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How ‘Old Town Road’ became the anthem for Texas Tech’s national title run

The country-rap hit has propelled the Red Raiders into the national championship game.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Gonzaga vs Texas Tech Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It all started with freshman guard Kyler Edwards sending a link for a country-hip-hop hybrid song to his teammate Parker Hicks. “I saw it on Twitter and I sent it to Parker [Hicks], and then he sent it to AB [Avery Benson] and then it just started going around, playing it in the locker room, having fun with it.”

Lil Nas X released the song ‘Old Town Road’ independently in December 2018, but it was picked up by Columbia records in late March of this year after becoming increasingly popular via Tik Tok and the “Yeehaw Challenge”. This past week, Lil Nas X collaborated with long time country music stalwart Billy Ray Cyrus on a remix.

Now, it’s a unifying anthem for the Red Raiders’ locker room.

“It’s a mixture of country and rap,” Edwards said of the unbelievably catchy tune. “A lot of people on this team like country, a lot of people like rap so it’s just a mixture of both.”

It wasn’t well received right out of the gate, according to Hicks. “Once he [Edwards] showed it to me, I kind of took charge and started playing it in the locker room, and everybody at first was like, ‘Turn this crap off! Turn it off, nobody wants to hear it.’ I just kept on playing it.”

Hicks, a self-proclaimed “country boy”, likes both of the genres and said they started playing the song about a month ago before it got picked up by fans last weekend. After defeating Gonzaga in the Elite Eight to earn Texas Tech’s first Final Four berth for the men’s squad, the team — including head coach Chris Beard — celebrated vociferously as the tune blared throughout the locker room.

In fact, Beard is a huge proponent of the tune and was one of the driving factors in it catching on. “Yeah, we value diversity in our program with music. We’ve got country guys, rap guys, hip-hop guys, we’ve got all sorts so I try to respect everything,” Beard said. “I have really gotten us into a lot of new songs this year. “Down Below” is my favorite right now.”

Beard stopped mid-answer to yell over to the players sitting a couple feet away. “Hey!” he shouted. “Who sings ‘Down Below’?”

A couple players looked up, and one of them yelled, “Roddy Ricch.”

Happy with that answer, Beard pressed on, “But “Old Town Road” — the first time we heard it — we thought it was a country song, so half our locker room was fired up,” Beard continued. “Then, when it rips into hip-hop, the rest of us were like, ‘this is perfect, man.’”

After the fans caught wind of the celebration anthem, Lubbock was all in. At Saturday night’s Final Four game, the song blared over the PA system in U.S. Bank Stadium and the large and rowdy TTU contingent went wild:

“I think that performer,” Beard started before asking the guys once more for the artist. After a chorus of voices responds with “Lil Nas!”, he picked up again. “I think Lil Nas needs to come to Lubbock. We gotta be helping this guy a little bit, so. He actually sent a video to our team ... wishing us good luck in the Final Four, so hopefully we can get him down to Lubbock.”

Maybe that old town road leads to Lubbock. It’s your move, Lil Nas X.

Texas Tech will square off with Virginia at 9:20 p.m. ET Monday as the Red Raiders look to bring home their first NCAA men’s basketball title.