Lil Nas X seems to be asking, Am I country enough now? The Atlanta hip-hop artist just released a remix of his rappy cowboy song "Old Town Road" with Billy Ray Cyrus as guest vocalist—after Billboard kicked the original Cyrus-less version off its country chart, the New York Times reports. Billboard's explanation, in part: The song "does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version." Billboard also said it factors in radio airplay, and while the first "Old Town Road" killed it online, country stations gave it little rotation. Now, Billboard's rejection is sparking a debate about country music's murky boundaries and the possibility that Lil Nas X got booted because he is black.
"They said there were compositional problems," says a former Nashville record executive, "because they didn’t know how to justify it any other way without sounding completely racist." Others note there's a long history of segregation around country music, including the early separation of black southern songs from hillbilly music (the Guardian) and the Grammys refusing to accept Beyonce's country R&B tune "Daddy Lessons" in the country categories in 2016 (the Daily Beast). Not to mention that Lil Nas X, 19, ducked Nashville's gatekeepers and posted his song online, per NPR. For now, "Old Town Road" remains off the country chart and sits at 15 on Billboard's Hot 100. "The song is country trap," the hip-hop artist tells Time. "It's not one, it's not the other. It's both. It should be on both." (Read more music stories.)