As if the hip-hop and country worlds colliding on Lil Nas X’s global smash weren’t already enough, many people don’t realize the song is built around a Nine Inch Nails sample. While Lil Nas X famously purchased the beat from a Dutch producer named YoungKio for just $30, they’re both on the hook for a lot more due to the fact that the beat incorporates part of the Nine Inch Nails 2008 instrumental “34 Ghosts IV.”
Reznor hadn’t said much about his role in one of the biggest hit songs in recent years — apart from a hilarious Instagram post, featuring himself and bandmate Atticus Ross, when the song was nominated for CMA Awards — until a Rolling Stone interview that published this week.
After noting that the song is “undeniably hooky” and sort-of complaining that “it’s been stuck in my head enough,” he talked about his decision to approve the sample, which he could have refused to clear.
“The way it was presented to me originally,” he recalled, “is I got a call from my management saying, ‘We got a call from a panicked manager saying they had used the sample of something off ‘Ghosts.’ They should have cleared it, but it didn’t get cleared. It’s picking up some steam on the viral Spotify charts. What do you think about that?’
Reznor was unperturbed. “And I said, ‘Look, I’m fine with it. I get how stuff goes. They’re not saying they didn’t sample it. Just work it out, but don’t be a roadblock to this.’ I hadn’t heard it yet. Then a few weeks later, I was like, ‘Holy sh–.’”