Nine Inch Nails Singer Trent Reznor’s Contribution To Rapper Lil Nas X’s Breakthrough
Though Lil Nas X has been storming the music industry with one hit song after the other, energetic live performances, and controversial music videos, his career didn’t start long ago. In fact, he is one of the lucky musicians who gained fame over his first single, ‘Old Town Road,’ released in December 2018. The song was so successful that Columbia Records re-released it in March 2019, and a remix version with Billy Ray Cyrus also came out.
The list of achievements this song has is endless since it topped the charts in numerous countries, gained awards, including Grammys, became the fastest song to be certified diamond, and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Also, the song’s background is equally magical since Lil Nas X purchased a Roland TR-808 for $30 and recorded what would become the biggest debut in one day.
While there are many reasons behind the song’s success, such as TikTok users that pumped its popularity, there’s also a surprising contribution from a rock band. When Lil Nas X bought Roland TR-808, there was a sample that was placed behind it by record producer YoungKio. He composed the instrumental, and surprisingly, he used a sample of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘34 Ghost IV.’
Since it was a direct sample from Nine Inch Nails’ instrumental song, many people expected the band members to claim rights over ‘Old Town Road’ after its huge success and commercial triumph. Furthermore, while the band kept silent during the big hurray of the song’s popularity, it was nominated for a 2019 Country Music Association Award, with Trent Reznor as a credited writer.
After the nomination, Reznor finally acknowledged his contribution to the song and shared a post on his Instagram. Still, fans expected a much bigger move from the musician, such as claiming royalties from the hit. However, he spoke to Rolling Stone about his role in the track and said, “The way it was presented to me originally is I got a call from my management saying, ‘We got a call from a panicked manager saying they had used the sample of something off ‘Ghosts.’”
Reznor continued, “‘They should have cleared it, but it didn’t get cleared. It’s picking up some steam on the viral Spotify charts. What do you think about that?’ And I said, ‘Look, I’m fine with it. I get how stuff goes. They’re not saying they didn’t sample it. Just work it out, but don’t be a roadblock to this.’ I hadn’t heard it yet. Then a few weeks later, I was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’”
The Nine Inch Nails icon cleared the air about his decision to stay away by saying, “The reason I haven’t stepped in to comment anything about it is, I don’t feel it’s my place to play any kind of social critic to that. It was a material that was used in a significant way, and it turned into something that became something else, and those guys should be the ones the spotlight is on.”
Moreover, Trent Reznor was offered a cameo role in the music video for ‘Old Town Road,’ but he also declined this offer. The vocalist shared, “They asked if I wanted to do a cameo in the video, and it was flattering, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to shine a light on me for that. I say that with complete respect.” The music video currently has over 1 billion views on YouTube, and still, Reznor didn’t want to appear in the viral video.
The frontman also said, “Having been listed on the credits of the all-time, Number One whatever-the-f*ck-it-is wasn’t something… I didn’t see that one coming, but the world is full of weird things that happen like that. It’s flattering. But I don’t feel it’s for me to step in there and pat myself on the back for that.”
Even though Trent Reznor didn’t expect such a huge success from the track, he undoubtedly played a massive part in its triumph because he gave birth to the instrumental part of ‘Old Town Road.’ Although Lil Nas X had never heard of Nine Inch Nails before running into ’34 Ghosts IV,’ the band certainly shaped the young star’s future career.