Lil Nas X has gained fame, broken records, and been the source of countless memes since he released the hit single “Old Town Road” in 2018. Now, nearly one year later, singer-songwriter Trent Reznor has addressed how Nine Inch Nails was sampled in the song.
“Having been listed on the credits of the all-time, Number One whatever-the-fuck-it-is wasn’t something…I didn’t see that one coming,” Reznor told Rolling Stone.
Lil Nas X and producer YoungKio used a snippet from the Nine Inch Nails song “34 Ghosts IV” from the 2008 album Ghosts I–IV.
“At first, when you hear your stuff turned into something else, it always feels awkward because it’s something that intimately came from you in some way,” Reznor said. "You feel a little bit violated, you know? And then you get over that, and you realize it has become something else. ... It’s very flattering.”
According to Reznor, his team alerted him to the sample after they got a “panicked” call from a manager “saying they had used the sample of something off Ghosts.” Reznor was told the sample wasn’t initially cleared before being used in “Old Town Road” — and once the song began to rise on the Spotify charts, they asked him what he wanted to do about the situation.
“I said, ‘Look, I’m fine with it. I get how stuff goes,'” Reznor said. “'They’re not saying they didn’t sample it. Just work it out, but don’t be a roadblock to this.’ I hadn’t heard it yet. Then a few weeks later, I was like, ‘Holy shit.'”
Reznor said he hasn’t commented on “Old Town Road” until now because he doesn’t feel like it’s his place “to play any kind of social critic." He even turned down an opportunity to make a cameo in the music video, which has over 370 million views on YouTube.
“Those guys should be the ones the spotlight is on,” he said. “It was flattering, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to shine a light on me for that. I say that with complete respect.”
Just like everyone else, Reznor said the song has been stuck in his head plenty of times.
“The world is full of weird things that happen like that," he said. "It's flattering. But I don’t feel it’s for me to step in there and pat myself on the back for that.”