By Matt Tracy
Lil Nas X is dazzling fans with yet another new viral music video — and although the video follows his escape from a fictional prison, he is using the latest song to take a stand against mass incarceration.
The out gay rapper, collaborating with Jack Harlow, unveiled the video for “Industry Baby,” which starts off with a judge sentencing Lil Nas X to five years in “Montero State Prison” — a reference to his actual first name as well as his upcoming album and recent song of the same name. The video then shows Lil Nas X in his prison cell polishing off his Grammy awards before shifting to a steamy nude shower scene featuring eight other men engaging in a dance together.
As usual, Lil Nas X does not shy away from embracing his sexuality: During the song his lyrics include “I don’t f*** b******, I’m queer, hah,” and he manages to fit in a limp wrist pose. Queer themes are prevalent throughout the video, which should surprise nobody after Lil Nas X put his unapologetic queerness on full display in his other recent music videos and live performances. And just in case the straight crowd starts getting up in arms about Lil Nas X’s provocative music, he offered a little disclaimer as the video was about to hit: “Saying this in advance so y’all won’t blame me. THE INDUSTRY BABY VIDEO IS NOT FOR YOUR KIDS!”
Lil Nas X eventually manages to embark on his escape from the fake prison, and the video transitions to focus on Harlow, who is seen in the middle of an intimate moment with a woman prison guard. Eventually, a shirtless Lil Nas X, surrounded by prison walls and flashing lights, breaks out in another dance with more than a dozen others in pink jumpsuits before the video concludes with Harlow and Lil Nas X escaping in a prison bus. Along the way, Lil Nas X knocks out a prison guard who is played by out gay actor Colton Haynes.
Co-produced by Take a Daytrip and Kanye West, the song was hyped up in advance by Lil Nas X. But despite all the jokes about breaking out of a non-existent prison, the rapper also took advantage of an opportunity to promote The Bail Project, which draws donations to cover cash bail and works to fight the cash bail system. The music video is accompanied by a link to The Bail Project and, according to reports, tens of thousands of dollars were donated within hours of the video’s release.
“Music is the way I fight for liberation,” Lil Nas X said in a written statement on The Bail Project’s website. “It’s my act of resistance. But I also know that true freedom requires real change in how the criminal justice system works. Starting with cash bail. This isn’t just theoretical for me. It’s personal. I know the pain that incarceration brings to a family. And I know the disproportionate impact that cash bail has on Black Americans. People like Vita from New Orleans, Kamren from Austin, and Leticia from Baton Rouge — their stories remind us why we must take action. So I’m doing something about it and I invite you to join me. Ending cash bail is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. Donate what you can to the Bail X Fund. Let’s bring people home & let’s fight for freedom and equality.”
The video had more than 7.4 million views on YouTube by the afternoon on the day it was posted.
This story first appeared on our sister site, Gay City News.