Back in 2019, nothing was bigger — or more controversial — in country music than Lil Nas X's viral hit, "Old Town Road."

The Atlanta-based rapper blazed onto the country social media space with the song, which paired a hip-hop beat with traditional country lyricism and imagery, and "Old Town Road" quickly began to organically rise up the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart — until Billboard removed it from consideration, deciding that the song wasn't sufficiently country to merit inclusion on the chart.

What ensued was a hot debate about what exactly defines a song as country, and whether Billboard's decision had more to do with race than it did with the song itself. Billy Ray Cyrus got involved in a remix, and everyone from Jason Aldean to Keith Urban to Sam Elliott name-checked the song with covers, mentions and social media posts.

Amid all the controversy and hype, Lil Nas X says he felt a little embarrassed of his big hit. In a new TikTok post, the rapper shares a cheeky reflection admitting that he thought the song was "cringe" — and saying he's got a different perspective on it now, five years later.

"Me suddenly realizing I spent 5 years thinking my own song was cringe because ugly losers who will never make anything as great and game-changing as it got into my head," he wrote in the post. over a video of himself dancing to the Billy Ray Cyrus remix of "Old Town Road."

What Is "Old Town Road"'s Legacy in Country Music?

  • Lil Nas X wasn't exaggerating when he said his viral, controversial hit was "game-changing."
  • The song helped open a country audience's minds to the idea of a mainstream chart crossover between hip-hop and country. Though there was certainly a precedent of collaboration between the genres — such as hits from Cowboy Troy and the hick-hop subgenre — few songs from that world were ever as popular as "Old Town Road."
  • Since 2019, country music has seen a massive uptick in hit songs released by Black artists in general. It's also seen an increase in hip-hop-informed hits such as Blanco Brown's "The Git Up" and Breland's "My Truck."
  • Artists like Morgan Wallen, Kane Brown and Jelly Roll have frequently collaborated with artists from the hip-hop space, and Wallen has been in the studio with rapper Post Malone as Post readies his country album.
  • In 2024, Beyoncé dropped a full country project, which digs deep into the history of the genre and emphasizes the contributions made by Black performers and R&B and hip-hop sounds.
  • Most recently, Shaboozey hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country charts — breaking a record in the process — with his smash hit "A Bar Song (Tipsy)," which borrows from J-Kwon's 2004 rap smash, "Tipsy."

"Cringe" or not, the success of "Old Town Road" has been long-lasting and undeniable. In 2021, it became the most Platinum-certified song in the history of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA.)

It's also one of only eight country songs to ever sell more than 10 million copies.

Carena Liptak is an Associate Editor and staff writer at Taste of Country. She specializes in breaking country music news, interviews and lists. In particular, she’s got a soft spot for sad songs — check out her roundup of the 50 Saddest Country Songs of All Time!

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Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak

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