For all the controversy about Billboard arbitrarily deciding that Lil Nas X’s country-trap smash “Old Town Road” isn’t, um, “country” enough to be on the country charts (if you know what they mean), the 20-year-old Atlanta country-rapper is doing just fine. For one thing—smash. For another, certified “country” (if you know what Billboard means) artists like Keith Urban and Billy Ray Cyrus have come to the young singer’s defense, not just with words, but by covering and/or remixing “Old Town Road,” even though they, unlike Lil Nas X, are, you know, “country” (if you get Billboard’s drift). And, perhaps most importantly—or coolest, at any rate—of all, he’s got the Bodega Boys in his country corner.
Desus and Mero, celebrating the expansion of their particular late-night corner to a second weekly night on Monday, welcomed Lil Nas X. Or, rather, they went to the country star’s turf, setting up shop on a couple of bar stools at a BBQ roadhouse, complete with Miller High Life and Tecate signs, a custom Yankee cowboy hat on Desus Nice, beer in jelly jars, and the requisite corner stage with Christmas lights. Lil Nas X performed “Old Town Road” (you know, the country song) for an appreciative and diverse crowd, ably and smoothly boot-scooting throughout the irresistibly catchy banjo-and-beat rhythm and lyrics about cowboy hats, horses, horse-tack, bull-ridin’, boobies, and Wranglers on his booty. Which, you know, doesn’t qualify as “country” according to Billboard. For some reason.
Desus and Mero got diplomatic answers about the whole “country or not” controversy when they sat down with Lil Nas X both before his performance and in a web-exclusive lightning round game of “Country Or Nah?” Demurring at any talk of him being the new “king of country” (he accepted “prince”), the upstart country artist also played it cagey when the Bodega Boys started slipping provocatively cheeky terms into the mix. Nas (a.k.a Montero Lamar Hill) smiled and paused after the hosts asked about “racism” (“Pass.”), and, after confidently pronouncing “wizards” as “not country,” asked, “Why you doin’ this to me?” when Desus followed up with “grand wizards.”