How Lil Nas X Took ‘Old Town Road’ From TikTok Meme to No. 1 | Diary of a Song
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How Lil Nas X Took ‘Old Town Road’ From TikTok Meme to No. 1 | Diary of a Song


“Hey.
What’s going on?”
“Everything’s going on.”
“Everything is going on.
Mr. Cyrus, how are you?”
“I’m doing good, Joe.
How you doing?”
“Yo, what’s up?”
“I like your robe.”
“Thanks.”
“Yeah, I always
make beats in this.”
“Play the number one
song in the world.”
“O.K. Let’s hear ‘Old
Town Road’ by Lil Nas X.
(SINGING) I got the
horses in the back.
Horse tack is attached.
Hat is matte black.
Got the boots that’s
black to match.”
“No!
No!”
“So you were just,
like, throwing stuff up
on SoundCloud that you
recorded in your bedroom?”
“Either in the
closet of my bedroom,
or the closet in
my grandma’s house.
Like, making studios
out of those.”
“Well, I’m from
the Netherlands.
I live in a small town
next to Amsterdam.
This is where I make my beats.
It’s just, like, a
desk with two monitors,
and I’m just selling
my beats online.
I can make quality
beats really fast.
So I can, like, put out,
like, 10 a day, you know?”
[music]
“Banjos, you know?
It really just hits me.
That’s why I made the track.”
“Who wrote the sample?”
“It was Nine Inch Nails.”
[music]
“But I had never heard of
Nine Inch Nails before.
But they have — they make some
really good music, you know?”
“I always get my beats,
like, from YouTube.
I would just go through,
like, 100 beats.”
“It’s really just luck that
people just find your stuff,
you know?
It’s really luck.”
“I found the beat on,
like, Halloween night.
The beat was just
speaking to me, you know?
I was, like, this
song’s gonna be great.”
“Did you conceive of the
song as a country rap song?”
“Country trap.
But, like, if I had to
choose which one it’s more
leaning towards, it would
definitely be country.
I got the horses in the back.
Horse tack is attached.
Hat is matte black.
Got the boots that’s
black to match.
I knew ‘Old Town
Road’ had to have
some kind of
funny lyrics, just
to keep people entertained.
Cowboy hat from Gucci.
Wrangler on my booty.”
“Did you have a
job at the time?
Were you working?”
“No, I was not working.
Like, I was pushing my music
through the internet, like,
full time.
From the very night I released
‘Old Town Road’ on Twitter,
this song was
already, like, moving.
(SINGING) I’m gonna take my
horse to the old town road.
I’m gonna ride till
I can’t no more.
I got the horses
in the back — “
“I randomly found
it on Twitter.
Somebody put his song over
a video that I already did.
And then I was like, hold on.
This song is — this
song is kind of hard.”
“(SINGING) I got the
horses in the back.”
“It put the black yeehaw
agenda and the song together,
and it just —
shot off.”
“A lot of people like to
say, you know, it was,
like, a kid
accidentally got it.
It’s like, no, this
is no accident.
Like, I’ve been —
I’ve been pushing this hard.
The internet is basically,
like, my parents, in a way.
I was raised
picking up on stuff.
I had to learn how to use
it, you know, in my own way.”
“I saw you made that post on
Reddit where you were, like,
what’s that song
that goes, I’m
gonna take my horse
to the old town road?”
“Yeah, I did that.
Because I knew that’s what
people were gonna search.
Oh, my god.
That’s embarrassing.”
“I didn’t really know
the song existed.
I think it was a girl
who sent me a meme,
and she was like,
hey, I heard you’re
producer tag.”
“Kio.
Kio.”
“So you’d never
met Nas X before?”
“Never.
No.”
“You didn’t know who he was?”
“I didn’t know who he was.
Nothing.
I feel like it was
meant to be, you know?
Me finding him right on time.”
“(SINGING) I got the
horses in the back.
Horse tack is attached.”
“It’s 15 second videos.
I have a hard time explaining
it to anyone that’s like,
so you make money how?
I’m like, I dance on camera.”
“Are you the first person
to post ‘Old Town Road’
on Tik Tok?”
It went [bleep] crazy.”
“(SINGING) I got the
horses in the back.”
“Everyone was
dressed like a cowboy
for, like, three weeks.”
“(SINGING) Got the boots
that’s black to match.
Ridin’ on a horse — “
“Once it hit Tik Tok, and it
was going viral, I was like,
O.K. We won.”
“We passed the
biggest songs out,
and we just passed it,
like it’s nothing.”
“(SINGING) You can’t
tell me nothing.
Can’t nobody tell me nothing.”
“You hear that?
That’s ‘Old Town Road,’
Lil Nas X’s big hit,
and it was tearing up
the country charts until
Billboard pulled it off for
not being country enough.”
“Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, now.
You got too much
dip on your chip.”
“Do you think there’s a racial
element to ‘Old Town Road’
being removed from
the country chart?”
“I see it as more
of, like, a —
we let certain things
slide, but maybe this one
is too different.
If we allow this, who knows?”
“I was really mad, because if
it didn’t go off the charts,
it would be,
like, number one.”
“Billy Ray, tell me when you
first heard ‘Old Town Road.’”
“I heard the song
on March the 16th.”
“Who played it for you?”
“Tish.”
“That’s your wife?”
“Yep.
And we were having
our morning coffee,
and she got a call, I think,
from Ron Perry at the record
label.
And he said, hey,
we’ve got this thing,
we’d love for your
husband to hear it.
And I actually stood
up out of my chair.
I stood up and go,
god, I love that.
That dude is original.”
“If you go to my past tweets,
like, two days after I
put out the song, I’m like,
Twitter, please help me
get Billy Ray on there.
Because I was, like,
Billy Ray Cyrus
would be perfect for this.”
“(SINGING) Hat down,
crosstown, living like a rockstar.
Spend a lot of money on my — “
“Billy Ray, where’s ‘Old
Town Road’ on the charts
right now?”
“Which charts?”
“The main chart.
The Billboard Hot 100.”
“Oh, ‘Old Town Road’
is number one.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna take my
horse to the old town road.
I’m gonna ride till
I can’t no more.”
“It’s my beats, you know?
I just made it
here, in my bedroom,
and now the whole entire
planet is listening to it.”
“Ridin’ on a horse.”
“I can’t go down the street
without hearing that song
at all.
From the internet,
which is amazing.”
“(SINGING) Can’t nobody
tell me nothing.”
“Every now and then, a song
like that comes around,
and I count my blessings
that they reached out to me,
and just let me be a
part of this moment.”
“Are you ready to play
it a million times
for the rest of your life?”
“Yes.
I’m gonna play this song —
this is my life
song at this point.”
“(SINGING) I’m gonna ride
till I can’t no more.
Yeah, I’m gonna
take my horse — “
“Do you have plans
to come to the U.S.?”
“Yeah.
Yeah, of course.
But I’m, like,
gonna let you know,
so I can’t just drop
everything, and just
go there.”
“(SINGING) I’m gonna ride — “
“Have you ever
ridden a horse?”
“Not yet.”
“That’s the craziest part.”
“Maybe in the music video?”
“Oh, of course.
Come on, now.”
[horse neighing]

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