From Nicki Minaj Fan Account to Hottest New Artist: Lil Nas X
By: Luke Yun
The country’s hottest new artist, Lil Nas X, used to run a Nicki Minaj fan account that he later rebranded to release his own music. His song “Old Town Road” currently sits at No. 15 on the Billboard 100. And was remixed by country-legend Billy Ray Cyrus. Let that sink in.
There’s a new trend of artists who become social-media influencers first, before ever dropping a single. People like Cardi B, Rich Brian, and Lil Nas X all already had rabid fanbases by the time their music hit.
Here are some crucial keys Lil Nas X picked up on his way to viral fame and a Billy Ray Cyrus feature:
Lil Nas X was a popular Twitter user under the handle @NasMaraj, a Nicki Minaj fan account. As a “Tweetdecker,” he tapped into a shady community of massive Twitter accounts that steal memes, retweet each other, and make tweets go viral. Lil Nas X later changed @NasMaraj to his current handle @LilNasX, ensuring his music had an audience the moment they were tweeted.
His social strategy included Reddit, where he posted meme videos of his own music and even asked r/NameThatSong “What’s the name of the song that goes ‘take my horse to the old town road.’” Here he mastered the art of the soft sell - the subtle nudge.
Teenagers’ favorite app TikTok picked up the song early; it’s not clear yet how much of a direct hand Lil Nas X played on this specific platform. Countless users donned cowboy hats to the backdrop of “Old Town Road,” contributing to the prevalence of this earworm of a song.
Another way Lil Nas X hacked the system: He listed his trap-meets-country song as country when he uploaded it to iTunes and SoundCloud. In this less saturated category, his single was bound to pop up higher, faster. Billboard later removed the song from its country charts, rilling up a huge backlash that helped bolster the song even further.