“I want you to make sure you're listening to every single thing,” Lil Nas X tells Apple Music's Zane Lowe of his debut EP 7. “You can't just listen and be on your phone the whole time, because you might miss something.” Of course, everyone being on their phones the whole time is how he got here: “Old Town Road” exploded from home-made online curio to part of our day-to-day lives so quickly, it would be easy enough to dismiss the culture-engulfing success as a novelty or one-off fluke. But the boundary-bursting Atlanta rapper has bad news about that narrative.
Of 7's eight tracks, two of them are indeed “Old Town Road”—the omnipresent remix with Billy Ray Cyrus and the original recipe that famously came together for $30. And one more is called “Rodeo”, complete with exaggerated drawl and a Cardi B verse for good measure. But the other five flee the Old West as fast as they can. Single “Panini” borrows the melody of Nirvana's “In Bloom” for its chorus (Kurt Cobain gets a songwriting credit, but Lil Nas X tells Lowe that he hadn't heard Nirvana before writing the tune); “Bring U Down” and “F9mily (You & Me)” are rock songs, full stop, thanks in no small part to some help from songwriting powerhouse Ryan Tedder and blink-182's Travis Barker. But none of this should be a surprise, given Lil Nas X's ambivalence to the industry hand-wringing over the genre classification of his signature hit. And as far as classifying these new songs—a teaser for a forthcoming full-length LP—he tells Lowe he thinks there's a common thread. “It's all music that you want to bang your head to, I guess.”