If you weren’t already aware, Lil Nas X is trolling us. In fact, he’s so good at it that he “has changed how we do what we do, and who gets to do it, forever,” according to Tony-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris in GQ’s Men of the Year issue, who adds: “Never before has a pop artist who is so far from the ‘powers that be’ placed themself so squarely in the center of those powers.”
As powerful as the young rapper has already become, he’s still only 22 and still in awe of personal “idols” like Drake and Nicki Minaj, both of whom reportedly declined to appear on Nas X’s groundbreaking debut LP, Montero. He’s also still incredibly vulnerable as he chats with Harris about how being hip hop’s most prominent—and unapologetically provocative—openly gay star has fueled his rise.
“It’s like a blessing and a curse, you know?” he admits. “’Cause sometimes those [negative responses] can take a toll on your mental, especially if you’re already in a bad mood. But you can also take it and create art with it. And that’s like the best position to be in, because I get to take all this shit and make something good out of it.”
While Boosie Badazz (who has gone so far as to film a fake confrontation with a fictional Nas X fan) and DaBaby (who Nas X recently unseated as the most streamed artist on Spotify) may beg to differ, the writing is on the proverbial wall: Nas X’s ascension has marked a long-overdue sea change in hip hop—and potentially (hopefully) thrown open the door for more.
“I do feel like this newer generation of rappers who are coming in, and the ones who are here, are going to have to reshape their thoughts,” he tells GQ. “Because change is happening. There’s going to be so many gay rappers. There’s going to be more trans people in the industry and whatnot. Ten years from now, everything that I’m doing won’t even seem like it was shocking.”
But for now, it’s clear everyone isn’t ready for the larger-than-life existence of Lil Nas X—and as Beyoncé famously noted, “you know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.” While detractors like the DaBaby have been learning the hard way, the discourse—and the industry—are inevitably shifting.
“I’m not going to lie, I feel bad for DaBaby. I hope he grows from it. I hope he’s able to,” says Nas X, no doubt referring to the fallout from his contemporary’s homophobic rant at Rolling Loud Miami—which DaBaby is already bouncing back from. “But I don’t know. The whole landscape is very hypermasculine,” Nas x adds.
Still, he says: “I try to remember: Sometimes we’re raised in ways that really shape how we see people. And I’m always trying to be forgiving of people and understand that they treat people a certain way because they think they’re doing the right thing.”
Call his career an outgrowth of the “gay agenda” if you want; Nas X is officially on board—“But of my own will,” he says. But what is the so-called agenda, as he imagines it?
“It’s just acceptance of gay people. And they see that as a bad thing: Like, they’re trying to normalize it. You know what? Yeah. That’s actually what I’m trying to do...Let’s normalize it,” he continues, later adding:
It looks like two guys kissing during a performance and there not being anything crazy on Twitter about it the next day. It looks like a little boy who doesn’t want to play fucking football and hang with the girls, and that just being a normal thing. Just letting people exist. Like, that’s gay as fuck.