The meteoric (and now sustained) success of Lil Nas X in 2019 is and will forever be inextricably tied to Billboard. It's the key element in his origin story, and it's been recounted hundreds of times now. But quickly: After "Old Town Road" hit No. 19 on the Hot Country Songs chart in March, Billboard removed it, saying it didn't "embrace enough elements of today's country music."
Then something insane happened: "Old Town Road" hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 and stayed there, becoming the longest-running No. 1 in the chart's 60-year history. There were endless remixes. Lil Nas X won his first-ever awards at the VMAs. And now, he's on the cover of Billboard's 2020 Grammy preview issue, seemingly not sweating the colossal expectations a year like 2019 would impose.
"I'm not worried about anything," he says in the interview.
The interview is framed through his futuristic VMAs performance of "Panini," for which he worked at his choreography for a week and a half, and the days after, where Lil Nas X has some time to reflect on his wild year. The rest of his quote about nervousness and expectation reveals an inner zen that belies the artist's drive to keep pushing into new musical realms (as heard on the decidedly not country-trap "Panini").
"As an artist building myself up, I'm going to have to continue to make other moments," he says in the interview. "But it's not something that I'm upset about or anything. I mean, maybe when I'm out in public and someone asks for a picture and they're like, 'Where is your hat?'"
One of the most important revelations comes from the admission by Lil Nas X, known for his ubercool demenaor, that the initial success of "Old Town Road" had him losing sleep and, in writer Joe Levy's words, "caught in a tangle of worry and weed smoke." Now? The future of Lil Nas X may be found in what's been his game plan all along: "Keep going until you actually find something you can profit from, which I did, luckily," he says.
Lil Nas X is known now. He's got an L.A. apartment but he's eyeing a house, potentially in Atlanta. And he's trying not to slow down. "Whenever I do step away from the internet or the music too long," he says near the end, "it's like I have to slowly get back into myself to get back into the groove... [of] making good content." Can't wait to see what kind of content 2020 brings.
Read the entire piece over at Billboard right now.