Lil Nas X stirs up controversy with ‘Montero’

Before production was shut down by a Nike lawsuit, MSCHF’s ‘Satan Shoes’ featured a drop of human blood in the soles and were part of Lil Nas X’s marketing campaign for ‘Montero.’ // Photo courtesy of MSCHF

Our Take: 4 Stars

Pole dancing, “Satan Shoes,” a Nike lawsuit, oh my! Within just a week of the debut of his newest No. 1 hit “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X has blown up on social media and sparked controversy across the corporate world and right-wing Christian communities alike.

Named after the rapper’s first name, “Montero” explores themes of identity, lust and queerness but with a satanic twist that has riled up conservative viewers. Taking place in reimagined representations of the Garden of Eden and Hell, the music video for “Montero” features Satan and various reincarnations of Lil Nas X himself, along with an abundance of queer and religious iconography.

The video starts off with a short monologue about how society makes people hide away parts of themselves, and introduces Montero as a fantasy world where people can just be accepted as themselves.

Lil Nas X, who came out as a gay man in 2019, has been a vocal advocate for being unapologetically yourself, and video criticizes society for its censorship and mere tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Montero” is a stark contrast from the singer’s 2019 hit “Old Town Road,” the singer’s country-rap claim to fame that was deemed family-friendly enough to be covered by Kidz Bop.

Rather than riding around a neighborhood as a cowboy with Billy Ray Cyrus, “Montero” features the artist riding a stripper pole down to Hell and giving Satan a lap dance before killing him and putting on his horns.

As part of the marketing campaign for the song, Lil Nas X collaborated with MSCHF, a small Brooklyn-based company, to make “Satan Shoes” — modified black and red Nike Air Max 97s with a bronze pentagram charm that have a drop of human blood mixed in with the material that fills the sole of the sneaker.

According to the New York Times, MSCHF released 666 “Satan Shoes” for sale at $1,018 each.

This was marketed as a part of a follow-up campaign for Nike’s “Jesus Shoes” line, which contained a drop of holy water in each pair.

The “Satan Shoes” sold out in less than a minute, and Nike was not happy.

Nike filed and won a lawsuit against the company for trademark infringement, which stopped all production and sales of the sneaker despite the MSCHF lawyers’ claim that the shoes were protected under the First Amendment.

Nike said in a released company statement that “The Satan Shoes were produced without Nike’s approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project.”

The imagery in the “Montero” music video and “Satan Shoes” campaign caused a stir on Twitter, with Christian conservative individuals and organizations condemning Lil Nas X.

The rapper got into a Twitter feud with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem for denouncing the shoes to her Twitter followers, which he responded by tweeting, “ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!”

Big name sports stars have also publicly criticized the “Montero” campaign. Former NBA basketball player Nick Young tweeted “My kids will never play Old Town road again..” and threatened to stop wearing Nike brand shoes.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence also tweeted “Line has to be drawn somewhere. Smh.” in response to the release of Lil Nas X’s sneakers. However despite all the controversy, “Montero” was still positively received by fans, many of whom praise it for wholeheartedly embracing queerness and bringing attention to much needed social issues.

Internet humor has also been a positive effect of the song’s release, with new memes, TikTok parodies and a Saturday Night Live skit of Britney Spears interviewing Lil Nas X on her talk show.