Lil Nas X Is Pushing the Gay Agenda...Liberation
Montero (Call Me By Your Name) is the perfect artist introduction
***Title inspiration taken from Hassan Sayyed @hausurban***
I watched the Montero (Call Me By Your Name) video no less than 5 consecutive times when it dropped at midnight Friday March 26. Then, when I randomly couldn't sleep at 6am later that morning (symptoms of surviving a pandemic), I rolled over and watched it some more. I won't go over all of the dope little nuances and easter eggs Nas X packed into three minutes and ten seconds, but Mikelle Street did and you should definitely go read about them. Instead, I want to give appropriate language to the instant impact this video is sure to have on both the viewers and the industry, putting to rest any ideas that Nas is just a one trick pony.
Calling it out immediately, because of the scarcity of public-facing Black queer men in music, the presence of this song will draw direct comparisons to Frank Ocean's channel | Orange release from 2012. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing and, after reading Nas's letter to his 14-year-old self with the note that the song is about a guy he met last summer, I don't think he does either. But beyond that, there's enough aural and aesthetic difference for the comparisons to end there and the two can exist solidly in their own lanes.
To start, LNX is provocative and overt with the messaging in this song in a way that's largely been accessible only to artists who've had notably less to say. The video tells the story of waking up innocent and unaware, being made to believe a thing about yourself is evil and that you're hellbound because of it, followed by the acceptance-turned-embrace of your darkest parts and the conquering power that brings. This isn't a story that's specific to Nas X or Black queer men, but goddamn if I didn't take it personal how clear he is about who he's speaking for.
With Montero, Nas X took on his big follow-up to Old Town Road (Holiday was cute!) with some self-awareness and intentionality. For a song he first teased almost a year ago and has teased other times since, I didn't have high expectations for the full track. Hearing it completed however, with this visual, I would've never expected this to be the direction he'd go. Returning to Frank briefly as an indicator of progress, it took 3 projects and a handful of loosies for us to go from the crooning on Forrest Gump (which was wild then) to "all this drillin' got the dick feelin like a power tool / finna move a nigga out his momma house now that's a power move" on Commes des Garçon. Lil Nas X sings “shoot a shot in your mouth while I’m riding” like, come the fuck through king! The fact that in two songs, before his debut album, Nas X has already closed that gap speaks to the power and importance of seeing yourself, or seeing parts of yourself, in places you want to be. Or didn't know you could be.
At 33 I'm just as, if not more, excited about Nas as I was at 23 with Frank. Because of that I'm so thankful that 13-year-old me held on. If I'd had then what kids have now, how much more boldly would I be showing up in spaces where I used to pretend to be confident? How much less time would I have spent carrying the weight of caution and consideration for everyone's feelings but my own, in hopes of not offending or calling more attention to something I was already poorly hiding/growing increasingly distraught over with each passing day. All of this I've had the privilege of working through in therapy by the way, but shoutout to this maybe helping niggas have one less demon they have to exorcise in the privacy of Upper East Side offices and zoom sessions across the country.
And maybe most importantly, the song is fucking good. It just. Slaps. That says a lot for the impact on the industry - that we can have meaningful music from a pop star of LNX's caliber and potential, and it still be something you'd sing along to in a boy's ear, drunk in a tightly packed gay club. I love this so fucking much.
I'm glad the internet is slowly, painstaking moving away from deifying celebs, because I don't want to put the weight of the Black queer liberation movement on the shoulders of an audacious 21-year-old. We've done that with so many rising stars (Lizzo, Cardi, even Frank) and it's been a disservice to all of them. Instead, I want him to have all of the space to grow and find himself, further develop his voice and move in the path he desires. Lil Nas X has come out swinging like pop stars we haven't seen since Rihanna or Gaga over a decade ago. Now he's alongside contemporaries like Tinashe and Doja Cat, but decidedly Black and gay at the same time.
Here's to the future and the possibility that in the shadow of his immense star, we get more light on artists like SerpentWithFeet (who just released a new project!), Trapcry, Rum.Gold, Drebae, Cakes Da Killa, and so many others. There's room for all of y'all, we're ready and with the shits.