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Decrypting "OId Town Road’s" Deeper Meaning

The #KentuckyDerby is making headlines because of the horses on the track — but Lil Nas X made history for his song about "horses in the back." 🐎🤠Country and folk musician Dom Flemons sat down with Brut to talk about race, country music, and why "Old Town Road" is so special.

Decrypting "OId Town Road’s" Deeper Meaning

The black cowboy is back in the limelight. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” went from being removed from Billboard’s country music chart for not being country enough to hitting 143 million streams —the highest single-week streamed song of all time according to Nielsen Music.

With Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X breaking stereotypes and meeting together for the remix, it's now joined a slew of other recordings where black and white artist work together to create a mixture and a crossover that would combine elements of black and white music country and blues and rhythm and blues country and western.

When the country music entertainment industry were creating a market for Southern working class black people and they decided to call it race records, blues jazz spirituals and gospel music became the foundation and the core of race records, and when it came to white working class music, also known as country music, that music was defined by western music as well as string bands folk music vaudeville sentimental parlor ballads. Flemons’ 2018 album Black Cowboys was inspired by the role African Americans played in taming the Old West — flying on the face of modern perceptions of the cowboy. But as the song continues to inspire controversy over its genre and cultural imagery, Grammy-winning folk and country singer Dom Flemons offered his insight on its deeper context:

American cultural entertainment just has not enough association of cowboys with African-American people even though they've been there the whole time, and they continue to be there because this is a living tradition it's not even something strictly relegated to the past. The reason society doesn’t associate African-American people with cowboy music or with country and western is that this goes back into the very early days when they built the genre.

“So, the idea that people are saying, "Hey I'm country, let them know that I'm country." This is a completely different phenomenon than we've seen for many many decades. We just have no association of cowboys with African-American people even though they've been there the whole time, and they continue to be there because this is a living tradition it's not even something strictly relegated to the past. Black cowboys and also black Western culture from homesteaders to pioneers and in my family was, it was, loggers and preachers and so there are a lot of different stories I feel in the African-American community that can be told through the story of the West. This is wonderful to see this conversation come up again because it's a longstanding conversation. It tells you a lot about how starved this particular marginalized community has been because in black popular culture it's like popular culture is really not built on the idea of being nostalgic or being countrified because of the nature of the history that comes with that.”

It went from being removed from Billboard's Country charts to the number one song in America. But what makes "Old Town Road" so special? Artists such as Cardi B, Solange and Mitski have also re-interpreted Western aesthetic, Flemons hopes the entertainment phenomenon continues to grow.

BRUT.

05/04/2019 10:22 AM
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78 comments

  • Brut
    05/06/2019 18:20

    Speaking of horses in the back, this is what it's like being a horse around the world. �6

  • Bea L.
    05/07/2019 08:04

    wooaahhh skl HAHAHAHAHA

  • Fahad J.
    05/08/2019 10:02

    Can anybody name the song between 0:09 to 0:16

  • Juan C.
    05/08/2019 13:04

    Django Freeman was a cowboy

  • Harolt Z.
    05/08/2019 13:35

    What is the problem, I see too much people white want to be a nigga.

  • Denisse V.
    05/08/2019 19:44

    🤠

  • Mónica G.
    05/09/2019 02:26

    mira mama de la que me estabas cantando 😍🥺

  • Fabián J.
    05/09/2019 06:17

    C

  • Digno R.
    05/09/2019 08:32

    L saludo

  • Martinez C.
    05/09/2019 12:14

    mi amor del q me contabas la otra vez

  • Mario G.
    05/09/2019 16:13

    🐍🤐😂

  • Pedro M.
    05/10/2019 02:11

    Nasmaraaaj

  • Antonio R.
    05/10/2019 02:42

    ya ando comprando la ropa

  • Ronaldo H.
    05/10/2019 03:40

    jajajaja

  • Randhú S.
    05/10/2019 06:23

    , ahí está tu héroe 🦐

  • Hnit O.
    05/10/2019 07:02

    Kyaw

  • Thet H.
    05/10/2019 16:57

    capတုိ႔ဘာလုပ္ေနတာလဲဟင္

  • Juan A.
    05/10/2019 21:02

    gourses in te bank

  • Sofia A.
    05/10/2019 21:56

    JAJAJAJAJ en inglés hoy🔥

  • Sofia A.
    05/11/2019 01:14

    JAJAJAJAJ en inglés hoy🔥