It’s been an eye-opening five years for country music, as the combination of hip hop and Black artists have reached its charts. Kane Brown scored a top hit on the country charts with “Used to Love You Sober” in late 2015. He’s had four top 5 songs since, and now rapper Lil Nas X and country staple Billy Ray Cyrus have combined for a new country hit: “Old Towne Road.”
Lil Nas X is an Atlanta-based rapper that has decided to extend his reach beyond hip hop, and he’s not afraid to go out on the road show off his country chops. Lil Nas X made a surprise appearance at an elementary school in Ohio, where he performed “Old Town Road.” The young students can be heard singing along with the Atlanta rapper – and they didn’t miss a beat, reports the Huffington Post.
Last week, Complex released a video featuring Lil Nas X’s appearance and the moments before he surprised the young students at Lander Elementary School in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. “I’m finna do the biggest show of my life, and it’s going to be great,” Lil Nas X says in the video before he enters the school’s gymnasium. The video captures the loud cheers and animated reaction Lil Nas X received from the crowds of children as he walked onstage.
“I need y’all to sing,” the 19-year-old can be heard saying. Felicia Evans, the principal at Lander Elementary, thanked the “Old Town Road” rapper for his lauded appearance. “We love you,” she wrote on Twitter. Last week, Evans posted a video on Twitter of the Lander Elementary school kids dancing and singing along to “Old Town Road.” She wrote, “I love my job. We ended our 5th grade talent show today with the whole school dancing and celebrating… together!!”
“Old Town Road” has inspired young students before, though they don’t always get a performance from Lil Nas X himself. Last month, a teacher in Birmingham, Alabama shared a video of her third-grade students singing a remixed version of “Old Town Road,” aimed to boost confidence in students as they take state exams. The song sparked wide conversations about racism and inclusivity after it was removed from Billboard’s country charts in March for apparently not being country enough.
While Billboard denied the decision had to do with race, many charged that the removal was symbolic of a history of racism and discrimination in the world of country music. Veteran country music star Billy Ray Cyrus publicly expressed his support for Lil Nas X on Twitter last month, and then the two later collaborated and released a lauded remix to “Old Town Road.”