Ram Krishnan, owner of the bar Writers Block Rehab in Philly’s Gayborhood (midtown of east Center City – the bar is at 1342 Cypress between Spruce and Pine Streets), wanted to commission a mural for the other side of his establishment to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture. Harlem Renaissance leader Alain Locke (and first African-American Rhodes Scholar) is already on one side.
He settled on the young genre-bending singer Lil Nas X as a fitting LGBTQ+ icon of the early 21st century. Designed and painted by mural artist Ash Ryan, the 36-foot-mural captures the outspokenly gay hitmaker (born Montero Lamar Hill) whose “Old Town Road “ (sung/rapped with country star Billy Ray Cyrus) has topped the charts globally since 2019.
Clearly Lil Nas likes to be seen – many of his videos are wild fantasy-oriented productions, especially his hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” where he swivels provocatively on the devil’s lap in a hedonic utopia. He embodies and encourages confidence in his lyrical pleas to not hide who one is – empowering others to break out of their shell and challenging the homophobia of some rap/hip-hop along with the “whiteness” of country music.
The mural, which offers three portraits of Lil Nas (multiple images of him often appear in his videos) bedecked with wigs in Prince purple, captures his pride and physical beauty.