It's hard to believe that less than a year ago, Lil Nas X’s only claim to fame was the alleged Nicki Minaj fan account on Twitter as user @NasMaraj. The 20-year-old’s career began when his song “Old Town Road” became a viral sensation. A remix of the song featuring country artist Billy Ray Cyrus recently went DIAMOND. At the time of this writing, "Old Town Road" is officially the longest-running #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. Beating out mega-hits "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Beiber and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” that charted for 16 weeks. In Lil Nas X’s world of Old Town viralness, his career would be filled with nothing but remixes to his hit record. Currently, the likes of Diplo, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mason Ramsey, Young Thug and RM of BTS have their own remix to the song, with rumors of a Lil' Wayne remix on the horizon.
“Old Town Road” expertly and humorously embodies all of the toxic and ridiculous stereotypes of both hip-hop and country music. Both its sarcasm, and don't-give-an-eff attitude, paired with the fact that the record executives don’t know what to do with it, makes the song optimal meme material. The song was originally on the country charts until it was deemed “not country enough.” With both the song and music video, Lil Nas X established himself as someone who defies conventions and has fun along the way. On June 21st, Lil Nas X released an EP called “7,” which begins with the “Old Town Road” remix with Billy Ray Cyrus.
The energy and charm of “Old Town Road” are carried through the second track, a rap song called “Panini.” The song perfectly straddles the line between humor and conveying Lil Nas X’s disillusionment with the way he is being treated by a partner or friend (it’s unclear). The line “Ayy panini, don’t you be a meanie!” creates yet another memeable moment that is already infiltrating the internet’s vernacular. “F9mily (You & Me)” is the EP’s first entirely serious song, Lil Nas X’s voice sounds completely flat over the rock-inspired instrumental. If this is an attempt to combine rock and trap music, Lil Nas X is, unfortunately, missing the key component of rock — raw dynamic vocals. While Lil Nas X’s rapping is fully expressive, his singing is often monotone and overly saturated in autotune which robs the songs “F9mily (You & Me)” and “Kick It” of some of their emotional impact. Lyrically, these songs successfully convey emotional stories, proving that Lil Nas X has too much to say to only make meme music. The saxophone playing intermittently throughout “Kick It” is a beautiful addition to the song's trap instrumental, and it is truly criminal how little we hear it.
“Rodeo” seems thematically divorced from its country connections. This is the only song besides “Old Town Road” in which Lil Nas X has added a southern inflection to his voice. While the false accent and goofy attitude works perfectly in “Old Town Road,” in “Rodeo” it feels like a cheap attempt to replicate the country and trap sound which made Lil Nas X famous. The Cardi B verse especially causes the song to fail as a crossover hit. The song “Bring U Down” has a very boring “alternative rock” instrumental, but in this singular incidence, Lil Nas X manages to pull through with his vocal performance. “C7osure (You Like)” is monotone and forgettable. The EP ends with the original version of “Old Town Road,” creating a full circle moment for Lil Nas X to rack up streams for the biggest record of the year so far.
If I had to summarize my opinion of his debut EP “7” in one word, that word would be "unfinished." None of the songs pass the three-minute mark, and most of the vocal performances are overly saturated with autotune. The issue with this record is the fact that it is curated specifically to be streamed by the largest amount of people possible. Since Lil Nas X’s claim to fame is that he makes memes, it feels as though everything the 20-year-old touches is curated to go viral.
“7” will appeal to anybody with a TikTok or a Triller account, however, the quality of the music was sacrificed to the fickle tastes of mainstream America. Lil Nas X’s perspective is visible in this EP, and not just his ability to troll or make everything a meme. Genres are bent and combined in creative ways, providing a sampler platter of Lil Nas X's latent potential even if the songs aren't as cohesive. I do not believe that Lil Nas X should be dismissed as a one-hit-wonder because “7” is a quite good collection of songs.