Since first attracting attention with his pop-country earworm Old Town Road on TikTok, Lil Nas X has been getting people talking with his social-media presence – and he’s done it again.
His jaw-dropping pregnancy shoot to announce the “due date” of his debut album, Montero, may just be his most outrageous post yet.
Wearing a crown of flowers and a flowing gown, the 22-year-old rapper cradles his “baby bump” to let fans know his “little bundle of joy” – his debut record – will arrive on 17 September.
“SURPRISE! I can’t believe I’m finally announcing this,” Lil Nas X captioned his Instagram post. The idea for a pregnancy shoot, he said, came to him while listening to rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s verse on his new song, Dolla Sign Slime.
After coming under fire for the photo, which some followers found to be facetious, the rapper whose real name is Montero Hill tweeted, “Let me get offline, all of this negative energy is not good for the baby.”
While some find his online stunts offensive, others seem to think Lil Nas X, who is openly gay, has a winning formula.
Could be one of the reasons he’s won the title of the most streamed male rapper on Spotify with 52.3 million monthly listeners.
Glam cowboy rapper
He burst onto the scene in 2018 with his hit Old Town Road, a remix featuring country legend Billy Ray Cyrus (now 60). Just 19 years old at the time, he was praised by the Achy Breaky Heart singer for bringing a new element to country music.
“Beyond the love is the respect that you’re looking at a man who used his mind to go somewhere and take down some walls in this music business that had never been taken down before,” Billy told Us Weekly.
A year later he also expressed support for the rapper when he experienced homophobic abuse online after coming out as gay.
“I feel like I would die for that boy, I really would. I love him so much. I’m so proud of him, and I’ll stand with him till the very end,” Billy said.
Vogue has praised Lil Nas X as a “master of the glam cowboy aesthetic” and his fans adore him. Songs like Panini and Rodeo and most recently Montero (Call Me By Your Name) and Industry Baby have reached platinum status on music charts.
Breaking the internet
The Grammy winner is no stranger to making headlines. Aside from this over-the-top “pregnancy” shoot for his forthcoming album, which he described as "therapeutic", he collaborated with Brooklyn-based start-up MSCHF and designed “Satan shoes” earlier this year.
Tying in with the release of his music video for Montero, in which he’s seen sliding down a pole and giving the devil a lap dance, the controversial singer created satanic panic with the release of 666 pairs of custom Nike Airs.
The shoes contained a mixture of red ink, which he described as “one drop of human blood”, and also had the Bible scripture Luke 10:18 written on the midsole. Nike distanced themselves from the stunt and took legal action. “We do not have a relationship with Little Nas X or MSCHF. Nike did not design or release these shoes, and we do not endorse them,” they said in a statement.
But it was a win-win for the artist. Within a minute the sneakers – priced at $1 018 (about R14 500) per pair – were sold out and the outrageous video, he says, helped bring him and his father closer.
“I feel like after the video is when my dad became the most supportive of me,” he told ET Canada. “Before that, it was something we never really talked about. But after he gave it some time, he believed in me even more. I mean, it wasn’t that reaction when he first [saw the video], but you know, we got there!”
Although his antics and promotional stunts have gotten him a fair amount of backlash, the record-breaking artist, who’s now been honoured as suicide prevention advocate of the year from LGBT suicide prevention organisation The Trevor Project, continues to make his music and live life outside the box.
"I've changed in so many ways," he told People. "I've changed the way I handle a lot of situations, the way I manage my sadness and anger and just understanding that I don't have to react to emotions in certain ways. I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose how to react. I've learned to let people's comments roll off my back."
SOURCES: VOX.COM, DAILYMAIL.CO.UK, PEOPLE.COM, USMAGAZINE.COM, ETCANADA.COM, FORBES.COM