Although I have never been in his presence, I met this really talented dude on the “Old Town Road!” Lil Nas X broke on the scene a few years ago, rapping on what some considered a country music video. It was the perfect cultural juxtaposition and has passed the “platinum” status 14 times. The “country-rap crossover hit” is the most certified song in music history.
My problem is that it didn’t have to happen. L’il Nas X, like so many other talented people, could have allowed depression, self-doubt, and mettlesome naysayers to end his trajectory and his life.
As a father of daughters representing three generations, I listen to music as a matter of science and parenting. Erinn, my oldest, was born on the same date as Michael Jackson. Alison and I went to a Snoop concert together in her teens. Hailee just spent $300 on two tickets to see Tyler The Creator in February. All of these artists are phenomenal.
I know music by genre, trend, and cultural significance. However, Lil Nas has fascinated me since his original coming out party. Well, he didn’t really come out right away, and he explained as much a few days ago on Good Morning America.
“Growing up in the Atlanta area, I [saw] a lot of microaggressions towards homosexuality,” Lil Nas X explained. The Grammy winner said that because of his experiences, he began “pushing that part of myself in more and more, almost convincing myself that it’s not even actually there.
Mentally, it’s really draining and straining sometimes,” he said. “The pressure of living your entire life knowing the identity of what a rapper is supposed to be, what rappers [are supposed to] do, and going out there in front of all these people, it’s terrifying.”
His latest masterpieces are even doper, but I got stuck on a tune titled “Sun Goes Down. The song ends victoriously, but the descant and overtone of self-doubt and suicidal thoughts can’t be ignored.
Since then, I’ve been feelin’ lonely
but they was pickin’ on me Always thinkin’,
“Why my lips so big?” Was I too dark?
Can they sense my fears? These gay thoughts
would always haunt me
I prayed God would take it from me
It’s hard for you when you’re fightin’ And nobody knows it
when you’re silent
The fact that any of our children still have to deal with colorism, “thick lips,” or the essence of who they are is saddening. As a community, we have to do a better job of harnessing homophobia (and we all have a little, even gay folks) and assessing the mental traumas of our children. We can’t just keep chunking scriptures and empty prayers. Our children are hurting from the PTSD passed to them genetically, not to mention the latest forms or racism and social upheaval.
Lil Nas X wants to make space in the music industry for other gay artists of color. But the truth is that we have to find ways to raise all of our children for their own purpose in a way that they can live and allow others to live among them.
The chorus of Sun Goes Down leaves some sound advice that most can use in this hypercritical, hypocritical world we live in today.
I know that you want to cry But it’s much more
to life than dyin’
Over your past mistakes
And people who threw
dirt on your name
The moral of the Lil Nas X story is that the sun goes down, but it will rise again. Just stay here long enough to see it. The sun comes up too! #ilovethisdude
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.