Rapper Lil Nas X had a country music hit on his hands… until Billboard decided it wasn’t country.
The rap-country crossover single “Old Town Road” went viral after Justin Bieber announced “this s**t bangs” on his Instagram account. The song soon shot to No. 19 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart and made it onto both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot 100 charts at the same time.
But according to Rolling Stone, in response to the success, Billboard soon removed the song from the Hot Country Songs chart and explained to record label Columbia Records that the song was included on the country chart by mistake.
Billboard said in a statement to Rolling Stone that “upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard‘s country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While ‘Old Town Road’ incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
The decision not to recognize “Old Town Road” as fitting within the modern country genre was met with some controversy online.
Lil Nas X himself responded to the news on Twitter, defending the song as true country music.
Lil Nas X elaborated further in an interview with Time, insisting the song should be featured on both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and the Hot Country Songs charts.
“The song is country trap. It’s not one, it’s not the other. It’s both. It should be on both,” he told TIme.
Asked if he thought that the song’s removal from the country chart had “racial undertones,” he responded: “I believe whenever you’re trying something new, it’s always going to get some kind of bad reception. For example, when rap started, or when rock and roll began. But with country trap, I in no way want to take credit for that. I believe Young Thug would be one of the biggest pioneers in that.”
Some fans on Twitter also claimed that Lil Nas X was the victim of racial double standards when it comes to crossover hits.