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The unapologetic freedom of Lil Nas X

Opinion+writer%26%23160%3BOzioma+Mgbahurike%26%23160%3Bdiscusses+Lil+Nas+Xs+rise+to+success+and+the+backlash+he+has+faced+from+society.%26%23160%3B
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Opinion writer Ozioma Mgbahurike discusses Lil Nas X’s rise to success and the backlash he has faced from society. 

“My favorite images are the ones where someone who isn’t supposed to be there — who’s like in a space, a space where we were not ever welcomed in, where we were not invited — yet we walk in and we show all the way up.” – Janet Mock

There is an uncontrollable joy I have whenever I see a Black person succeeding in life. Whether the news is on a local level or the national stage, I can’t help but feel like this individual’s success will eventually make the path for upcoming generations a lot easier. My joy found another resurgence after Lil Nas X released the music video for his latest single, “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” In the video, we see Lil Nas X unapologetically accepts who he is regardless of those who object.

For those unaware, Lil Nas X came out as gay in 2019, and in a heartfelt open letter posted on Twitter, he revealed his “younger self promised to die with the secret.” It’s a shame our society is still hesitant to accept anyone who isn’t strictly heterosexual. This rejection leads to many individuals constantly shapeshifting and suppressing their identities to navigate a world that has made it abundantly clear they aren’t acceptable. Seeing Lil Nas X fully loving himself gives me hope that others will follow in his footsteps and embrace their identity.

Many people on the internet will assume the video is simply a way to troll conservative Christians. However, upon viewing the heartfelt letter mentioned above, we can see this video has a lot of thought and sincerity behind it. The video begins with Lil Nas X narrating, “In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see … but here, we don’t. Welcome to Montero.” For context, Lil Nas X’s first name is Montero, and the welcoming world he’s built is named after him. 

Lil Nas X’s first single, “Old Town Road,” is one of the biggest songs of all time. It had countless remixes and was a major hit among children. Many assumed his success among kids entertainment means Lil Nas X is now a children’s entertainer and should continue to market his content to what made him initially famous. Well, shocker, “Montero” proves Lil Nas X doesn’t owe anyone anything. The song is extremely raunchy and incredibly fun. It’s understandable for parents to censor material for their children if they believe they aren’t ready for such conservations. However, asking artists to do the same doesn’t make any sense. Lil Nas X isn’t here to raise anyone’s kids, and if you are unwilling to accept that, then tough luck.
Like clockwork, right-wing America turned “Montero” into a culture war as soon as it dropped. We’ve seen ministers, Fox News reporters and even South Dakota’s governor rally against the explicit content displayed in the video. I wasn’t exactly expecting much critical thinking from them considering their response to Cardi B’s WAP music video last year. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, believing that they would have learned that their response to such content only fuels its success. However, they amazed me again with their overblown and misguided outcry.

America is currently facing many problems that need urgent attention. Hate crimes are at an all-time high, there seems to be a mass shooting every week and we are still amid a pandemic. One would think all the anger directed at Lil Nas X should focus on issues affecting everyday citizens. Instead, we are still discussing why we shouldn’t force people to live a suppressed life just because we are uncomfortable with who they are. 

The part that confuses me about all the outrage associated with the video is that Lil Nas X is not saying anything that conservative Christians aren’t already preaching. Growing up in a fundamentalist church, I have seen and heard firsthand the repetitive attacks on homosexuality and how those who commit those acts are sinners doomed to hell. Lil Nas X’s brilliance is evident in that he took this exact messaging and flipped it on its head. 

The video shows the artist having the time of his life. He danced down a stripper pole and even seduced Satan, only to later snap his neck and claim the throne of hell for himself. That last statement isn’t saying Lil Nas X worships or wants to be Satan. On the contrary, it’s showing that he’s going to unapologetically be himself wherever he is, even if that place happens to be hell. The freedom of being your uncompromised self is one that very few people ever reach, and the fact Lil Nas X is paving the way is a beautiful thing to behold. Also, the song being No. 1 in the country is a nice cherry on top.

Ozioma Mgbahurike is an electrical engineering sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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