Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Album Cover Was Inspired by Someone He Once Dated

Lil Nas X has only been in the public eye for a few short years. But in that time, the young Grammy-winning rapper has changed much of the music landscape. He’s also come into himself in the spotlight, embracing who he is on his debut album Montero.

Lil Nas X wearing a pink cowboy hat.
Lil Nas X | Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Lil Nas X came out publicly in 2019

Lil Nas’ breakout single “Old Town Road” was a musical phenomenon that no one saw coming. The collab with Billy Ray Cyrus set a new record for most weeks spent at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with 19 weeks total) and was the first song in music history to be certified 15-times platinum, selling over 15 million copies in the U.S.

The song was at the top of the charts, and in June 2019, Lil Nas publicly acknowledged his sexuality for the first time. While there have been out gay rappers in the past, none had achieved the kind of worldwide success that Lil Nas had.

His 2021 debut album Montero saw him living in his truth unapologetically. Songs such as “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “That’s What I Want” explored various facets of his love life, including lust as well as wanting someone to have by his side for more than just sex.

Lil Nas X poses while wearing a gold outfit.
Lil Nas X | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ album cover was inspired by one of his relationships

After he came out, he quickly started dating different people, but he wasn’t happy with what was happening. He reflected on this period in a 2021 interview with Apple Music.

“I feel like I often in Hollywood, or just my life since I got famous, would get into these relationships that were like, ‘Whoosh, done. Whoosh, done. Whoosh,’” he said. “I was kind of like, ‘Damn, I really want somebody that’s going to make me want this more … want this enough to incorporate this into my life and want to spend time outside of my career.”

While he didn’t get much out of these short relationships, he did gain something invaluable: the inspiration for the Montero album cover. He told Zane Lowe it was inspired by artist John Stephens’ 2010 artwork Genesis II.

“It’s from this art called Genesis II,” he said. “I saw this randomly in this guy who I was dating’s dorm room.”

“It’s called Genesis II, and in Genesis [book] 2 [in the Bible], I read it [and] it was kind of like the final day of God making his work and he’s resting. And that, for me, is like, ‘OK, I’ve been making this, I’ve been creating this, this is the final day and it’s out into the world.”

Lowe remarked that it had a spiritual element to it, as the original piece incorporated imagery from the Saint Chapelle in Paris and Santa Maria in Campitelli in Rome.

“This has been a spiritual journey, this album,” he said.

Lil Nas X’s relationship status today

While Lil Nas has kept his private life private, rumors have been swirling throughout 2021 about him dating one of his backup dancers, Yai Ariza. Ariza was a part of Lil Nas’ controversial performances on Saturday Night Live and at the BET Awards where they kissed on stage. 

Ariza is a 24-year-old Afro-Colombian dancer living in Los Angeles. Lil Nas hasn’t confirmed the status of their relationship but alluded to it with the release of his music video “That’s What I Want,” in which Ariza played his love interest. 

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