Lil Nas X continues to pave his way into history by way of “Old Town Road.” The country trap star just became the first openly gay man to win a Country Music Association Award.
The record-breaking single by the out rapper and country star Billy Ray Cyrus won the award for musical event of the year.
“I wasn’t sure if this was going to able to take place tonight,” Lil Nas X told reporters afterward. “I am so happy this was accepted because it is the bridging of two completely polar opposite genres put together. I’m just happy, you know, it has gotten respect in both communities.”
It’s quite the path for the song, which was the first by an openly gay man to even be nominated for a CMA Award.
Billboard infamously refused to list “Old Town Road” on its country charts, but the breakout hit ended up topping the Billboard 200 for a record-setting number of weeks. It eventually drew embrace in the disparate rap and country worlds.
All the more stunning, the song’s success and popularity within the country world continued after Lil Nas X came out as gay in June.
The award was also the first CMA won by Cyrus, an LGBTQ ally, in more than a quarter century. Cyrus spoke to reporters after the ceremony about how his role in his daughter Miley Cyrus’s Disney show Hannah Montana ended up laying the foundation for the song. Lil Nas X watched the show as a child, and when he needed a country singer to do the hooks he sought out Billy Ray Cyrus.
“The fact the award that I win at the event of country music, it was a song that was banned, I think that best described kinda my journey,” Cyrus told reporters. “I’ve never really been one to fit in and never really wanted to. I do my own thing, make my own music, my own style.”
The road for Lil Nas X has been rapid, but he says he’s felt embraced by the country world despite his sexuality, race, and hip-hop background.
“I’m happy to go to any award show,” he said. “Just to be here ay this point in my like, like not knowing where I was going to go to next this time last year, just to be invited anywhere, there is so much positivity within this community,” he said.