Lil Nas X‘s interpretation of religious imagery in his creative output is extending to another level with his upcoming single, “J Christ.” Set for release on Jan. 12, the record and accompanying music video were announced alongside its cover art, which portrays the rapper being raised from the ground on a cross. “My new single is dedicated to the man who had the greatest comeback of all time,” Lil Nas X wrote about the song, which marks his first lead single and video in two years.
The last time Lil Nas X began an album cycle, as he unveiled the singles leading up to his debut album Montero in 2021, his use of religion as a visual backdrop divided consumers. When he was booked to perform at the BET Awards that year, members of his team told Rolling Stone they were asked to confirm that he wasn’t a “satanist or devil worshiper.” That he was selling sneakers with a drop of his blood in the sole and riding a stripper pole to hell (where he gave the devil a lap dance before breaking his neck) in the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” video didn’t help.
But for those expecting Lil Nas X to turn over a new leaf with this era, it seems his narrative — or at least this segment of it — is not yet complete. And true to the trajectory of his career, the controversy around his visuals continues to be a lucrative promotional tool.
“The crazy thing is nowhere in the picture is a mockery of jesus. Jesus’s image is used throughout history in people’s art all over the world. I’m not making fun of shit. yall just gotta stop trying to gatekeep a religion that was here before any of us were even born,” the rapper wrote on X (formerly Twitter) in response to criticism over the single artwork.
In the lead-up to the announcement, Lil Nas X shared an interactive game thread on X, where users must answer a series of questions to determine whether they would end up in heaven or hell. It arrived after he shared a brief snippet teasing new music, asking: “Y’all mind if I enter my Christian era?” Even with only a few seconds of a song, with no tantalizing visual component, Lil Nas X managed to rile up a subset of critics.
“I made one snippet about wanting god to give me hope a few days ago and already like 5 christian rappers have conceptualized, wrote, recorded, and shot music videos in their grandma’s basements for diss songs about me,” he wrote on X. “We really back.”