Sir Elton John said Lil Nas X has “balls of steel” as he praised the ground-breaking rapper at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.
Sir Elton was being honoured with the icon award but used his speech to share his delight at seeing young artists emerge.
And he reserved special praise for US star Lil Nas X, who is gay and attracted criticism for his latest music video.
The visual accompaniment to Montero (Call Me By Your Name) featured the musician sliding down a pole into hell before giving the devil a lap dance.
After the song’s release, he said he hoped it would further normalise being gay and help bring more LGBT narratives into mainstream pop music.
Lil Nas X, 22, had thanked Sir Elton for inspiring generations of fans with both his music and charity work, leaving the veteran rocker to return the favour during his acceptance speech.
Sir Elton said: “A special thanks to Lil Nas X, because he is a wonderful artist and has balls of steel.”
Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Hill, burst onto the scene in 2019 following the release of viral hit Old Town Road.
Sir Elton, 74, had been introduced at the ceremony in Hollywood by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, who jokingly pretended to read a teleprompter filled with inaccuracies.
Brandi Carlile, Demi Lovato and H.E.R. performed a musical tribute to the Rocket Man singer, with a medley of his hits Bennie And The Jets, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me and I’m Still Standing.
As husband David Furnish filmed on his phone from the side of the stage, Sir Elton said: “It’s very touching and I’m very humbled because when I first came to Los Angeles in 1970, radio was so important, I’d never heard radio in America before because I’d never been here before. But it was just incredible to me.”