Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus dropped a remix of the viral hit "Old Town Road" on Spotify Friday, and everyone on the internet instantly grabbed their lassos and donned their cowboy hats.
Fans went wild for the collaboration on the song that sparked controversy after Billboard kicked it off of its Hot Country chart in March because it did not adequately satisfy genre requirements "in its current version."
Lil Nas X tweeted Friday that working with Cyrus had been inspiring.
"billy ray came to my studio session last night and gave me one of the most uplifting talks i have ever heard in my life," he wrote. "shit almost brought me to tears like deadass."
A video of the recording sessions shows Lil Nas X dancing along while Cyrus sings "Hat down, crosstown, livin' like a rock star / Spend a lot of money on my brand-new guitar."
The original version of the song was released in December and features banjo-plucking and lyrics about cowboy hats, horse tack, and Wrangler jeans, along with sampling from Nine Inch Nails’ "34 Ghosts IV" mixed with trap beats.
YoungKio, who produced the track, said he hadn’t been thinking about country when he initially created the beat, but described it to Billboard as “country-trap.”
When Lil Nas X posted the video on SoundCloud and iTunes he listed it as a country track, his manager told Billboard. The video on YouTube features Wild West scenes from the video game Red Dead Redemption 2, complete with a journey on horseback, a shootout, cactuses, and buzzards.
The track gained traction online and went viral on TikTok, and some DJs started grabbing a version ripped from YouTube to play on the radio. The song soared up Billboard’s Hot 100, Hot Country, and Hot R&B/Hip Hop charts and a bidding war broke out among record companies trying to sign the artist, according to Billboard. Lil Nas X signed with Columbia in late March.
Then, the following week, Billboard removed the song from the country charts, telling Rolling Stone, “While 'Old Town Road' incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
Lil Nas X’s manager Danny Kang seemed to agree with Billboard, saying in Rolling Stone, “That’s a hip-hop song.”
But Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter that “just because old town road has funny lines doesn’t mean it’s parody. it has a theme.” And he said in an Instagram post that he was "extremely disappointed."
Billboard told Genius that the decision “had absolutely nothing to do with the race of the artist,” but the decision came at a moment when country themes are being adopted in videos by Cardi B and Solange, and talk of the "yee haw agenda" is everywhere.
Meanwhile, white country artists like Kacey Musgraves and Sam Hunt have branched out beyond the genre’s typical boundaries but continue to be recognized for their work. Musgraves' latest won the Country Music Association award for Album of the Year in November, in spite of commentary that the album wasn’t really a country album.