Lil Nas X Debut EP Isn’t a Rap Project, It’s a Strategy

Lil Nas X is what happens when Stan Twitter gets access to Pro Tools. With the same viral power that raised an entire generation on sites like LimeWire, Vine, and Reddit, he emerged from the sea of random content as empirical proof of a formula. His videogame-inspired summer hit, “Old Town Road”, took off when TikTok users turned it into 2019’s most beautifully complex meme. On Friday, the rapper released his highly anticipated 7-song debut EP, appropriately titled ‘7’.

Rumored to be the Twitter fingers behind the Nicki Minaj Stan Account, @NasMaraj (which was later denied by his label), Lil Nas X represents the formula for harnessing the buying power of “internet babies”. It’s something that’s sometimes too complex for “old heads” to fully grasp (ahem…remember this exchange between Lil Yachty and Joe Budden?), but Lil Nas X speaks the native internet language of meme-able content.

7’ is a post-genre marketing experiment on the breath of a changing landscape in the hip-hop world. Each song poignantly outfits itself in borrowed clothes, clearly referencing a few other music genres. In the same way that “Old Town Road” ushered Yeehaw culture into the rap world again, ‘7’ quietly welcomes Punk, Indie Dance Pop, and 80s Synthwave to the party. Despite the amount of criticism he’s received regarding the value of his talent, this deliberate fusion of concepts is what makes Lil Nas X interesting. At best, the “John Carter: Space Cowboy” imagery is a testament of calculated artistry. At worst, it’s an ephemeral sales gimmick.

He sensibly left the exaggerated country accent out of the other 5 songs, but the project still leaves something to be desired. Who is Lil Nas X? How can we relate to him as a person? Besides “Old Town Road”, which he says is about his personal road to success, the rapper fails to open up. ‘7’ doesn’t even hint at the kind of honesty that many rap fans look for in a project. The lyrics lean heavily toward ambiguous Pop theorem, but that’s how X prudently avoids falling into a false gangsta narrative. To a trained eye, it reads as calculated strategy, but unfortunately, that may only serve to underscore his critics’ points.

Overall, the EP carries some Top-40 value, but while we’re waiting for the much more creative shoe to drop, we should expect a few missteps. This may not be his first rodeo [Yikes, yes that was awful.], but Lil Nas X is still learning. “At first, I was just bored, like, ‘Hey, Twitter, I made a song,’” he told Teen Vogue in an earlier interview. “But I’m like, ‘Wait, this is really hard.’ Then I made another one, and it didn’t make any noise. I was overtrying. A lot of it was me trying to be something that people would like instead of making music that I would like. Around my fifth song, the melodies and flows were coming to my head with no effort. I was like, ‘This is something I want to do.’”

Click below to listen to ‘7’, available to stream and download on all major platforms.

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