Knowing your way around the internet has its perks. In the case of 19-year-old Atlanta native Montero Hill, better known as Lil Nas X, a life as a child of the internet fed directly into who he is now: a young artist with a bonafide Billboard hit under his (cowboy) belt. "Old Town Road," his calling card of a song that melds the sounds of country and modern rap, is sitting at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. After its Billy Ray Cyrus-featured remix, which dropped on Friday (April 5), "Old Town Road" is projected to reach the chart's top spot, according to the Twitter account @Chartdata.

Lil Nas X's online traction started to pick up in 2015, when he was at the helm of "NasMaraj," a Nicki Minaj fan account on Twitter. His most popular tweets were his Choose Your Own Adventure-style threads in 2015, where followers would click through and try to get to the end of the story alive. Urged by his online supporters, Lil Nas X started dropping music on SoundCloud in 2018, eventually releasing the syrupy "Old Town Road" in December 2018.

"Old Town Road" became a sensation, thanks in large part to momentum from social media app TikTok, which allows users to layer audio over videos. The song's gXXL phoned the rising artist to speak about his beginnings in music, being snubbed by Billboard, working with Billy Ray Cyrus and where "Old Town Road" will take him next.

XXL: You got your start and early following through making viral moments on social media. What inspired you to take that route?

Lil Nas X: When I first started, I wasn't trying to go viral. I just liked making funny videos, content that people would enjoy. The likes and retweets, that was like a plus.

How did you go from making comedy videos to the NasMaraj account and Twitter threads to music?

Music literally came along after that account got suspended, like two, three, two years ago maybe.When I started my new account, it was more authentically me just being me, which is how I used that to my advantage to blow up. The music came along, and at first I didn't incorporate my online personality with music. I was just trying to be me online, but musically, [I was] just whatever I thought people wanted to hear from me. Later on I just started to do whatever felt right.

You told Rolling Stone that you named yourself Lil Nas X to symbolize the 10 years that you feel it will take for you to reach legendary status.

It could happen quicker. By that time, I know that I will be something that I can't imagine right now, really. It's not a goal, just speaking it to the universe. It's gonna happen.

How did Billy Ray Cyrus first catch wind of "Old Town Road," before he jumped on the remix?

At that time, I had finally got signed so I was able to actually get in contact with him. He loves the song and he hopped on it. It was my idea but you know it won't be the only remix. [Plus], new music coming to from me.

Were you upset when "Old Town Road" was removed from the country charts

I was upset, but then I was thinking, "How upset do I wanna show myself?" I don't want to get in a blackballed type of situation where Billboard don't fuck with me no more. But at this point, I have Billy Ray Cyrus on my song so it don't really sting as much.

What was it like before you signed to Columbia and you were trying to decide on a label?

I wasn't trying to choose any label actually. I ignored so many A&Rs that would hit me up, 'cause I wanted to stay independent. Def Jam [Recordings] was hitting me up, We The Best [Music Group] was hitting me up, RCA, Atlantic. It was all coming at once. I was going through my Instagram messages and I saw [Columbia Records Chairman/CEO] Ryan Perry's hair and I wanted to click on it to see the picture. I ran into him and found out who he was. The biggest thing was I wanted to have my creative control. Once we talked, he was like, "That's not a problem." So, I'm here now. There's so much they can offer.

What makes you so confident in your music?

Everything's starting to connect—my love for music and my brain for the internet. Just like how my dad does music and everything was clicking. I'm not too superstitious. It was just a definite type of thing. It was like, this is gonna happen, it's gonna happen soon. Somehow, someway, it did... My dad's name is Robert Stafford. His music name is R.L. Stafford, he makes gospel music.

Are there other artists that you've been compared to?

Juice Wrld—with my new snippet they've been saying it. Who else? Kane Brown, just from "Old Town Road."

Do you have a wish list of artists you'd like to work with?

Literally anyone. I guess Drake. I feel like Drake is doing exactly what I plan on doing, just being sick for all of what, a decade now? And just always being able to switch it up and never stay in one box.

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