Some artists are coy about their sexuality, and some just go for it. While Lil Nas X came out more than a year ago, the sexual themes of his new song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” and especially the imagery of its video, are not subtle, to say the least.
Nas (real name: Montero Lamar Hill) introduced the song with a message on social media directed to his 14 year-old self: “Dear 14-year-old Montero, I wrote a song with our name in it,” Nas wrote in the message. “It’s about a guy I met last summer. I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised to never be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist. You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. Sending you love from the future. — LNX.”
Not surprisingly, Nas says the song was liberating. “It’s brought a new confidence out of me,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “To be able to say, ‘You know what? I want to do this, and I don’t give a fuck who’s upset about it.’ I feel like the moment I put this snippet out of this song, I just started to see a shift in myself gradually. The world’s going to keep spinning. But I can do what I want in my own artistic career at all times or I’m going to fail, for me at least. That’s how I feel.”
However, while the message may have been clear, writing the song itself wasn’t easy, he says.
“This song probably has the most crazy [creation] for me,” he said. “I had started working on my album by getting deep into it last summer, and I was two songs in. I was spending every day, teary eyed, just sad, upset, like, ‘What am I doing? I don’t have this. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.’ And then as I go back downstairs to try to finish this song [I’m trying] not to let [collaborator] Daytrips see me crying. I’m like, ‘Let’s finish this song. I got this.’ I get in there and I’m working on a song called ‘Kimble,’ it’s not coming out anymore — and then this melody comes out of nowhere. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, can you all record this?’ I still have the sound note on my phone. So we recorded that, and everything just went uphill from there.”
Least subtle of all is the steamy video, which finds Nas first in the Garden of Eden, then meeting a snake and descending to hell, where he seduces, then kills, and then replaces the devil. While it’s (almost literally) worlds away from his equally high-tech Christmas-themed video for “Holiday,” the two have a shared aesthetic that comes just as much from Nas as the clip’s directors.
“I literally, for most of [my videos], for ‘Panini,’ ‘Holiday’ and ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ I’d literally sit and I’d write out the video exactly how I wanted scene by scene. And that’s how this one came together. I was like, ‘If I’m releasing this kind of song, I need to have this kind of video.’”
More videos along these lines are likely in store as Nas preps his album for a summer release. But in the meantime, he’s showing remarkable self-awareness for an artist who doesn’t turn 22 until next month.
“I came into this industry and I’ve always been a nice person, I’m always going to be a nice person,” he said. “But people painted me a,s I guess, the perfect person, super kid-friendly… And I mean, yeah, I am that guy sometimes, but I am also a grown-a– adult that does adult things. I’m a Lil Nas, but I’m also Montero.”