Lil Nas X: Inside the Rise of a Hip-Hop Cowboy


Lil Nas X: Inside the Rise of a Hip-Hop Cowboy

Lil Nas X made the biggest hit of 2019 for $30. Now he just wants to keep on riding

Lil Nas X in Brooklyn in April 2019.

Christaan Felber for Rolling Stone

Listen to an audio version of this story below:

On a sleepy Monday morning at the horse stables in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, Lil Nas X has got exactly one horse in the back.

Nas — real name Montero Hill — is the 20-year-old rapper and internet savant behind the unlikeliest hit single of this (or any) year: the hip-hop-country crossover “Old Town Road.” A few months ago, he was a college dropout living on his sister’s couch in Atlanta with a negative balance in his Wells Fargo account. Now, he’s crushed Drake’s single-week streaming record and had the Number One song in the country for five weeks straight, somehow fending off a new Taylor Swift song from the top spot. As he himself puts it, “Time’s been going pretty fast.”

The “Old Town Road” video currently has 66 million plays on YouTube, and it would probably have more — except Nas made it himself before he got famous, so it’s just the song playing over clips from the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. Now that he’s a major-label recording star, he needs a real video, preferably with real horses.

That’s where Scott Perez comes in. A ruddy fortysomething in jeans and dusty boots, Perez has been the lead horse wrangler for such TV shows as Godless and Westworld. “You ever ridden before?” Perez asks Nas as he ambles into the corral, lanky six-foot-two frame in skinny jeans and shoebox-fresh Vans.

“Nope,” Nas says cheerily.

“Well — first time for everything,” Perez says. “We’ll get you on and let you ride for a while, just to make sure you’re comfortable. And if at any point you want to get off, it’s totally cool.”

“I got you,” says Nas, smiling.

If Lil Nas X seems good at rolling with the flow, he’s been doing it a lot lately. As recently as February, he’d barely left northern Georgia. In March, he flew to New York to meet with managers and sign his record deal. It was his second time on an airplane. (His first was to Texas, to visit his stepsister at the Army base where she was stationed.) A few weeks later, he traveled to L.A. for the first time, and learned “Old Town Road” had hit Number One on his 20th birthday. Recently, almost every day has been the most surreal day of his life, until the next day.

Which may explain why this morning, sitting atop a brown-and-white horse named Scout, Nas has the calm confidence of a man who always expected to be learning to ride a horse so he can shoot the video for his global smash. As he fiddles with the reins, a second trainer, Bobby Lovgren (Seabiscuit, War Horse), gives him some instruction, while Perez’s son Tristen — 12, precocious, and a big Lil Nas X fan — looks on.

“Kick him a little harder,” Lovgren says.

“I don’t want to make him angry,” says Nas.

“You’re not gonna make him angry, I promise,” says Lovgren.

Nas hesitates. Tristen chimes in from atop his horse: “It’s OK to be scared.”

Nas looks at him and smiles. “I’m not scared.”

It’s hard to imagine much scaring Lil Nas X. A low-key, soft-spoken listener who takes everything in stride, he’s almost preternaturally chill — and that’s not just the weed (although it’s also probably the weed). He has a way of regarding people older than him (which is to say, everyone he’s around these days) with a particular mix of interest and bemusement that’s common to smart teens. He might think you’re a clueless moron who’s 117 years old, but he’s nice enough to indulge you anyway.

Born in Atlanta in 1999, Nas lived with his parents until he was about six. After they split, he moved with his mom and grandmother to Bankhead Courts, a notoriously tough housing project on the city’s west side. Drugs and gang violence were ever-present; Nas says he never saw anyone close to him killed, but he knew plenty of people who did.

Around age nine, Nas and his brother went to live with their dad, who had remarried and moved to a small, quiet suburb in neighboring Cobb County called Austell. “I remember not wanting to go,” Nas says. “I didn’t want to leave what I was used to. But it was better for me. There’s so much shit going on in Atlanta — if I would have stayed there, I would have fallen in with the wrong crowd.”

Nas addressed his relationship with his mom on one of his early songs, “Carry On”: “How you leave your son all alone? See you every other month, can you hit a nigga phone?” But he says they largely lost touch years ago, and he hasn’t heard from her since “Old Town Road” came out.

Nas was a bright kid, a self-described class clown, but one who took schoolwork seriously. He started playing trumpet in fourth grade, and by junior high he was good enough to make first chair. But he gave it up when he started high school because he “didn’t want to look lame.” “I wish I would have stayed in it,” he says.

By this time, his dad had moved the family to a small town called Lithia Springs, about half an hour west of the city. As Nas started high school, his social life migrated almost entirely online. “That’s when I kind of stopped any outside-of-class activities,” he says. “I was just on the internet all the fucking time. I started to isolate myself — I don’t know why. I guess I was finding out who I am.”

He got deep into Twitter, making friends and posting memes and jokes across several different accounts. He says he always knew he wanted to do something creative, but he wasn’t sure what — the idea of all the tweeting was to build a following, so he’d have a platform to promote himself someday. At first he tried his hand at comedy, posting goofy videos to Facebook and Vine. Then one day he decided to give music a shot. It was the summer of 2018, and he’d just finished his freshman year at the University of West Georgia, where he was studying computer science and briefly considered becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. “I planned on using the entire summer to study,” he says. “But I got bored one day and made this song.”

Photograph by Christaan Felber for Rolling Stone

Nas had grown up listening to hip-hop — Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi — and he always enjoyed writing. “But music was never something I saw myself doing,” he says. When he made a song called “Shame” and posted it to SoundCloud, “people were actually fucking with it,” he says. “I’m not, like — what’s the word when you believe in a lot of magic? Superstitious. I’m not too superstitious, but as I was listening to the beat, melodies and flows were coming to my head. I didn’t even have to think — it just felt like a force or something.”

A few days before the fall semester started, Nas told his dad and stepmom he was taking time off from school to make music. In reality, he’d already dropped out. (“Although I just found out a couple days ago I’m still enrolled,” he says, “so I guess I didn’t drop out the correct way.”) He crashed at his sister’s house and lived off the money he’d saved working as a cashier at Zaxby’s, a Georgia chicken chain, and as an attendant at Six Flags, where he supervised kids’ rides like Yosemite Sam’s Wacky Wagons. He didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license. “There was no point in a license,” he says, “ ’cause when am I gonna have a car?”

Nas posted a few more songs, but they didn’t get much traction. “I could post a funny tweet and it would get 2,000 retweets,” he says. “Then I’d post a song and it would hit, like, 10.” One night around Halloween, he was browsing beats on YouTube when he found one by a 19-year-old in the Netherlands called YoungKio. Something about the track — built around an uncleared banjo sample from a Nine Inch Nails song — spoke to him. “I was picturing, like, a loner cowboy runaway,” he says. “Basically what I was going through, but in another lens.”

Nas paid $30 to lease the beat, then spent all of November writing and rewriting his lyrics. He wasn’t too familiar with cowboy culture: While he’d worn Wranglers growing up (“It’s Georgia, everybody wore Wranglers”), he had to Google other Western lingo. He chose the title “Old Town Road” because “it sounded like a real country place. I was surprised it hadn’t been used before.”

From the beginning, his goal with the song was to engineer virality. “It was the first song I genuinely formulated,” he says. “I was like, ‘I gotta make it short, I gotta make it catchy, I gotta have quotable lines that people want to use as captions.’ Especially with the ‘horses in the back’ line, I was like, ‘This is something people are gonna say every day.’ ” Already, he was thinking about the memes.

Nas posted a snippet on Twitter in early December, then posted the full song two weeks later. He promoted it nonstop, usually retweeting horse and cowboy memes from his friends and followers. “And it just kind of slowly, slowly went up,” he says. “People say I paid influencers — but I didn’t even have money for a video. How am I gonna pay people?” Within weeks he was getting hit up by managers, A&R reps, concert bookers. Still, he held out. “I was like, ‘I know something better’s coming,’ ” he says.

By March, “Old Town Road” was big enough on streaming that it popped up on the charts, and Nas couldn’t hold out any longer. He flew to New York to sign his deal with Columbia, and a few weeks later, Billy Ray Cyrus recorded a verse for a remix, which helped push it to Number One. But even that seemingly random pairing was something Nas willed into existence from the beginning. Two days after posting the initial snippet in December, he tweeted a follow-up plea: “twitter please help me get billy ray cyrus on this.” He wasn’t just trolling. “I was like, ‘Who can I get that will create a moment?’ ” he says. “Billy’s a big country artist, generations of people know him, either from his music or from the show.” (That’d be his daughter Miley’s show, Hannah Montana.) Sure enough, three months later, the universe complied.

“Twitter can make a lot of things happen if you get enough retweets,” Nas says.

A few days after his horse training, Nas is on the set of the “Old Town Road” video shoot. The concept features him as an 1800s bank robber who escapes through a wormhole and gets magically transported to a modern-day L.A. hood; Chris Rock has a cameo as a sheriff. They filmed the Old West scenes yesterday, in a canyon in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. Nas couldn’t check Twitter for so long, he physically didn’t know what to do with his hands. “It was the worst day ever,” he jokes.

Today they’re filming the present-day scenes in East L.A., trucking in a green tractor, a few horses and a cherry-red Maserati, just like the one Cyrus sings about on the song. As Nas rides around in the back of a pickup shooting some close-ups, Cyrus is relaxing in his trailer with his wife, Tish, and daughter Noah. He first heard “Old Town Road” when his manager asked if he’d be interested in a guest appearance. Cyrus says he reacted with confusion: “What does he want me for? It’s perfect!”

Ultimately he felt moved to give it a push on country radio. “I think it was Number 19 at the time,” Cyrus says. “I thought maybe I could help him drop the nine.” He went into the studio the next day and, with Tish and a songwriter named Jocelyn “Jozzy” Donald, wrote his verse in 15 minutes. “When I found out Nas was a young black dude talking about Wranglers and cowboy shit, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s make Billy the opposite,’ ” Donald says. “No chaps, no moonshine — we’re gonna talk about Fendi sports bras. Let him spit bars.” She likens the switch to “giving Magic the three-point skills and Bird the dunking skills.”

It was around this time that Billboard announced it was booting the song from the country charts on the grounds that it didn’t contain the proper musical elements. But the internet rallied behind Nas, and in the end the controversy only made the song more popular: After Billboard’s decision, the Cyrus remix dropped, and within a week, “Old Town Road” was the biggest song in the country.

Cyrus, for his part, is enjoying the hell out of this moment. “I never thought at 57 I’d get to do this again,” he marvels. He seems genuinely thrilled to be working with Lil Nas X, whom he calls a “genius” and “great thinker” and compares, with a straight face, to both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. “I think Lil Nas is a hero who came along when the world needed a hero,” Cyrus says. “At a time when we’re so divided, he’s a light in the universe.”

He adds that Nas reminds him a little of himself: grew up poor, shunned by gatekeepers, homeless just before his big break. He’s tried to take the rising star under his wing, passing along some of the advice he himself got as a young rule-breaker from Nashville outlaws such as Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. “It’s a double-edged sword to have a monster like this right out of the box. And I’m the one guy who can understand that,” Cyrus says. “This is gonna sound crazy, but I almost think of Nas like a son.” (Eavesdropping on a nearby couch, Noah, his actual daughter, snorts.)

Cyrus says he’s shared a few general words of wisdom with the younger artist: Persist, diversify, only do things you love. According to Nas, he’s also imparted some more practical advice.

“He told me,” Nas says, “to buy land.”

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus perform onstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field on April 28, 2019 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus perform onstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field on April 28, 2019 in Indio, California. Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Two days later, Nas hops into a Mercedes Sprinter van outside his West Hollywood hotel to drive to his first public performance ever. In keeping with the insanity of the past few weeks, the performance is at Stagecoach, a.k.a. the country-music Coachella. His entourage is growing by the day: In addition to his publicist, his performance coach, his musical director and his label rep, there’s now also a tour manager and a security guard, a beefy guy named David whose main responsibility seems to be making sure the air conditioning is set at the right level.

On the way, the van gets a couple of reminders that Nas is barely out of his teens. First, there’s a pit stop at CVS, because he forgot socks. Then, 30 minutes into the drive, he announces that he’s hungry, prompting a detour to In ’N Out — which turns into an impromptu meet-and-greet when he’s mobbed by local fans. One girl working behind the counter hands Nas some paper In ’N Out hats and asks if he’ll autograph them. He looks at them for a second, then mumbles, “I don’t really have a signature.”

But if he feels any anxiety about playing his first show ever, at a festival with a crowd of 80,000 people, it doesn’t show. Halfway into the drive, he lays his head against the window and falls asleep.

Nas has plans to keep this going for at least a while longer. He recently signed with Gee Roberson, former manager of Drake and Kanye West. It’s a big deal to him: Drake is the closest thing he has to a role model in music. “He’s one of the bigger influences on me,” he says. (Though when I ask if Drake reached out after Nas broke his streaming record, Nas shakes his head. “He liked the post,” he says, a little disappointed. “But he never mentioned me back or anything.”)

Aside from his new team and occasionally his dad, he doesn’t have a big inner circle or a lot of friends that he bounces ideas off of. “Mostly I use the person who’s been helping me the most with decisions so far — and that’s me.”

Right now, Nas is in a funny, in-between place. He says there’s money coming in from everywhere — including a six-figure partnership with Wrangler and his label — and that he’ll “be a millionaire soon, if I’m not already.” But he still lives with his dad and stepmom, though he thinks he’ll probably move to L.A. He admits it’s gotten a little overwhelming sometimes, becoming a public figure overnight, having his entire life suddenly exposed. “There was one moment in Atlanta when I hopped in the car with my brother and cousin to go to McDonald’s, and everything just hit me — like, ‘Whoa, what the fuck’s happening?’ ” he says.

Lately, Nas has been in the studio working on a full album. He’s got a handful of songs recorded, many of which address the one-hit-wonder issue head-on — talking to doubters, trolls, jealous people who’d love to see him fail. He hasn’t quite landed on a sound: As he says, “It hasn’t even been a full year of me making music yet.”

None of the new songs sound country at all. Despite what some fans might want, he has no interest in making 12 more “Old Town Roads.” Still, he’s got a healthy sense of humor about milking this one for all it’s worth. He’s already on his second official remix, and he jokes that more are on the way.

“I’m like Twitter-famous, but in real life,” he says. “Instead of your mentions, it’s real people coming up to you. People shake your hand instead of liking your tweets.”

But ask him if he ever feels like it’s getting out of control — like his career is moving too fast — and he says no. “Honestly,” he says, “it feels like it’s not fast enough.


Can CBD help supercharge athletic performance?

     In recent years, more people are searching for alternatives to traditional pharmaceutical painkillers and opiate drugs. Now, they are reaching for natural, non-pharmaceutical products like CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis.

One of the greatest supposed benefits of CBD is its potential to manage pain. For world-class athletes, this is proving to be a game-changer.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 120 compounds called cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. CBD works within your body’s endocannabinoid system to help to regulate functions such as reducing pain and inflammation, heal injured bones, promoting better sleep and serving as an overall neuroprotectant.

It was these benefits and more that inspired Mike Kolb to found Xwerks, a health and wellness-focused brand dedicated to providing top-notch hemp-derived oils to supercharge athletic recovery.

“It started with wanting to create products that I wanted to use,” said Kolb. “I had a background in the supplement space but had not yet worked on the type of products I personally wanted to use. I started out creating a pre-workout product and we are now at seven products and plan to add more.”

Like many others, Kolb first learned about CBD through its ability to reduce seizures.

After CBD was removed from the banned substances list of both the U.S. and World Anti-Doping Agencies, it was clear to Kolb that CBD was the way of the future for optimal athlete recovery.

“It became pretty clear it could be greatly beneficial for athletes and once WADA cleared CBD for use in Olympic athletes, I knew I wanted to pursue launching our own CBD products.” Kolb said.

Elite CrossFit athlete like Xwerks brand ambassador Alex Anderson are living proof of how top-quality CBD products can positively impact performance and boost recovery.

While Xwerks is great for young, athletic and active people, that’s far from the only use someone could get from their line of CBD products.

“Our customers are typically 25-35 very active individuals looking to better recover from their workouts, but we do see some older/elderly customers using our CBD products for various reasons,” said Kolb. “My father and uncle, for example, both use it to help their arthritis.”

With study after study proving the effectiveness of CBD to help manage pain from issues like arthritis while improving bone health, quality of sleep and deterring neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, the cannabinoid can be a great choice for people of any age.

Another key part of the rise of CBD is its position as a non-addictive alternative to oft-prescribed opiates. Former pro athletes like retired NHL player Ryan VandenBussche, retired NFL linebacker David Ahrens and former NHL winger Riley Cote all advocate for CBD use for recovery and as an alternative to opiates, swearing by its healing effects and health benefits.

And that’s the key for Kolb. Despite some commonly held misconceptions about CBD, like that it’ll get you high or that it’s addictive, Kolb wants the public to know that his top-quality Xwerks products are more than just some “magic weed pill,” he said.

“It’s not a scary drug that will get you high and addicted,” said Kolb. “I have seen some push back from people associating it with marijuana and getting high or they think it might be dangerous like prescription pills.”

In addition to stand alone orders, Xwerks products are available wholesale to fitness enthusiasts interested in carrying them in their gym or store.

“Wholesale has been a big part of our growth,” said Kolb. “We have many new CBD wholesale customers but it’s also exciting that our existing wholesale customers selling our other products are now adding CBD to their lineup.”

As more research emerges about the benefits and uses for CBD, the sky’s the limit for what Kolb and his company can do in the coming years.




Calling all warriors! NATALLI RIZE returns to Moes. the Ever Rizing Tour, by popular demand, has been extended into summer. Her powerhouse 5 piece band from Jamaica & Australia return in full force for an unforgettable experience.  Rounding out this International Reggae Showcase is Marla Brown (daughter of Dennis Brown) Ancestree& DJ Soultry Dubs.  

ABOUT NATALLI RIZE- Ask her where she comes from and she’ll tell you “All directions.” It’s an apt description of a singer who defies boundaries; culturally, musically and spiritually. The Nattali Rize debut album “Rebel Frequency” hit the streets in 2017 to high acclaim, impacting worldwide charts & hearts! Known for their epic, high energy, thought provoking and uplifting live performances, with a new album dropping and global tour schedule, the international powerhouse band (Australia/Jamaica) delivers a raw energy and vibe, channeling a deep reggae influence in a New Era Style. But this is more than genre labels. The music, message & intention transcends, forget the borders and waters that divide us, the movement is to ignite the great remembrance of who we are, our collective power, what we can be, to break the mental conditioning and find full freedom in this lifetime. Get ready to be moved!

“Nattali is a bright light in the world with a vision that extends beyond the stage.” Michael Franti (Spearhead)

“They Present as an Army on a mission!”  – Deb Kloeden


Dry Diggings Camping

Dry Diggings Festival

Friday 8/30- 8am- 9pm



Reservation Only – Designated 15 x 20 foot area with site numbers.

Example Campsite diagram:




Reservation Only

Water and limited power will be available.

We advise you bring a 75′ water hose and ‘Y’ spigot. Along with a three prong 12 gauge+ 100′ extension cord. This will assist in getting power and water to your exact location.

If you do not bring these items, we cannot guarantee that you will have power and water accessible.


August 30th, 2019 starting at 8AM


September 1st, at 11AM


8am-2am. You can leave the grounds after 2am but won’t be let back in the grounds until 8am.


For the safety of everyone camping at Dry Diggings Festival please respect the following rules:


  • All campers subject to search.
  • All campers MUST have a weekend admission to the festival.
  • Ice chests / coolers allowed in for the weekend on Friday only. We will not allow ice chest / coolers through the gates on Saturday or Sunday.
  • No pets allowed.
  • No campfires or charcoal grills (cook stoves OK). Propane grills are allowed
  • No unauthorized vending.
  • No illegal substances of any kind.
  • No motorized vehicles (golf carts, ATVs, segways)
  • No glass
  • No metal kegs
  • All underage campers (17 and under) MUST be accompanied by an adult.
  • Underage use or possession of alcohol will not be tolerated.
  • Please set up your tent in designated areas only.
  • Attendees who do not have camping wristband will not be allowed into the campgrounds.
  • Quiet time will be enforced from 12AM to 8AM each night.  No amplified music, no drum circles.
  • Please place all trash in the nearest trash bin, no littering.
  • Please obey all of the “No Trespassing” signs
  • Oversized tents and shade structures will not be allowed.   Please use common sense and do not bring the worlds biggest tent!
  • All camping is at your own risk/ personal liability. Valuables should not be left unattended.
  • Have a great time!
  • Violation of any campground rule or policy may also lead to fines/and removal from campgrounds.

Dry Diggings

Dry Diggings Festival is a weekend of craft beer, music and camping. We have thoroughly planned out every aspect of the weekend, right down to Mimosa Mornings!
As the day progresses we will have several different activities. We are excited to provide a unique festival experience at Dry Diggings Festival.
Some of the highlights of the weekend, include:
That’s right Mimosa Mornings at Dry Diggings! For those that are 21+ we will be kicking off Saturday morning, bright and early the best way we know how; Mimosa’s in the morning!
Sat & Sun Aug 31 & Sept 1st from 9-11am in the Dry Diggings Social Club 

This is a music festival after all! We’ve brought together 20 incredible bands packed into 3 days of music!

We’ve handpicked our vendors so that we have some of the best at Dry Diggings Festival. Providing a wide variety of concessions, that will accommodate everyone, including vegan and gluten free options. As with all our events, we also will have a wide variety of art, clothing and craft vendors. There is sure to be something you’ll love!

Have you ever wondered what hop is? What an IPA is? Or even how beer is made? Brewers use their skills, knowledge, including science, but ultimately their imagination to craft their wonderful creations. The Brewery Knowledge Zone will give a bit of education on the brewery process from the professionals themselves!

Kick back & relax in the cooling lounges featuring shade & Misters!!
The Air conditioned pavilion and home to the Acoustic Pre Party, that will feature several different events through out the weekend including fun games, the signature Social Bar serving the best drinks all weekend, Tournaments, & more! 
FREE for day use on a first come first serve basis with seating & shade!