When “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first began going viral on the Internet, no one could’ve anticipated that it would soon become the longest-running No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 at what’s now 19 weeks. And although some music executives assumed that the track’s success would be fleeting, it stunned everyone when it beat out Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men‘s 1995 hit “One Sweet Day,” as well as Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber‘s 2017 single, “Despacito.” Still, no one was more shocked than Lil Nas X himself, who just last year was broke and sleeping on his sister’s floor.
Now, after what can only be described as a whirlwind several months for the country rapper, he revealed to Time that it feels like his success was simply meant to be. “Everything lined up for this moment to take me to this place,” he said. “Not to sound self-centered, but it feels like I’m chosen, in a way, to do this stuff.” And while that may be true, there’s still a lot to be said for his hustle and his knack for getting attention on the Internet, which was a skill he didn’t know what to do with at first. “It was like, I’m able to go viral, but I’m not promoting anything that’s gonna help me,” he said. “Until music came along.”
Once “Old Town Road” was complete, he had something to promote that he felt his followers could latch onto — especially because it fit in well with the resurgence of Western themes in pop culture, which the Internet dubbed the “yeehaw agenda.” So in an effort to get his very own yeehaw anthem heard, the rapper began creating memes to promote the song. It worked. “People were like, ‘Where are these memes coming from?'” he said. “If you see something going around the Internet, people want to join in.”
Fast forward through 19 weeks at No. 1, and Lil Nas X not only has a record-breaking hit that’s being played by everyone everywhere, but he’s out there living his best life as an openly gay man — despite originally having no plans to ever come out to the public. Initially, he feared that fans of country and hip-hop would stop supporting him if he did. “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.” But after feeling all the love radiating from this year’s Pride Month and “seeing couples holding hands,” he felt inspired to share his truth.
With “Old Town Road” still on top and Lil Nas X fully embracing his sexuality — whether it’s by joking with fans on Twitter or clapping back at homophobes — he’s not letting the meteoric success of the single cloud his judgment going forward. Sure, it feels good to see his song at No. 1 for so long, but he doesn’t intend on being a one-hit-wonder as some industry professionals have predicted. “Seeing digital numbers, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “It goes so quickly, though. You have to keep going.”