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An author and mother of four living in Minneapolis, Minn., Brundidge recently wrote a book, “Daniel Finds His Voice,” inspired by her son learning to speak by singing along to the Georgia rapper’s No. 1 hit “Old Town Road,” reports the Savannah Morning News, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network.
The book topped Amazon’s bestsellers list and was mentioned on CBS Morning News, but the backlash to the Atlanta-based rapper's song, video, and $1,000 “Satan Shoe” (allegedly laced with blood) has caused Brundidge’s book sales to take a nosedive. Venues have also dropped out of her monthlong book promo because of the rapper's association.
Brundidge wrote the book as an opportunity to help parents with autistic children, but the controversy has overshadowed that effort. Despite that, she sees Lil Nas X’s video as a message to Christians about acceptance and love.
“People don't even take the time to see that this is not a book about Lil Nas X. The book is about a little boy who used music to learn how to speak,” said Brundidge, who identifies as Christian and has three children with autism. “It’s sad that people won’t take the time to see that.
“What’s even sadder is that people won’t even take the time to see the message that Lil Nas X is trying to show the world through his video.”
The queer rapper’s newest single talks about a lustful relationship between two same-gender lovers. The song’s subtitle is a reference to the LGBTQ film of the same name. An accompanying video begins with the rapper, whose birth name is Montero Lamar Hill, in a depiction of the Garden of Eden being tranced by a snake that he kisses and ends with him giving Satan a lap dance.
Criticism of the video has largely centered around the final scene, but has now extended to Lil Nas X's “Satan Shoe,” — a collaboration with Brooklyn, NY-based brand MSCHF— which features the number of the beast and scripture Luke 10:18 which reads, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” It also has a checkmark resembling that of Nike. The company has since been granted a restraining order for unauthorized use of their famed checkmark.
In response to the reaction, the rapper tweeted: "I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the (expletive) y'all preached would happen to me because I was gay. So, I hope u (sic) are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves." He then proceeded to tweet tongue-in-cheek reactions to critics.
The rapper, who rose to internet fame after creating Nicki Minaj stan accounts, is hardly the first artist to use satanic or biblical imagery in his work: Think Madonna's "Like A Prayer," music video, or Nicki Minaj's 2012 Grammy performance of "Roman's Revenge," or on their name alone, Academy Award-winning rap group Three 6 Mafia. The 2018 Met Gala theme, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, was centered around religious imagery.
Supporters say the “Montero” song and video speak to a larger conversation about acceptance in the church for LGBTQ youth. Director of Black Church Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology Nichole Phillips said it’s important to look at the shoe, video, and lyrics in context with each other.
“There is a particular correspondence between the three,” she said. “Is he within the tradition of hip hop in terms of making a critique, and is it graphic? Yes. Are many offended? Yes. Yet, I think that if we take it on, superficially, or on face value, we continue to miss the point.”
Phillips said the juxtaposition of the three visuals – the song, the video, and the shoes – are a part of Lil Nas X’s larger critique on the church and consumerism, given the pricey blood-filled shoes that have since sold out.
“He's embracing his gay identity, but I think he's also saying on a larger in a larger way, that if you identify me, as because of my sexuality, as being sinful, how much more are you sinful?” Phillips said, adding his larger critique is on the church, religious people, and their hypocrisy.
Phillips said some of Lil Nas X’s imagery was an indication of “church hurt.”
“I think this extreme nature of the video is an indication of the extreme nature of his church hurt and him feeling like he has been – as most black youth who identify as queer – in some way alienated and isolated having grown up in a tradition that they want to fully embrace but they cannot fully embrace it because they are not fully accepted or shunned.”
While the controversy has affected her sales, Brundidge doesn’t fault the Georgia rapper. She also insists the message in his video is misunderstood and that the response is a larger criticism of Christians and the Black church and the unwillingness to accept children “who are coming just as they are.”
“We’re not doing anything to reach out to them. And then when they do come to church, we're not doing anything to keep them there and love them,” Brundidge said. “For me, (the video) is really an indictment on us as adults, us as Christian adults, especially in a Black church and how we love our children and what we can do to try and better serve, and help them when they come to us looking for that love and acceptance.”
Raisa is a Watchdog and Investigative Reporter for The Savannah Morning News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Lil Nas X controversy sparks conversation about Black church