Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” spent a whopping 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, breaking the previous reign as longest-running No. 1 held by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men‘s “One Sweet Day.” But just how did Lil Nas X’s hit song come together? In the latest episode of “How It Went Down,” he explains how a summer home from college resulted in the groundbreaking mash-up of hip-hop, country and “funny meme culture” that we know today.
Lil Nas X tells Billboard that the summer he wrote “Old Town Road,” he was back from his first year of college. While he was supposed to be retaking a math class during his break, he decided not to, and instead spent the months staying at his sister’s house and making music.
While Lil Nas X started out making a few songs for Twitter that summer, once he realized that people were responding well to them, he decided that he wanted to expand on that skill.
After a while, though, Lil Nas X explains that his sister became “fed up” with him staying with her, leaving him questioning what his next move was — a sentiment reflected in “Old Town Road.”
“It kind of in a way relates to my situation of what I wanted to do at the moment, which is just run away from life in a way,” he confesses, referring to the line, “I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road/ I’m gonna ride till I can’t no more.”
Lil Nas X adds that with the song, he wanted to bring together “funny meme culture” with hip-hip and country music. “Let’s put all that into one, ball it up,” he recalls thinking. “Let’s make sure this song is short, to the point. And it sounds amazing, but it’s also funny… It’s like a country spin on classical rap tropes within this generation.”
He also reveals that he spent a month or so swapping lyrics in and out before he put the final song together. Then four or five months after the song was finished, on the day it topped the Hot 100, Billy Ray Cyrus joined him in the studio for the remix. “He hopped on it and killed it,” says Lil Nas X. “You know, that’s what happened.”
You can check out the full video interview with Lil Nas X above.