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Lil Nas X’s groundbreaking work continues to elevate marginalized voices in music, but according to the out and proud hip-hop star, it’s through social media that he has found a chosen family.
In an upcoming interview for CBS Sunday Morning airing Sunday, the “Old Town Road” and “Industry Baby” rapper opens up about how he is constantly reinventing himself and how social media has given his life new meaning.
“That was probably one of the first places where I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is for me,’” Nas says, adding that he felt like “a lone person” growing up and that Twitter had become a second home.
“It’s like my actual family. I’ve become closer with people who I met online than people who I’ve met in real life,” he explains. “I’ve learned the ways of the internet. … I’ve learned how to go viral, and what to stay out of.”
As a Black gay musician, Nas is well aware that he’s disrupting the image most people attribute to successful artists in hip-hop. But he admits it has taken a while to fully embrace it.
“I feel like I’m much more out there with it,” he says now. “[In the industry] it’s always been, ‘OK, you’re gay, this needs to be sanitized.’… Gay, but let’s not include anything sexual. It’s like, ‘Be gay without being gay.’”
Since bursting onto the scene in 2018, Nas has been unafraid to challenge the status quo — including at this year’s BET Awards, which became a milestone for the Black queer community.
As he told playwright Jeremy O. Harris for GQ’s November cover story, all Nas is trying to do is be himself.
“The whole landscape is very hypermasculine,” Nas said of the music industry. “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. 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.”
While Nas said he's found a family on social media, he’s also experienced firsthand the brunt of homophobia online.
Earlier this year, rapper Boosie Badazz unleashed a nasty Twitter rant against Nas, encouraging him to “commit suicide,” after which an army of queer activists and allies rose to his defense — including his own dad.
The anxiety he felt in his early years, largely anchored around fears of being outed, have gone away thanks to the support he has received online.
“It was so much anxiety,” Nas reflected to GQ. "It was much darker in my head than people were probably seeing. And it was also like, ‘Damn, I’ve been working hard, like not sleeping, and I just made it to the music industry, and this is going to ruin everything for me.’”
Nowadays, he's proud of what people call the “gay agenda” in his work because at the end of the day, “It’s just acceptance of gay people.”
“They see that as a bad thing,” he said. “Like, ‘They're trying to normalize it.’ You know what? Yeah. That’s actually what I’m trying to do.”