not being identifiably, “country enough”. What’s interesting to note however, is that the accosting of middle-aged country music fans would have rocked any newcomer; an institution in southern culture, Lil Nas X, unlike many in his position who have refuted negativity with reason and doting appears largely unfazed. From the onset his banter is categorically similar to that of the twitter troll: shade laced with an immutable amount of truth.

It would be a lie if the Billboard article claiming that the Atlanta native were a tweetdecker (also known as a stan account) in his past life…  well last year, was anything less than baffling. Adopting the pseudonym, @Nasmarai, an account dedicated to Nicki Minaj. A giant in the digital fandom, the account had recently been suspended and according to an Intelligencerreport, speculations surrounding the sudden expulsion from the app was a decision made by Nas X’s label, Columbia Records, a 360 rebrand from the disconcerting stigma attached to standom, that could be conflated with Hip hop bravado. Yes, it is strange… it is. But, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling upon the Old Town Road rapper’s twitter feed, it is very plainly littered with stan jargon. Nas X has a knack for going viral.

When Hanna Montana sang, “ Yea when you’re famous it can be kinda fun/ It’s really you but no one ever discovers.” Lizzie Grant felt that, Montero Lamar Hill Felt that, and many other artists who have ever abandoned their past life for fame. IT seems a rite of passage to adopt an alias when pursuing a career within the entertainment industry, but what’s troubling is when it appears the artist is peddling both identities and completely disengaging from one culture to the next. Much in the case of Elizabeth Grant, widely know as Lana Del Rey, who was the target of vitriol over the weekend regarding her comments concerning her upbringing. Though a well to do daughter, of Robert England Grant, Jr, founder of the publishing company Web media Properties, Rey has maintained her claim of being raised on a trailer park to working class parents. .

 

For much of Lana Del Rey’s identity, it has been rooted to Latin American Heritage. From the racially specific last name to the “chola” makeup looks; there’s something to be said about white privilege, when one can monetize and conjure imminent success over the adoption of caricatures representative of marginalized people.

For Lil Nas X, though, this is a sought of parody of the celebrity formulae.  What once would be artist- star- social media maven has now been transformed to social media maven- artist – star. This is the age of the viral celeb, utitlising their social media prowess and recognition for some, to kick start their career in say Comedy (see; Lil Duval) or Cardi B with hip-hop. For others however, it seems less of a means to an end, and more of justification for immense notoriety. Can you ever just be a celebrity for the sake f recognition? We once thought that Hollywood’s reality television was the beginning of the blurring of the celebrity line with the Kim Kardashians’ and the Snookie’s and JWows, but, not until the creation of KKW Beauty, Kimoji’s and various other business ventures, was Kim Kardashian able to shake of the reality television stigma. To this day, being a personality is not justifiable profession to success. Of course, this is subject to the individual’s measurement of success.

Lil Nas X has all of the tools, regardless of whether or not Old Town Road is first installment to a trajectory within music that can surpass the one hit wonder cloud that hovers over a large portion of viral music today- he’s versed in self-deprecation and engagement- something many artists have yet to achieve.

30 May 2019