If you’re reading this and wondering who Lil Nas X is, you’re not dialed in to contemporary music. The LGBT… rap star had a hit song in 2019 with “Old Town Road” and has followed it with lesser Billboard Hot 100 songs. His big hit won Grammys, CMA awards, and charted throughout the world. He was one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential people on the internet in 2019 and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 (a list of the 30 most wealthy and influential people in the world under the age of 30) in 2020. As he is only 21 years old, he may remain on the Forbes list for a while.
“Old Town Road” in particular has remained a hit, with continued sales and its development into an anthem song for many young teens. If you’re not familiar with him, think “Another Brick In the Wall part 2” by Pink Floyd or “My Generation” by The Who.
Put simply, he’s a remarkably famous young man, in a time when “fame” is being described as the #1 goal of many. Because he is young, black and gay, his country music hit has been presented as an indication of the future of the industry. Ken Burns talked glowingly about him when on his interview tour about his Country Music documentary. What Lil Nas X says and does reverberates through the culture.
What he’s decided to do is promote Satanism.
He worked with a promotional company to modify 666 Nike brand shoes to display images of hell on the soles (using a single drop of human blood in the ink), decorated them with pentagrams, and put references to the fall from grace on the shoes. Then they were put on sale (for more than $1000 per pair, have to make money) at the beginning of Easter week for maximum effect. A video was also released, showing Lil Nas X sliding down a stripper pole from heaven into hell, where he dances with Satan before killing him and stealing his horns.
If you’re wondering if Lil Nas X has enough influence to inspire people to reject religion, consider that the shoes sold out in less than one minute.
Governor Kristi Noem decided to call him out on what he’d produced, and on this, she’s right: she wasn’t calling for a ban of his music or even the shoes, but she was speaking out against them and urging for a fight for souls. Right message, wrong messenger: because of her mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis and her unceasing Trumpism, she has been attacked despite saying the correct thing in the correct way.
It is a stark illustration of the moral damage wreaked by embracing an agenda which only occasionally values life, ethics and the Ten Commandments. It is also another reminder of the dangers of binary thinking: just because Noem is a bad person doesn’t make her adversaries good, and denouncing God and promoting Satanism is not something that should be supported. Satanism has a meaning – a few different meanings, actually, depending on the branch. It can be anything from an active devotion to spiritual evil to a belief that spirituality is wrong and any pursuit which enhances ones’ personal power is inherently moral. In any of its incarnations, it is a poisonous element to a society.
Nike has responded in the most rational way possible: they’ve launched a lawsuit seeking to stop sale of the shoes due to trademark infringement. They have made it clear that they have no working relationship with the rapper nor the design group, and that they have already seen calls for boycotts of their product due to Lil Nas X’s actions.
Nike e-mailed an official statement about their legal action to news agencies clarifying their position. USA Today included most of the wording in their story on the lawsuit:
“Nike filed a trademark infringement and dilution complaint against MSCHF today related to the Satan Shoes. We don’t have any further details to share on pending legal matters. However, we can tell you we do not have a relationship with Lil Nas X or MSCHF. The Satan Shoes were produced without Nike’s approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project.”
Ultimately, this looks to be nothing more than an effort to generate publicity for a rapper who came out of the gate with a massive hit song and whose subsequent efforts, while successful, have not approached his initial popularity. It seems like a bad idea to give it that publicity without simultaneously calling it out as a cheap ploy; by the same token, it’s a reprehensible action performed by a person with outsized influence among teens, and needs to be responsibly addressed.