Controversy on the Country Charts


Ryan McCrary, Writer

On December 3, 2018 19 year old American rapper Montero Lamar Hill, also known as Lil Nas X, released a song called “Old Town Road”. The song is a combination of country and hip hop. Lil Nas X originally uploaded the song on a music streaming service called SoundCloud and the song became extremely popular. The song hit number one on the billboard top 100 and has amassed nearly 30 million streams.

All of this success was interrupted when Billboard decided to remove the hit song from the country chart. Billboard released a statement in which the said the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

This decision rubbed people the wrong way and many questioned if the decision to remove “Old Town Road” from the country charts was made because Lil Nas X is an African American artist. Billboard has stood firm in saying that their decision had nothing to do with Lil Nas X’s race. This situation brings up a very interesting question. Is “Old Town Road” a country song?

This is the definition of Country Music according to “a style and genre of largely string-accompanied American popular music having roots in the folk music of the Southeast and cowboy music of the West, usually vocalized, generally simple in form and harmony, and typidied by romantic or melancholy ballads accompanied by acoustic or electric guitar, banjo, violin, and harmonica.”

Banjos, which are included in many country songs, are played throughout the song. The use of instrument alone makes this song eligible to be included in the country genre. The lyrics only make the song more of a country song than a rap.

“I got the horses in the back

Horse tack is attached

Hat is matte black

Got the boots that’s black to match

Ridin’ on a horse, ha

You can whip your Porsche

I been in the valley

You ain’t been up off the porch, now”


The lyrics include lots of country imagery including “Ridin’ on a horse…” and “Hat is matte black got the boots that’s black to match.” The combination of the lyrics and the use of banjos are enough to make this single a country song.

“Old Town Road” fits best in the country-rap genre, which has gradually risen in popularity over the last few years.  Lil Nas X did a good job of creating a unique song which includes elements of both rap and country, but I do not believe the song should be labeled as just a rap song or just a country song. I do not think that Billboard took the song off of the country chart in an act of racism; however, I also believe it was unnecessary to remove the song. Why not leave the song on the chart, since it includes multiple elements of country music? Couldn’t they have just left it on there because it’s a country-rap song? It just makes very little sense in my opinion to remove “Old Town Road from the country chart.

To answer the question “Is Old Town Road a country song?” I would have to say no, but it’s also not a rap song. It is a combination of both genres and hopefully reflects up-and-coming country music trends.