Singer-songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus has been riding high this year after contributing a verse to Lil Nas X’s record-breaking country-trap single, “Old Town Road.” In a new interview, Cyrus revealed that his original verse included an explicit reference to weed, but someone on the production team asked him to trim it out for the final version.
While discussing how he ended up on the Lil Nas X track, Cyrus told Taste of Country Nights that he co-wrote his part of the song with Missy Elliot’s former songwriting protégé, Jozzy.
"For some reason, I immediately thought it was funny to say, ‘Baby’s got a habit: diamond rings and marijuana.’ See, it is funny,” Cyrus recounted. “They said, ‘Everything but the marijuana.’ [Jozzy] said, ‘How about Fendi sports bra?’ I thought, ‘It’s probably good because I don’t know what that is. Boom, that kinda happened, we rolled with it in minutes.’"
Cyrus never explained why the word marijuana didn’t make it into the final cut, especially since radio edits will censor or replace potentially offending words. It’s possible that the production team didn’t want to turn off the track’s country-loving audience, even though country songs make plenty of references to pot.
It’s also possible that the production team knew that chopping off the marijuana lyric would give “Old Town Road” greater appeal to a mainstream audience. If that was the strategy, it worked: the single has soared at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 18 weeks in a row, making it the longest-running number-one single in Billboard’s history.
Despite the track’s wild success, Billboard removed it from its Hot Country Songs chart in April before it could hit the number-one spot in that category. A Billboard rep claimed that the song was removed because it “does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version.”
“I believe whenever you're trying something new, it's always going to get some kind of bad reception,” Lil Nas X told TIME shortly after the track was axed from the country chart.
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