Few people can say their lives have changed as drastically over the past year as Lil Nas X. A little over a year ago, he was living with his sister, broke, and chronically online—until he bought a Nine Inch Nails-sampling beat online for $50 that later became the viral sensation "Old Town Road." After initially receiving a notorious snub from the Billboard Country Charts, the track went on to be not just the No. 1 song on the charts, but the longest-charting No. 1 song ever, at 19 consecutive weeks at the top. It's the Cinderella music industry story that dominated 2019, the highest and fastest rise of any breakout artist in recent memory.
Major life events—like going through a breakup, moving to a new city, or getting a new job—can all be disorienting and greatly impact your mental health, let alone going from being a random teenager to a household-name hitmaker. Now, a new Variety cover story on the artist answers the question of how he's handling this unfathomable seismic change in his day-to-day life. Reading through the extensive profile, the answer seems to be: it hasn't all been sunshine—from family struggles to loneliness to self-medicating for anxiety.
Published less than a week ahead of Nas X performing "Old Town Road" at the 2020 Grammys with Diplo, BTS, Mason Ramsey, and Billy Ray Cyrus, the interview reveals some previously undiscussed details about how he coped with his turbulent year, which, in addition to his professional success also included his process of publicly coming out as gay. The piece reads, "One might not necessarily associate trap beats with an artist who embraces spirituality and self-help books but overnight success and global fame have tested Nas’ mental health in ways he never imagined." It also delves into the reasons he canceled two performances this year.
Later on, the article details some of Lil Nas X's darkest moments:
But Nas also learned about powerlessness in the last year, while secretly trying to get his mother into rehab — and into recovery. Says Nas: “I never really talk about my mom. She’s an addict so we don’t have the closest relationship. Even trying to get her better — things didn’t quite work out. But there’s still love.” Loneliness, too: “The biggest surprise of becoming globally famous? On the outside, everybody loves you — but on the inside, everything [feels] the same.”
Nas also credits a series of losses as invaluable life lessons. “So much happened during my rise,” he says, referring to the deaths of Nipsey Hussle, XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld. “You know, drugs and murders. And my grandmother passing [in 2018]— she was the first person close to me who died. It was devastating. And it made me a hypochondriac: I’d wake up, heart racing. It was scary.” That led to a period of self-medicating — “smoking [weed] heavily,” he admits. “But then I started feeling more connected with the universe, and taking everything as a sign.”
Lil Nas X has had a whirlwind career so far but all things considered, he's doing pretty well at navigating this insanity, especially for a 20-year-old. Smoking weed and thinking everything is a sign? That sounds like a whole lot of college sophomores.
Especially considering his age, Lil Nas X already handled his newfound, meteorically rising fame with an astounding amount of grace and humor—just take his Twitter account and his Nardwaur interview. With the rap-country breakout star primed for a big 2020 with six Grammy nominations, he seems more than ready to ride 'til he can't no more.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.