Controversy rises over country-rap singer Lil Nas X collaboration with Wrangler jeans

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Up-and-coming artist Lil Nas X released his country-rap single “Old Town Road” in December 2018. The song quickly became viral, reaching number one on the Billboard Top 100 where it has remained for the last seven weeks straight.

He recently announced his partnership with Wrangler jeans, and not everyone is happy about it.

On May 20, the denim brand dropped their collection in partnership with Lil Nas X, featuring clothes that incorporate Western-inspired elements and lyrics from his song.

Country fans have declared their distaste for the collection, saying that it doesn’t stay true to the “cowboy” spirit.

Some have even gone as far as saying that his song is making a mockery of country music and that it’s an example of cultural appropriation.

Obviously, this isn’t the case and anyone confusing this for appropriation is misunderstanding the definition.

Cultural appropriation is, by definition, the act of taking elements of a culture without permission from said culture.

But there is no standard of what it means to be a part of cowboy culture. While most people may envision the typical American cowboy, cowboys can come from all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds all across the globe.

Labelling the “cowboy spirit” as the American standard of what a cowboy is or isn’t is just plain restrictive.

I think it’s fair to say that anyone who is upset about Lil Nas X’s wrangler collaboration is using the clothing launch to thinly-veil their racism.

With only 3.6% of inductees to the Country Hall of Fame being people of colour, the country music industry is not a very diverse one, to say the least.

But this isn’t because people of colour aren’t participating in the industry. It’s that the typically white audiences just aren’t receptive towards racial minorities who produce country music.

It’s disappointing to me that the country music community is trying to exclude Lil Nas X, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened either.

This past March, “Old Town Road” had debuted at 19 on Billboard’s Hot Country charts, and was soon removed from the charts under the guise that it did not “embrace enough elements of today’s country music” to remain on the chart.

But country crossover songs from other artists aren’t normally excluded from the country charts, so this seems like a cop-out to me.

Billy Ray Cyrus, who is featured on the “Old Town Road” remix extended his support to the musician in a tweet saying, “what’s not country about it?”

“Old Town Road” has put a lot of new listeners on to country music. If anything, the usual country listeners should be happy that their genre is being recognized in the mainstream charts.

Post Malone, a white rapper in a historically black genre, has been acclaimed for his ability to blend musical genres. If rap can accept Post Malone, why can’t country accept Lil Nas X?

Coincidentally, Post Malone was asked for his opinions on the Lil Nas X controversy by TMZ. He responded to their question by more or less saying that a lot of modern country has hip-hop influence and that artists should be free to create what they like.

I agree with Post on this one. Polarizing the country music industry does more harm than good, but if country fans are so inclined to hate on Lil Nas X for his genre crossover, then they should be imparting that discrimination to all country artists who are doing the same.

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