Behind the Name: Lil Nas X

By now, we’ve all heard the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.

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It’s a song we’ve all come to know. But what about the name of its original creator? That might be lesser known than the multi-billion-streamed song that he created.

So, in order to find out the history and meaning behind the name Lil Nas X, and the many other names he’s gone by in his past, let’s dive in here, shall we?

Birth Name, The Work

Lil Nas X was not born Lil Nas X. No, he was born on April 9, 1999, and was given the name Montero Lamar Hill. The rapper, singer, and songwriter grew a career some two decades later with his country rap song, “Old Town Road,” which combined and flipped genres in a way that broke the world’s collective consciousness. Now, that song is diamond certified.

Since the success of the single, Lil Nas X has released his debut EP, 7, which featured the song “Panini” and guest appearances by the likes of Cardi B. In 2021, he dropped his debut LP, Montero, which featured Jack Harlow and others.

To date, Lil Nas X has earned Grammy nominations, MTV Video Music Awards, American Music Awards, a CMA award, and was even named as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential people and a Forbes 30 Under 30 nod.


Born in Lithia Springs, Georgia, outside Atlanta, the future rapper was named after the car— Mitsubishi Montero. When he was six years old, his parents divorced and he went to live with his mother and grandmother. Three years later he moved in with his father, a gospel singer, staying in Georgia.

Lil Nas X credited his early success with staying away from Atlanta, noting to Rolling Stone, “There’s so much shit going on in Atlanta—if I would have stayed there, I would have fallen in with the wrong crowd.” As such, he began getting fluent with the internet as a teenager, telling NPR it was “round the time when memes started to become their own form of entertainment.”

He turned to social media and especially Twitter with the hopes of going viral, creating memes, himself. As a junior in high school, he played trumpet and even earned first chair but he quit because he thought it wasn’t seen as cool. He struggled with coming out as gay, praying it was just a phase. But around 17 years old he accepted it.

He graduated from high school in 2017 and then enrolled in the University of West Georgia where he studied computer science. He dropped out after a year to pursue music. He worked at Zaxby’s restaurants and at the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park.


Via Twitter, he created and ran Nicki Minaj fan accounts, according to New York magazine. One account was @NasMaraj. An investigation into that handle shows that the up-and-coming artist was using multiple accounts simultaneously to help posts go viral. The @NasMaraj account was suspended by Twitter for “violating spam policies.” Then he opened a new account, @NasMarai.

At first, he denied his involvement but later admitted that he was a big fan of Minaj. Minaj even responded to him saying it was “a bit of a sting” when he at first denied being her fan. But the young artist said he did so at first because people would have thought he was gay had they known he was such a stan for her.

Later, the @NasMarai account was mentioned in a New York Times magazine article, which described Lil Nas X as having spent “every waking hour online, tweeting as @nasmaraj.”

Lil Nas X

In 2018, the artist began to earn acclaim with his music. He wrote and recorded songs in his closet, of all places. He took on the name Lil Nas X, which was a tribute, he says, to the rapper Nas from Queens Bridge, New York. The word “Lil” has been popular in rap since Lil Wayne. And X is a common name amongst people of a certain culture (think: Malcolm X). He released his first mixtape on July 24, 2018, Nasarati, on SoundCloud.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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