What does "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas ft. Billy Ray Cyrus mean?
“Old Town Road” Lyrics Meaning
(The following blog post is a transcript created by Xalma of the below video.)
All right, you guys may not be expecting this, but I am actually a fan of "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X; and not just because the music is excellent, but because unlike so much hip-hop out there right now, Lil Nas X put some actually personally deep meaning into the lyrics, and I'm going to explain those to you today.
"Old Town Road" is a song by Lil Nas X, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. I realized that I am several months late to this party; but I think that gives me a little bit more of a perspective on some of the controversy that has surrounded this song; so basically when it first got released, before Billy Ray Cyrus was a feature; the song was on the country charts, but then all of a sudden, for some reason, Billboard was like "ummm, let's rethink that"; and they took it off the country charts; and it was still just going massively huge, then Billy Ray Cyrus jumps on; and for like eight weeks, it's been at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100. This song is absolutely dominating, but there's for some reason some music executive somewhere that don't think that it is a country song; yes, it is structurally and perhaps "in spirit" more of a rap song than a country song, maybe with more of the decorations of country music; but it's got Billy Ray Cyrus on it, it's got this twang to it, it's got a freaking banjo for goodness sake! So I understand why it's not an easy controversy to come to a conclusion on; but at the same time, there's been a lot of country artists who have said actually no we're kind of a fan of this, and while they're not the ones who get to make the decisions on what "country music" is or isn't necessarily; I think that it would be kind of cool to just let that all go.
This song also comes on the waves of the "yee-haa agenda", which started out as a stylistic fashion; which was basically just black people wearing cowboy clothes; the participation in cowboy culture of African-Americans has kind of been whitewashed by Hollywood; so I think it could be said that there are probably some people who are a little bit nervous about this song sort of being an attack on traditional or at least current country culture; and that's not being defensive in a good way; that's a very bad reason to keep this song off of the charts; and sure there's been a lot of people calling country radio stations and saying "hey, don't play that"; but the vast majority of people just silently enjoyed the song, rather than complaining; and in this case, I think a lot of times this is probably the result of a very vocal minority taking control for a much chiller larger population that would prefer to listen to this song more; can you blame them?!
Now as far as personal background goes; Lil Nas X went to college for a year, it just wasn't the right fit for him; and I think it is a crime that we kind of funnel kids and force them to go into college, so I completely empathise with him there; so he was living with his sister, trying to avoid his parents, who he was afraid were going to be mad that he had quit going to college; and all the while he was basically working full-time trying to get his music out there; and while his music eventually did pick up, this song is written from the perspective of him trying to do something with his life.
What we have here is the refrain,
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
This is a personal manifesto for Lil Nas X; because he's got this horse, it's kind of an outdated way to travel, that is slower, and it can sprain a leg; and then there's this old town road, which for him is kind of this promised land, and I haven't been able to find anywhere why he decided on the "Old Town Road", but maybe he's looking back to the success of people in the past, and he wants to do the same sort of successful thing that they have done; then finally says "I'm gonna ride till I can't no more"; and it's just basically him saying "I'm just gonna keep doing this, until I am unable to"; so he is not going to give up.
Remember all of this is written from the perspective of a hip-hop artist, who has not succeeded yet, so he's not bragging about succeeding; he's actually talking about his perseverance to not succeed; and that separates him from probably about 95% of SoundCloud rappers out there; plus, it's got a country twang to it, so that's different too.
Okay, then we jump into verse one,
I got the horses in the back
Horse tack is attached
Hat is matte black
Got the boots that's black to match
Technically, it's pronounced "Matte" not "Mattie", but he needed to keep the rhythm I guess; and he's explained that the purpose of this verse was basically "a flex"; but it's a flex in a really weird way, because he's not saying that he has so much more than all of us; nope, he is dressed as a cowboy! It's not updated, it's old, it's not the equipment that most people would go into the rap game trying to win with; he's basically saying "I've got what I've got, and I'm going to make it work!". In the rest of the first verse, he says,
Ridin' on a horse, ha
You can whip your Porsche
I been in the valley
You ain't been up off that porch, now
Again, this is him comparing himself, "I've got a horse, and you've got a Porsche, sure! but I'm gonna keep going"; then it's like "I've been in the valley, I've been in the places where it's difficult to succeed, I've struggled and you ain't been above that porch"; so he's saying that these other people are comfortable, and they don't have that drive that he has.
He is kind of telling the age-old story of hip-hop, from the perspective of an unsuccessful hip hopper at that point; and he's using unique imagery to do it.
Now I'm not going to spend too much time at verse two; so basically verse two is him talking about a future that he envisions being in at some point, once he becomes successful.
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
First of all, he's upgraded from horse to tractor; then "Lean all in my bladder", he's explaining that he's not endorsing it, but that's just kind of his version of what it will be; which makes me go like "okay?!"
Guess who really doesn't get the spirit of the song "Old Town Road"? Its Billy Ray Cyrus. Listen to this; he says,
Hat down, cross town, livin' like a rockstar
Spent a lot of money on my brand new guitar
Baby's got a habit: diamond rings and Fendi sports bras
Ridin' down Rodeo in my Maserati sports car
Got no stress, I've been through all that
I'm like a Marlboro Man so I kick on back
Wish I could roll on back to that old town road
I wanna ride 'til I can't no more
What is he doing is so different from Lil Nas X; he's just singing about how rich he is, which is not country; because country singers typically sing about how poor they are; this is more like traditional mainstream flex-on-you-because-I'm-rich hip-hop. He does say "got no stress, I've been through all that" though, so he's kind of talking about how he came up from nothing, and now he is something; so that's probably what really separates him from the perspective of Lil Nas X in the song; but we're going to see who Lil Nas X becomes now that he's becoming successful and he's got tons of money.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the song "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus; I hope that you guys enjoyed this blog post, and if you didn't listen to the song yet, you can do so by clicking on the link down below.