Story At A Glance

  • “Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus won the CMA for musical event of the year on Nov. 13.
  • The song had stirred controversy this summer over what qualifies as country music.
  • “I am so happy this was accepted because it is the bridging of two completely polar opposite genres put together,” says Lil Nas X.

You can’t tell Lil Nas X nothin’. After Billboard took his hit song “Old Town Road” off a country music chart, he has become the first out gay man to win a Country Music Award.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus won the CMA for musical event of the year on Nov. 13, nearly four months after the rapper came out as gay in a tweet. Even his nomination was historic, according to Advocate, making Lil Nas X the first out gay man to be nominated at the CMAs.

Lil Nas X’s hit song stirred controversy this summer over what qualifies as country music. Generally considered “country rap” or “country trap” by the rapper and audiences, the song appeared on Billboard's Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in March 2019. But on March 19, it was removed from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. In a statement to Rolling Stone, Billboard said the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

But the remix of “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus spent a record-breaking 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 — and was allowed on the country charts. That was enough for the CMAs.

“I wasn’t sure if this was going to be able to take place tonight,” Lil Nas X told USA Today. “I am so happy this was accepted because it is the bridging of two completely polar opposite genres put together. I’m just happy, you know, it has gotten respect in both communities,” said the artist born Montero Lamar Hill, 20.

Cyrus, who has spoken out in support of the LGBTQ community before, says the award was meaningful for him as well.

“The fact the award that I win at the event of country music, it was a song that was banned, I think that best described kinda my journey,” Cyrus told reporters, according to Advocate. “I’ve never really been one to fit in and never really wanted to. I do my own thing, make my own music, my own style.”

Published on Nov 14, 2019