The American religious right spent the week obsessively denouncing Lil Nas X’s new music video — the viral one you’ve likely seen by now in which the rapper goes to hell to give the devil a lap dance. But another group is loving the work of art and all the chaos it’s spawned: Satanists.
Several Satanists told The News Station the song has been a major topic of discussion in their subcultural community this week because the video, along with Lil Nas X’s subsequent commentary about it, perfectly embodies the Satanic ethos of thumbing your nose at religion.
Eliphaz Costus, a Baltimore based musician who identifies as a Satanic humanist, said he sees the video as a high-water mark for the use of Satan in popular music, even without knowing the rapper’s intent — or whether Lil Nas X is even really a Satanist.
“It’s definitely an important moment for Satanism in popular culture,” he told The News Station. “He’s embracing the role of the rebel as a way to reject this trauma that was put upon him by fundamentalist Christianity, and that’s beautifully Satanic and embodies everything that I believe.”
Lil Nas X became every kid’s favorite rapper and launched into superstardom in 2019 with the Grammy winning viral hit “Old Town Road.”
Now, some two years later and after coming out as a gay man, he’s pivoted to his raunchy and sacrilegious side with the new song, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The celebration of gay sexuality comes complete with a highly polished, masterfully produced, devil-humping video and a corresponding pentagram emblazoned Nike line, each shoe containing a drop of human blood.
Predictably, it drove the right nuts. Prominent evangelicals, from Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to expected No. 1 NFL draft pick and former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, took to Twitter to bash the single rollout, and Nike announced it would sue.
All the while, the video amassed tens of millions of views online, and the shoe line of 666 sold out in less than a minute.
This panicked reaction from prominent figures has thrilled the Satanic community. The religion, by and large, is made up of people who don’t literally worship Satan — or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they use the imagery of Satan to lampoon fundamentalist religions and to fight against the institution of religious-based laws or the use of Biblical imagery in government.
Steve Hill, a comedian and former California State Senate candidate who used to head the Los Angeles chapter of The Satanic Temple, said the video was the ultimate troll, made even more sweet by the fact that Lil Nas X morphed in a matter of years from a campy country-rap phenom popular with kindergartners to a sex symbol sliding down a stripper pole into hell to straddle a buff leather-daddy of a devil.
“My kids love it,” Hill said of his two teenagers who first showed him the video. “They were like, ‘Dad you’re gonna like the end of it because he gives Satan a lapdance,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, now you got my attention!’ That’s when I saw it — and I loved it.”
It was gratifying for Hill to see Lil Nas X express “his freedom, his liberation, his emancipation of his mind — to where he can grow out big enough to put this shit out there for Christians to see,” he said
“Everybody was fine when he was talking about some shit on horseback, but bring Satan into it, all of a sudden everybody’s in an uproar,” Hill told The News Station.
I appreciate the amount of freedom and the amount of inherent risk it takes doing something like thatSteve Hill
Lucien Greaves co-founded The Satanic Temple in 2013 and acts as the official spokesperson for the Salem, Mass.-headquartered group, which has chapters across North American and in England. He found himself more impressed with Lil Nas X’s commentary on the uproar after the fact, particularly the rapper’s tweet noting, “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because I was gay. So I hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
That sentiment is exactly why Greaves said a large proportion of The Satanic Temple’s membership identifies as LGBTQIA+.
“This is legitimately Satanic to the core. I can definitely get behind that message,” Greaves told The News Station. “All the people who have felt outcast and shit upon by religious organizations for who they are, are really finding their sense of community with us.”
The Church of Satan also approved of the video. The group was founded by Anton LaVey in 1966 and is a precursor to and rival of The Satanic Temple. It tweeted approval for the Satan-themed shoes, and a representative for the group told TMZ and other news organizations they love the video.
Still, just like in the religious world, the video is not without controversy among Satanists. Costus said he’s seen a few comments on Satanic message boards from Satanists who find the video cheesy or appropriative of Satanic imagery for commercial purposes.
Meanwhile Hill, who is Black, feels frustrated Greaves and the Temple haven’t taken a more outspoken or official position on the video, especially since he says there isn’t enough racial diversity in the Satanic community. Even though the Temple has rules against proselytizing, he said it’s a missed opportunity.
“This could be a ticket to take TST to another level and quit making people think that The Satanic Temple is just full of white kids with goth uniforms that listen to heavy metal music,” he said. “If you say you got black people involved in some Satanic shit, that’s a major milestone in the way of public conception of what Satanism is.”
The Temple doesn’t have an official statement on the video, according to Greaves, and he did turn down several interview requests on the topic. But the caution to wade into the public conversation has more to do with them not wanting to step all over Lil Nas X’s art or opine on the intention behind the work when he doesn’t truly know what the rapper wanted to convey.
“I’m not exactly sure why this is new to people and why it’s shocking and why people feel it their place to ascribe meaning to it that the artist didn’t directly state himself,” Greaves told The News Station. “I’m kind of mystified that it’s taken off like this. I mean, we’ve seen representations of Satan in pop culture all our lives, and I’m not too sure how this is different.”
That said, both Greaves and Hill would love to discuss the work with Lil Nas X himself. The Temple holds panel discussions regularly, and Greaves said he could see himself inviting Lil Nas X to have a conversation.
As if the rapper has to add any milestones to an already groundbreaking video rollout, maybe Lil Nas X could soon become the first rapper to include a stop at The Satanic Temple’s headquarters as part of a press junket.