Lil Nas X can attest to this, it’s jumpstarted his career.
The viral artist utilized Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” footage to create a web-friendly DIY approach to market his hit song “Old Town Road.” His official music video, set to a montage of the popular Western action-adventure video game, now has well over 30 million views.
This roll out combined with the timeliness of the “Yeehaw Agenda” on TikTok propelled Lil Nas X high up on the music charts. The country trap single hit No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the country charts before the young artist even signed to a record label.
Unfortunately, Billboard decided to remove the single from its Country charts sparking not only backlash but creating an unlikely tag-team duo in Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus for the “Old Town Road” remix.
What’s been most impressive about Lil Nas X’s rise is his understanding of video games’ viral potentiality. He’s merged two separate yet joined communities together to boost his music video in a seamless manner because of how much people love video games and social media.
But this isn’t surprising. Rockstar video games are not only the most recognizable among video game publishing companies’ works, but the open world concept allows for the manipulation and creation of successful storytelling.
Whether as a viral meme, role-playing video content or inspiration behind music videos, “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption” have some of the best video game storytelling in the industry. And because of this reason, Rockstar video games provide the best viral content on the Internet for rappers.
Other artists have attempted to do this, but not with the same success as Lil Nas X. Juice WRLD, Iman Shumpert, and even A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie were all inspired by elements within Grand Theft Auto for their music videos and content. GTA’s radio station and influence within the black community make it a good pairing for hip-hop.
But it’s gotten to the point where GTA’s influence in this music genre has been watered down by excessive use. Never before have we seen a rapper crossover utilize “Red Dead Redemption 2” (aside from Styles P), a Western game with no ties to hip-hop. This is a newfound territory and won’t be the last time we will see Rockstar video games used as marketing tactics for rappers. However, this is definitely one of the more successful examples to date.