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What’s in a name? If you’re a popular recording artist, it could be the difference between success and failure. Many top stars in the music industry perform under a stage name. This is true for most popular rappers. Most adopt a moniker that bears some significance to them but is not their real name. Lil Nas X is no different in this regard. 

Lil Nas X on February 7, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.
Lil Nas X on February 7, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. | David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The superstar rapper goes by Lil Nas X even though (unsurprisingly) this is not his legal name. So what IS his name, and how did he come up with Lil Nas X? Let’s take a deeper dive into Lil Nas X and how he came up with the name he’s best known as now. 

Why Lil Nas X chose his stage name

Lil Nas X’s stage name is nothing like his real name, so fans of the rapper may wonder where it came from. The explanation is almost hilariously simple. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he gave the back story on his name during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

“When I started doing music, I was like, ‘I want to have fun with this,'” he said. “And every new rapper’s name is Lil, Lil, Lil. ‘What if I was Lil Nas? That’d be funny.’ So I was like, ‘All right, bet. I’ll be Lil Nas.’ And I added the X later on.”

Say what you want about the name, but it’s now one of the most well-known in rap and music in general. Lil Nas X has catapulted from being a viral sensation to being a legit force in the industry. While Old Town Road was his first smash hit, he’s had others. One of his latest was Montero, which was inspired by his actual name. 

Lil Nas X’s real name inspired one of his songs

The rapper also told Fallon the inspiration behind his real name, Montero Hill. He said that it was based on his Mom’s automotive wish list at the time: 

“So my mom wanted the car, the [Mitsubishi] Montero, and she never got one … So, yeah, I’m named after a car.”

While the person was named after a car, the significance of the song’s name was somewhat deeper. According to Insider, the song title – which is Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – is a reference to the film starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. It’s a reference to how those two characters in that film were in love and called each other by their actual names. Lil Nas X referenced his own love life and sexuality within the song. 

Lil Nas X has been able to parlay his actual name into a major hit song. But while he’s original in many ways, one area where he’s not in his choice of attaching “Lil” to his stage name. 

Other rappers who have adopted “Lil” into their name


Lil Nas X Had the Most Perfect Response to Homophobic Rapper Who Mocked His Grammys Look

Lil has become a popular tag for rappers over the years. Ranker even compiled a list of the best rappers with Lil preceding their names. Some of the rappers who made the cut included: 

  • Lil Wayne
  • Lil Uzi Vert
  • Lil Baby 
  • Lil Yachty
  • Lil Dicky
  • Lil Jon
  • Lil Kim
  • Lil Boosie

What’s fascinating about this trend is that it’s not new at all. Lil Kim and Lil Wayne were popular 15-20 years ago, but rappers today like Lil Nas X and Lil Yachty have kept the “Lil” naming convention going strong. It doesn’t appear to have an end in sight. It just goes to show you that anyone entering the rap game searching for a stage name is likely to at least consider throwing a Lil in front of it.