When Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X made a splash on the country music charts with Old Town Road he earned the ire of fans who felt the hip hop track didn’t belong.
Now Lil Nas X is causing a dust up, joining forces with Wrangler, the jeans brand he shouts out in the hit song:
My life is a movie
Bull ridin’ and boobies
Cowboy hat from Gucci
Wrangler on my booty
Old Town Road fans can keep the vibe going with new limited release Lil Nas X cut-off Wrangler shorts, shirts and specially branded jeans.
When Wrangler announced the line, it led to some complaints from fans threatening to burn their jeans. One user wrote on Instagram: “This makes me not want to buy wrangler jeans anymore – the cowboy spirit is nothing to be made fun of.”
But Wrangler’s biggest problem could be keeping the clothes in stock. Mixed with the complaints were fans thanking the company posting, “Never bought a pair of Wranglers but that’s about to change” and “I’ll be purchasing my first pair.”
Meanwhile, the song is still perched on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, beating out the latest from Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers.
Watch the collaboration between Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus:
Jordon Sowunmi is the co-host of the rap podcast Catch Up and co-founder of the Boosie Fade discussion forum.
He’s impressed with Lil Nas X’s knack for staying in the spotlight.
“Lil Nas X really understands the internet attention economy and he’s done a really good job of kind of keeping the conversation around the songs.”
Sowumni said it started with the original song, followed by the remix with the DJ Diplo, then the Billy Ray Cyrus version and more recently a new music video featuring cameos by Chris Rock and Vince Staples.
As for the backlash against Wrangler, Vanessa Craft isn’t concerned. The editor-in-chief of Elle Canada doesn’t see a downside.
“I think it’s a very smart move for them because it’s bringing more attention to the brand. It’s a strong PR move and that song is huge.”
Old Town Road branded jeans are just the latest sign of what many on social media call “the yeehaw agenda” — a movement celebrating cowboy culture
Sowunmi said some of the co-opting of cowboy fashion is ironic, but for musicians such as Houston rapper Megan Three Stallion or Beyoncé, cowboy and cowgirl iconography is a natural part of their identity.
Go back further, Sowunmi said, and you can see “a strong connection between the black community and the development of country music.”
But Elle’s Vanessa Craft said the resurgence of the country style also has roots on the runway.
In 2018, she said many designers were looking back at simpler times and worked with a western style, particularly Raf Simons from Calvin Klein, “Everything he did was really wrapped in Americana and western. Now it’s a year later and it’s trickling down into everyone’s point of view.”
Craft adds black cowboys have existed since there were cowboys, but now designers such as Pyer Moss are embracing the esthetic, incorporating images of the Cowgirls of Color rodeo team in their fall campaign.
Of course, sometimes a cowboy hat is just a hat. Some stars have the extra flair to pull it off.
Now that the yeehaw movement is mainstream, Craft thinks “this is probably the jump the shark moment” — in other words the trend is likely to start getting less attention.
As for Lil Nas X, the 20-year-old rapper has signed with Columbia Records and is now represented by Drake’s former manager Gee Roberson.
Now the industry waits to see if Lil Nas X has the legs to ride his hit song into a lasting career.