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Lil Nas X and His Exquisite Black Gay Agenda of 2021

Lil Nas X
Photography: Arturo Holmes

One of The Advocate's People of the Year, this breakout star uses his artistry and authenticity to lead the way for a generation.


2021 belonged to Lil Nas X.

Nas X, like many other musical artists, had a low-key 2020, trying to keep safe, sound, and fairly calm during the height of the ongoing global pandemic. But the 22-year-old rapper came out guns a-blazing in the first half of the year with the spring release of his track "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," which became his second Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper. Little did we know that he was preparing to set the pop world up for one of the most epic, unforgettable, and queer eras in mainstream music.

A reference to his birth name, Montero Lamar Hill, as well as the Oscar-winning gay coming-of-age romance starring Timothee Chalamet and directed by Luca Guadagnino, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" is an unapologetic queer anthem that embraces sexuality. Its accompanying music video, which featured demonic-themed visuals like Nas X sliding down a stripper pole into hell and giving Satan a lap dance, enthralled many a viewer upon first watch. The song went understandably viral on social media, especially on apps like TikTok.

But with success, especially for an out and proud artist of color, comes a lot of hate. To say that Nas X faced his share of conservative backlash and mainstream homophobia throughout the year would be a huge understatement.

Lil Nas X

After an Egyptian-themed public performance of "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" at this year's annual BET Awards in June that included shirtless men and a passionate kiss between Nas X and one of his dancers, many who are uncomfortable with the idea of a super-popular Black gay man living his most authentic life through his artistry took it upon themselves to hurl the predictable insults at Nas X. Some of those typical insults included accusations that he was single-handedly "emasculating all men" and "pushing the gay agenda" on unsuspecting youth the world over.

Fortunately, in true Gen Z fashion, Nas X knew exactly how to get back at the trolls who seem to question (and obsess over) his every move. He trolled them right back.

Those who follow Nas X on social media, especially Twitter, already know that the same energy homophobes give him, he gives right back. It's this bravery in the face of seemingly unending waves of hate and his commitment to not letting it get to him that has endeared Nas X even more to the folks who love and admire his refreshing queer self-expression. It's that attitude of his that made him this generation's leading gay (and media-savvy) icon.

"I hope my haters are sad," Nas X tweeted following the success of "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)." "I hope they are crying. I want your tears to fill my Grammy cup."

With the September release of his debut studio album, simply titled Montero, Nas X is poised to remain that icon for his listeners, and he does it all just by being himself.

This story is part of The Advocate's 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands November 23, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles native and magazine enthusiast who loves to write about pop culture, entertainment, fashion, and all things Rihanna.
Raffy is a Los Angeles native and magazine enthusiast who loves to write about pop culture, entertainment, fashion, and all things Rihanna.