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Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Friday, 19 April 2019

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road": The Birth Of TikTok Rap?

A little bit country, a little bit rap, Lil Nas X's smash hit "Old Town Road" has come from nowhere to cause chaos with the Billboard music charts. The three hip-hop eminences behind Sum'n to Say, a free-wheeling Atlanta-based pod about all things hip-hop — namely Christina, Yoh and Jah — meet to discuss the implications of this unlikely creature.

This is a pod for lovers of hip-hop, but you don't need deep knowledge of the genre to enjoy it; while music is the central topic, the business of music inevitably enters the discussion as well. This episode finds the crew wondering about the future of the video-sharing app TikTok, which played a major role in the viral success of "Old Town Road" ("OTR") as users posted videos doing a "yee-haw challenge" inspired by the track. Jah wonders how organic the rise of "OTR" is. Perhaps, they speculate, TikTok has a masterplan to become both the platform and the label for artists using the viral video as the primary medium of distribution. The music business is always changing, Christina notes, and platforms somehow become genres, as seen with the rise of "Soundcloud Rap". Will there be a TikTok Rap to follow? Watch this space.

Yoh brings the discussion back to the decision by Billboard to remove "OTR" from its country music chart because it apparently had "insufficient country elements". Hmmm, everyone wonders, how can one know what these mysterious "elements" are? The banishment seems like yet another not-so-subtle form of racism on the part of cultural gatekeepers. Jah notes that no one questions Post Malone's categorisation as a "rapper" despite his tenuous vocal relation to the genre.

In the end, the presenters feel like the track may offer a moment for catharsis: a CMT 2020 opening with a performance by Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus (Soulja Boy with a mullet, as Christina describes him), and Young Thug. Too much to hope for? If "OTR" proves anything, it's that in music, nothing is impossible. 

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road": The Birth Of TikTok Rap?
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