Just How Evil Are Lil Nas X and MSCHF's Blood-Filled Nikes?

Murray Clark
·3-min read
Photo credit: MSCHF
Photo credit: MSCHF

Beelzepop isn't new. In 2011, Lady Gaga released "Judas", a largely electropop offering that doo-wopped the disciples of Jesus into marauding Hell's Angels, and herself, of course, into Mary Magdalene. Nicki Minaj soon followed, arriving at the 2012 Grammys with a cardinal fresh from Party City before a performance that saw an exorcism and lots of distressed onlooking Catholics. So, when Lil Nas X recently released the video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" – a three minute spectacle that sees the 21-year-old take a stripper pole to Hell where he then makes it clap for the Devil himself – he's not exactly reinventing the wheel on his "Old Town Road" into the abyss.

The Top 40fication of biblical verse isn't new. Nor is the inevitable moral outage from conservative Christians on Twitter. But the topic that really got under the skin of prominent Republicans, like South Dakota's governor, Kristi Noem, was a pair of Nikes released to coincide with the video: black, pentagrammed and loaded with a drop of blood – "on #PalmSunday no less"! The nerve.

Finding the time to watch YouTube videos while running an entire state is no easy task, and yet it may seem like the governor's ire is misguided. Released in partnership with disruptor brand MSCHF, the 'Satan Shoes' aren't actually official Nike merchandise. Of the 'collab', Nike confirmed to The New York Times on Sunday that the company "[does] not have a relationship with Little Nas X or MSCHF", nor did the brand endorse the release. What's more, this isn't the blood of Christ, or 99 virgins, but rather that of some graphic designers that are probably called Tyler and Evangeline at MSCHF's Brooklyn HQ. Of the collab, the brand's founder Daniel Greenberg told Vulture as much: "uhhhhhh yeah hahah not medical professionals we did it ourselves lol.”

Limited to just 666 pairs, the sneaker is, in short, a mere marketing exercise. As music videos became less a cash cow and more an ode to the golden age of MTV, pop stars monetise through merch, which in itself is becoming an increasingly prominent part of fashion proper. You can buy horror movie T-shirts and it's not really that nerdy anymore. Tyler the Creator has his own ongoing sell-out partnership with Converse.

Rather than apologise, Lil Nas X rightly doubled down in a letter to his 14-year-old self. "[You] see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I'm pushing an agenda," he wrote on Twitter. "[But] the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people's lives and stop dictating who they should be."

And his response to the God-fearing governor: "do ur [sic] job." As an ascendant, risk-taking, trailblazing musical artist that is opening doors for other young queer people and making a few bucks in the process, he's doing his.

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