Breaking down every movie reference in Lil Nas X’s new music video

Halloween comes early! With homages to sci-fi horrors like Blade, Buffy and The Matrix, Rodeo slays.

by Otamere Guobadia
07 February 2020, 3:14pm

During his sharp and incandescently bright ascent, Lil Nas X has established himself as a lover of tropes and referencing. He’s taken much beloved camp, pop cultural classics, imbued them with his own glossy, frenetic and unapologetically black faggotry, and then propelled them back into the public consciousness from this fresher perspective. The newly released video for “Rodeo” is no different, with the rapper throwing dozens of homages together to create a slick visual that calls back to some blockbusters of the small and silver screen. Here -- timestamps included – are all the ones we spotted.

The video opens with Lil Nas X trudging along to answer an incessantly ringing phone in a glowing green phone booth. (Anyone who answers an ominously ringing phone in a glowing green booth in the middle of the night is just another example of natural selection in action). Much like Drew Barrymore's deeply stupid and soon-to-be-murdered character from the iconic 1992 slasher flick Scream he asks the anonymous caller: "What do you want?”. The mystery voice responds with the infamous: "Do you want to play a game?" -- catchphrase of fictional serial killer and second-chance-giving life coach Jigsaw.

He's then attacked and bitten by a punk-era vampire in a blonde pussycat wig, and lets out a -- wait for it -- scream (Literally no one said this was subtle). Notable mention goes to the quadruple referencing, as there’s an homage to The Matrix here too. Right at the start of that film, Trinity famously escapes through a green haloed phone booth. In doing so, Lil Nas X is setting us up for his later homage to the legendary franchise.

Lil Nas X (now some sort of vampire-werewolf hybrid? Idk), and his fellow monsters channel John Vulich's iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer prosthetics. You know, the OG grotesque, demoniac style -- not the glittery, supermodel beauty of Twilight's protagonists.

At this point, he appears to channel both Ryuk, an ennui-filled death demon from anime Death Note, who gets super fucking bored of the immortality that comes with being an ethereal embodiment of death, and sends a notebook into the world with the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it and Wesley's Snipes turn as vampire hunter in the cult classic film Blade (1998) -- albeit with far greater drip and performing a things-that-go-bump-in-the-night group choreo moment, a fun homage to Michael Jackson's “Thriller”.

Here the real Matrix referencing begins! Nas (the rapper whose name begets his) features on the track (the ultimate co-sign), and is elevated to the role of spirit-guide, father of the revolution, Morpheus, presenting him with the instantly recognisable 'red pill or blue pill' choice. Lil Nas himself becomes Keanu Reeves as Neo dodging machine gun bullets all the while dressed in a style which seems to have borrowed elements from 1982's sci-fi smash TRON (or dressed like a sexy motherboard, if that's more your speed). There's a lot going on here.

All in all, "Rodeo" is a fun, chaotic, everything including the kitchen sink triumph of homage, reference, and a re-imagination of science-fiction and horror classics, told with an abundance of black faces and black culture. After all, Will Smith famously turned down the role of Neo, and who better to offer us a shining vision of what could have been than Lil Nas X? "Rodeo" is everything we've come to expect from him and more.

horror movies
lil nas x