Lil Nas X rode his horse all the way to history on Monday night by taking home Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Dressed in a bright red cowboy suit, Lil Nas X strode up to the stage to accept the award with country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who guested on the chart-topping remix of his smash “Old Town Road.” The rapper pretended to pull out a long scroll containing his speech, a gag that by all accounts had Lizzo (sitting down front in a bright purple Cinderella dress) completely gooped. Check that :06 mark.
But when it came time for Lil Nas X’s actual speech, he made it short and sweet. He thanked his collaborator for helping the song spend an unprecedented 19 weeks at number-one on the Billboard charts, beating previous record holders Mariah Carey and Luis Fonsi by three weeks.
“I want to say thank you to this man for helping me take my career to the next level,” Lil Nas X said.
While MTV News noted that the Song of the Year trophy is the rapper’s first official award since “Old Town Road” became an unstoppable cultural juggernaut, the moment was auspicious for another reason. This is only the second year that MTV has handed out the Song of the Year award, which went to Post Malone and 21 Savage for “rockstar” in 2018. That makes Lil Nas X the first openly LGBTQ+ artist to win the award.
Although the 20-year-old sensation was not out when “Old Town Road” first topped the charts, he began opening up about his sexual orientation in late June.
“Some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure,” Lil Nas X tweeted on June 30, the final day of LGBTQ+ Pride month. The tweet also included a rainbow emoji.
When fans asked for clarification — after all, he didn’t say he was gay outright — Lil Nas X pointed to a hidden rainbow motif in the album artwork for his EP, 7.
“Deadass thought i made it obvious,” he wrote.
The rapper later confirmed that he identifies as a gay man, and in an August cover story for Timemagazine, he opened up about the decision to live his truth. Lil Nas X claimed that he initially didn’t intend on coming out until he saw same-sex couples holding hands during Pride month.
“I know the people who listen to this the most, and they’re not accepting of homosexuality,” he said. “I never would have done that if I wasn’t in a way pushed by the universe.”
While the MTV VMAs might be the first time Lil Nas X has taken home some gold to put on his mantle, it’s unlikely to be his last trophy. The Grammys eligibility period ends on Aug. 31, and the rapper is poised to be a major threat in the “Song of the Year” and “Album of the Year” categories.
Childish Gambino claimed both of those honors last year for “This Is America,” the first rap song to sweep the Grammys’ top categories. Let’s hope for an encore in 2019.