Lil Nas X was born Montero Lamar Hill in Lithia Springs, near Atlanta, Georgia. His mother named him after the Mitsubishi Montero because she wanted the car but never got one.
The first gay mainstream rapper, Lil Nas X struggled to come to terms with his sexuality throughout his teens. An ardent Nicki Minaj fan, he found solace in running the @NasMaraj fan account on Twitter.
When he was still known as Montero Hill, Nas enrolled at the University of West Georgia, where he majored in computer science, but dropped out after a year so he could concentrate on his music. The young rapper slept on his sister's couch and supported himself working as a cashier at Zaxby's chicken chain and as an attendant at the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park.
When Montero Hill started writing and recording songs, he adopted the name Lil Nas X in tribute to the rapper Nas. "When I started doing music, I was like, 'I want to have fun with this," he told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. "And every new rapper's name is Lil, Lil, Lil. 'What if I was Lil Nas? That'd be funny.' So I was like, 'Alright, bet. I'll be Lil Nas.' And I added the X later on."
He self-released a debut mixtape called Nasarati
in July 2018. Nas X subsequently admitted to The Guardian
the record was "just me acting really hard... because it felt like that's what I had to do."
A few months later, Lil Nas came across a beat on YouTube by a Dutch teenager named YoungKio, which he bought for $30. The rapper penned some lyrics, which he described to Genius
as having a "loner cowboy kind of vibe." He titled his country-trap hybrid "Old Town Road
." The song blew up as a result of memes on TikTok, becoming his breakthrough hit.
"Old Town Road" spent 19 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100, breaking the record for the longest run at the top of the tally.
In June 2019, Nas X publicly came out as gay, the first artist to do so while having a #1 record.
Since coming out, Lil Nas has been a LGBTQ trailblazer, incorporating gay themes in his songs and videos. By cultivating an image as a hedonistic and flamboyant gay rapper, his aim is to "open doors for many other queer people to simply exist."