You aren’t a musician these days if you don’t have a shoe, particularly if you’re a rapper. Lil Nas X is no exception.
It wasn’t like the 21-year-old rapper and singer doesn’t already qualify in the business. He holds the record for the longest time atop the Billboard Hot 100 Single chart (19 weeks for his 2019 country-rap song “Old Town Road,” according to The Associated Press). His new single is titled “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” purportedly a letter to his 14-year-old self.
So to mark the occasion, he’s releasing a limited set of sneakers that fully embraces Satanism, complete with a drop of human blood in them and an exclusive run of only 666 pairs.
He even emblazoned a Bible verse on the sneakers that are supposed to make Satan look cool. He may want to read it again for context, however.
If this all seems really strange for you, let me explain. Lil Nas X came out as gay in 2019 when “Old Town Road” was at the top of the Billboard charts. This informed “MONTERO,” according to a tweet from Lil Nas X on March 26. The title is a reference to his legal name, Montero Lamar Hill.
“Dear 14-year-old montero, I wrote a song with our name in it. it’s about a guy I met last summer,” he wrote in a March 26 tweet. “I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised to never be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”
WARNING: The following tweet contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
He wrote that people will “say I’m pushing an agenda” with the song, “but the truth is, I am. the agenda to make people stay the f*** out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”
The song wasn’t quite a “positive” letter to his 14-year-old self. Here’s the pre-chorus: “Cocaine and drinkin’ with your friends / You live in the dark, boy, I cannot pretend / I’m not fazed, only here to sin.”
At least that wasn’t the music video, which involves Lil Nas X getting kicked out of heaven, going down to hell on a stripper pole, and giving a lap dance to Satan. That’s about as much as I can describe without you having to put the kids to bed. It’s Milton’s “better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven” idea updated for the Cardi B generation.
And that’s where we get to the “Satan Shoes.” According to the New York Post, Lil Nas X has partnered in their production with MSCHF, an “edgy” fashion company that makes a whole range of overpriced pseudo-Situationist garbage that’s supposed to make some kind of cultural point for rich hipsters who are profligate enough to drop $3,000 on kitsch like “Jesus Shoes” that contain water from the River Jordan in their soles. (Like walking on water, get it?)
“Our perspective is everything is funny in a nihilistic sort of way,” MSCHF founder and CEO Gabriel Whaley told Insider. “We’re not here to make the world a better place. We’re making light of how much everything sucks.”
Here’s how terrible it is this week:
The shoes were modified out of Nike Air Max ’97s, complete with an added drop of human blood and a $1,018 price tag. And they come with a Bible verse on the side, too. It’s Luke 10:18: “He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.’”
(For the record, Nike itself disclaims any connection of partnership with MSCHF. “Nike did not release nor design these shoes,” the company told the “fact-check” site Snopes in an email.)
If you like Satan’s iconography and don’t read the Bible, this sounds really cool. It’s not.
Luke 10 is a chapter in which Jesus sends out 7o or 72 (depending on your translation) disciples to the towns in which he was about to go to prepare these places ahead of him. “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me,” Jesus tells the disciples in verse 16.
Verses 17-20: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And [Jesus] said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and overall the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”
In other words, the “lightning” reference alluded to the victory of God over Satan. In fact, if you haven’t read the Bible, here’s a spoiler alert: Satan ends up losing. A lot. And while he wins some battles — arguably starting in the Garden of Eden — he gets trounced over and over again.
Some of those battles may seem appealing as imagery, sure. The imagery used in Luke 10:18 isn’t appealing upon any close reading — but I suspect this wasn’t so close. Someone saw the words “Satan” and “like lightning” used together and thought, “Whoa, that’s dope.”
But the reality is, they’re using a passage about the defeat of the prince of sin himself to make sin look appealing. Of all the passages that could be used to sell Satan from the Bible, they couldn’t have done much worse. It’s the Oatly’s Super Bowl commercial of Satanist advertisements.
Reading any more into this vapid iconography, either on the part of Lil Nas X or MSCHF, isn’t worth anyone’s time. Twenty-four paragraphs into this post, at this point, we’ve all thought about it more than they have. However, while Lil Nas X is lap-dancing with the Devil and MSCHF is walking away with your $1,000 and a lot of free publicity, I’d like them to read another passage about Satan — this one Isaiah 14:12-16:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!,” it reads.
“How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
“But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?’”
I’m sure that might go over their heads now, but maybe give it a few years.