Lil Nas X knows how to capture headlines, that much is undeniable. Love him or hate him, the young rapper has a skill for owning the worst of what critics say about him and turning it from a liability into a new hit song. With the release of new hit single – and highly controversial video – Industry Baby, he’s done it again. Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill, sat down with YouTuber Kerwin Frost to give a revealing interview on the creation of Industry Baby, collaborating with Kanye West, controversy, TikTok, and thoughts on his upcoming album titled Montero.
Industry Baby, Kanye West and …Elmo??
During the interview, Hill was eager to talk about his new hit single, showing Frost the video for Industry Baby for the first time. As Frost chuckled appreciatively over various details through the song, Hill watched with a near-look of wonder on his face. The rapper expressed admiration for Kanye West, with whom he collaborated on Industry Baby. Hill referred to West as “down to earth.”
ET Canada reports, “‘I want to inspire people,’ the 22-year-old. ‘I want to tell my story and hopefully other people can relate to it.’
… ‘We talked. He’s a pretty cool guy. Super down-to-earth. He’s super talented,’ the rapper said of the experience. ‘He showed me stuff. He’s working on some great music. It’s nice to work with somebody who’s done that for so long, so much longevity and still going, you know?’”
Industry Baby is a brilliant challenge to Hill’s critics. In a prelude video, a judge questions Hill’s sexuality and when he admits to being gay, sentences him to jail. In the jail, Hill mixes gay sexual innuendo (and straight innuendo for Jack Harlow‘s portions of the song) and criticism of the music industry as a whole. It’s basically a middle finger to those who would have brushed Hill off because of his sexuality and those who continue to underestimate his place in the music industry.
And Frost and Hill talked about one of Hill’s peak career moments: singing Elmo’s song with the famous red puppet. While the segment discussing Elmo, Mrs Piggy and other puppet characters was a bit tongue-in-cheek, it did contain a touching moment when Hill got a little teary-eyed. Following controversy in March over a pair of shoes created for the Montero music video, the actor who plays Elmo called Hill and told him that everything would be okay. Hill says no one else did that, not even his parents, and it touched him deeply.
Lil Nas X is almost synonymous with controversy. From the start, he gave the industry a black eye. One of Hill’s first breakout songs was titled Old Town Road, a country-rap song which immediately blew up with popularity. But once it became obvious that he was an unashamed gay Black man, the country world was less welcoming. Billboard even removed the song from its list of country songs, facing a backlash accusing them of racism. Country legend, and father of Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, signed on to the song for a catchy interlude and the song went right back onto the country charts with his addition and back to the top. The way that he crashed onto the scene with seemingly no fear proved that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and he certainly has been.
In March 2021, Hill released another song, and this one was even more controversial than the first – by a mile. The song, “Montero: Call Me By Your Name” was instantly hailed as a queer anthem. The video playfully touches on themes of Christianity, Hell, and shows Hill facing an awakening in his life concerning his sexuality and the way society is trying to condemn him for it. The video features a stylized version of the Devil, played by Hill himself, who the rapper embraces. The video caused an immediate epidemic of pearl-clutching as people decried him as a bad influence for children. Supporters of Hill hit back, saying his message about embracing LGBTQ life despite what others would condemn them to is freeing and important for gay youth.
In the video, the Devil is seen wearing a pair of “Satan Shoes.” Forbes writes, “Earlier this year, Lil Nas X teamed up with art collective MSCHF to sell 666 pairs of modified Nike Air Max 97s featuring pentagram designs, biblical references to Satan falling from heaven and a drop of human blood. Nike sued MSCHF shortly after, and the two parties later settled the legal battle when the art collective agreed to a voluntary recall of the limited-edition sneakers.” Hill had a court hearing this month over the shoe controversy, and some have said that it was a brilliant play to drum up interest over his newest single, which turned out to be Industry Baby.
How much of controversy surrounding Hill is just about the industry’s homophobia and racism, and how much is manufactured? Hill has often said that he never intended to come out as gay and never wanted to be “that gay guy,” but has embraced his role to serve as a role model for gay youth facing a tough road to acceptance. So the answer to that question is hard to quantify, but it’s probably 50/50. Hill is a brilliant strategist and understands how to peak interest in his work. All he has to do is make a TikTok, and people immediately light up the internet talking about the newest “Lil Nas X” video or stunt. While a lot of the controversy is out of his hands, he’s found a way to mold and shape it and turn it into just more buzz helping him on his rise to the top.
Frost asked Hill how he got in the mindset to make his TikToks, which are famously irreverent and unabashedly “Lil Nas X.” Hill often uses his TikTok channel to hit back at critics. Recent videos have taken stabs at a lawsuit the artist is facing. In the interview, Frost said, “People can say whatever they want, but you’re relentless. It takes a lot to have that energy.”
Hill replied, “Yeah, it takes a lot of self-discipline.”
Hill went on to add thoughts on fitting in with his idols in the industry and whether or not he feels like he’s gained acceptance, “Yeah, some of them definitely. I think most people. Acceptance, yeah. Not everybody, but that’s okay.” But Hill isn’t waiting for everybody to accept him; he’s going to keep doing his thing, whether or not they sign on to his mission.
An Upcoming Album?
Frost asked Hill what kind of music he’s into, and Hill replied cheekily, “I listen to a lot of myself honestly lately, because I’ve been making my album. Love me, big fan of me. A lot of random songs that help you feel inspired. There’s this one Kanye song – Everything We Need. …It’s true. I do have everything I need.” But Hill isn’t done working, he wants to earn more stuff, and keep making more achievements. Which brings us to his upcoming album.
When is it coming out? “One day.” Hill drops a few lines of lyrics to Frost, then changes the subject. It’s clear that the mystery surrounding the album’s drop is part of the process. During the interview with Frost, Hill was playful, sarcastic, but clearly tuned in to the process of music-making and creating his image. Critics often think Hill stumbles upon controversy and lurches from one public faux pas to the next, but when he speaks about it you can tell that there’s a great deal of intention behind everything he does.
Hill says that a lot of people don’t open up enough, so he’s opening up and letting people in. At one point Frost says, “You remember the Three Little Pigs? There were these three pigs, they were harassed by this wolf. One of them had a house of stone, one of them had a house of sticks, and the other had a house of bricks. But you, Lil Nas X, you live in a glass house. How does that feel for you living in such a pivotal view where everyone can see in your life?”
Hill looks thoughtful, then quips, “Why would a pig have a house?”
Frost later thanks him for being on the show, emotionally explaining, “Thank you so much for coming on my show. You’re an inspiration, you’re a hero, you’re a villain. You’re the bad guy. And we love you.” Hill jokingly responds, “duh.” The interview ends with Lil Nas X clapping out a rhythm explaining the channels he watched as a kid, “Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. Cha-Cha.”
To watch the episode of Kerwin Frost Talks – with Lil Nas X, visit his YouTube channel. It’s worth watching to get an insight into the way Hill’s mind works, and the irreverent way he approaches basically everything. Frost’s interview gives little glimpses into the man behind the controversy and sparkles.