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From 'Old Town Road' to satanic shoes: Breaking down Lil Nas X's controversies

Rapper Lil Nas X released his coveted Satan-inspired shoes on March 29 and has been facing backlash ever since. Despite this, the rapper stands by his art and has refused to apologize for it.    – Photo by Lil Nas X / Twitter

Rapper and singer Lil Nas X recently launched a pair of “Satan shoes” to accompany his new single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The shoes sold out almost immediately, but not without a heavy dose of controversy.

The 21-year-old collaborated with New York-based art collective, MSCHF, to release a limited collection of only 666 pairs. The black and red shoes feature a bronze pentagram, an inverted cross and a drop of real human blood in the sole of a modified pair of Nike Air Max 97s.

After receiving immense criticism for the concept of the shoes on Twitter, Lil Nas X released a YouTube video titled “Lil Nas X Apologizes for Satan Shoe.”

In the 47-second-long clip, the rapper begins by holding one of the shoes next to him in the camera and says, “Okay guys, I see everybody’s been talking about this shoe and I just want to come forward and say …” before cutting away to a clip from his “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name” music video. In the video’s scene he is seen dancing on a devil character before taking his crown and placing it on himself.

Nike came forward in a statement to CBS News, stating that it “(does) 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." 

Additionally, Nike was granted a temporary restraining order against MSCHF by the U.S. District Court in New York, temporarily blocking the sales of the “Satan shoes.”

Saturday Night Live also addressed the controversy last week, with a skit starring Chris Redd as Lil Nas X. Redd dressed up as the rapper and gave a lap dance to an opposite figure from the “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” music video, but this time, it was Jesus.

In the skit, Redd, as Lil Nas X, referenced the Nike lawsuit where he said “I don’t know why Nike is so mad. Their whole thing is ‘Just Do It.’ Well, I did it.”

Despite the criticism the “Old Town Road” artist has received online for the shoes and music video, he hasn’t been shy in responding.

In a since-deleted Tweet, one Twitter user criticized Lil Nas X for his Satanic concept, saying that it’s inappropriate for children, who were a large part of his success with his debut single, “Old Town Road.” 

The rapper clapped back by responding “i literally sing about lean & adultery in old town road. u decided to let your child listen. blame yourself.”

Lil Nas X is not new to controversy. His most recent involvement in a scandal came in January, when his Grammy Award’s outfit sparked a homophobic rant from Atlanta rapper, Pastor Troy. 

It’s worth questioning why Lil Nas X is constantly criticized for his artistic expression when other artists are not. For example, Lil Uzi Vert often makes references to Satan in his music and public statements on social media, and although he has his critics, the online harassment he receives rarely meets the degree of Lil Nas X. 

Maybe it’s because Lil Nas X is a 21-year-old gay, Black man in the spotlight. Critics view him as an easy target. Or, maybe it’s because he isn’t afraid to talk back to attackers. 

Either way, the “Satan shoes” controversy doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, as Lil Nas X is refusing to back down this time.

In response to the Nike lawsuit, the rapper tweeted hinting at a possible rebuttal: “i haven’t been upset until today, i feel like it’s f*cked up they have so much power they can get shoes cancelled. freedom of expression gone out the window. but that’s gonna change soon.”

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