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Old Town Road
Song

Old Town Road

Lil Nas X
Album:
7

Song Meaning and Background of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X


Montero Hill was an Atlanta college dropout sleeping on his sister’s couch and looking to break into music when he came across a track he liked by a Dutch 19-year-old called YoungKio that was based around a banjo sample from a Nine Inch Nails track.

“I was picturing, like, a loner cowboy runaway,” he told Rolling Stone. Within a year he composed “Old Town Road” which was the longest-running Number One song of all time, a song that only lasts one minute and 53 seconds.


The song is the debut mainstream single by American rapper Lil Nas X, first released independently in December 2018. After gaining popularity, the single was re-released by Columbia Records in March 2019. Lil Nas X also recorded a remix with American country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, which was released in April 2019.


The song has been widely labelled as "country rap", a genre that had not often reached the mainstream prior to its release. Dutch record producer YoungKio composed the instrumental and made it available for purchase online in 2018. It features a sample of "34 Ghosts IV" by the American rock band, Nine Inch Nails.


The sample was composed using a Roland TR-808 drums and bass. Lil Nas X purchased the instrumental for US$30 and recorded "Old Town Road" in one day. At the time, he had been living with his sister after dropping out of college; his real-world struggles were an influence on some of the lyrics.

The song initially gained popularity on the social video sharing app TikTok and eventually entered the Billboard charts in March 2019. The song reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart before the magazine disqualified it from the chart on the grounds that it did not fit the genre, sparking a debate on the definition of country music.


Both versions of the song collectively peaked at number one on the general Billboard Hot 100, for a record-breaking nineteen consecutive weeks and the remix peaked at #50 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.


One or more versions of "Old Town Road" have topped the national singles charts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and have charted in the top 10 in various other markets.


In September 2021, the song set the record as the second highest certified song ever by the RIAA with 16-times platinum status in the United States, meaning it accumulated 16 million equivalent song units. It has sold over 18 million records worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. 

In 2018, Lil Nas X dropped out of college to pursue a music career even though he was discouraged by his parents. He moved in with his sister, spending time promoting his music on the Internet while having just three hours of sleep each night.  Lil Nas X felt like he was "out of options" and said that his sister's and parents' frustrations with him inspired the song's chorus, "can't nobody tell me nothing".


Within a month of writing it, Lil Nas X chose to alter the song's meaning so that the "old town road" would be a symbol of success. Lil Nas X recorded the song on December 2, 2018, at the CinCoYo Recording Studio in Atlanta, and released it the same day on SoundCloud under the title "Old Town Road (I Got the Horses in the Back)".


Trent Reznor later said that, shortly after the song began gaining traction, he received a call from Lil Nas X's manager about the sample, asking for clearance to use it, which he granted. He described the song as "undeniably hooky".


On December 4, 2018, a day after the original version's release, Lil Nas X tweeted that he wanted Cyrus on the song. Lil Nas X knew of Cyrus because of his role on the Disney Channel television series Hannah Montana


The Columbia Records executive, Ron Perry, reached out to Cyrus' wife Tish Cyrus saying that he would love it if Cyrus were to hear "Old Town Road". Cyrus first heard the song over coffee on March 16, 2019, when Tish played it to him.


Cyrus explained that he loved the original song the first time he heard it. Cyrus also mentioned that he related to the song the first time he heard it, connecting the "old town road" to the Old Town Bridge in Argillite, Kentucky, that he used to play on as a child. 


In response to Billboard removing "Old Town Road" from the Hot Country Songs chart, Cyrus tweeted his support for Lil Nas X and noted that the removal put him in the ranks of great outlaws.


Lyrics of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X


You know what? I'm done, done, done

 

Yeah, I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road

I'm gonna ride 'til I can't no more

I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road

I'm gonna ride 'til I can't no more

(Kio, Kio)

 

I got the horses in the back

Horse tack is attached

Hat is matte black

Got the boots that's black to match

Ridin' on a horse, ha

You can whip your Porsche

I been in the valley

You ain't been up off that porch, now

 

Can't nobody tell me nothin'

You can't tell me nothin'

Can't nobody tell me nothin'

You can't tell me nothin'

 

Ridin' on a tractor

Lean all in my bladder

Cheated on my baby

You can go and ask her

My life is a movie

Bull ridin' and boobies

Cowboy hat from Gucci

Wrangler on my booty

 

Can't nobody tell me nothin'

You can't tell me nothin'

Can't nobody tell me nothin'

You can't tell me nothin'

 

Yeah, I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road

I'm gonna ride 'til I can't no more

I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road

I'm gonna ride 'til I can't no more

I got the—

Release Date

2018

Songwriter/s

Montero Hill, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Kiowa Roukema

Producer/s

YoungKio, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Label/s

Columbia

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