XXXTentacion was one of rap’s breakout stars from 2017 and no one knew how to pronounce his name. Even he didn’t know.
I once described XXXTentacion to my friend as “an 18 year old Chris Brown who worships the devil and only listens to Fall Out Boy.” I chuckled until I realized that this is 111% factually accurate.
I write this while still in shock from the news of X being murdered. I’m profoundly heartbroken about his death. I sit here as my mind grapples with itself.
Despite his indefensibly horrific dark side, I was a Stan. But his name is a loaded word. You can’t say “I love XXXTentacion” without opening a can of possessed worms while tap dancing on a minefield of sensitive subjects.
His music was dark, raw, and aggressive. His demons were painfully prevalent in his music, with visceral psychodrama leaking out of every track. His songs felt like a carnival ride through his tortured soul. And I kept buying tickets.
He was like if Eminem was a teenager from Florida who thought anime was real. And don’t worry, I don’t get that joke either.
I cried over X’s death, despite him being an unbelievably flawed (and downright sick) human being. He made a lot of headlines with his tumultuous personal life and laundry list of legal troubles. He lived a life defined by chaos and rage.
He was accused of brutally beating his pregnant girlfriend. The court documents are like a fucking horror movie. I love horror movies, but only when they involve evil clowns or masked slashers, not teenaged Soundcloud rappers with awful haircuts.
I write for the hip-hop website DJBooth. And they, justifiably, always wanted to completely avoid giving XXXTentcion any coverage. His name was just too toxic. And unpronounceable.
I believe in innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence adds up and these allegations are REALLY serious. Barbaric, terrifying, and beyond comprehension. This man makes Chris Brown look like a card carrying male feminist. Can I really support someone who probably went full Hostel Part II on a pregnant girl? Is this dude even worth mourning? Is he worth all the sadness I feel right now? That’s the zillion dollar question.
Either way, I’ve been annoyed by the #Woke™️ people on Twitter dancing on X’s grave in the name of empty virtue signaling. There’s something hypocritical and ironic about watching a bunch of white SJW’s celebrating a black kid getting murdered.
But let me back up for a minute. To explain why I feel such an emotional attachment to XXXTentacion, let’s rewind to his debut album 17.
17 is in my top 5 favorite albums of all time. Because it got me through the worst year of my life. It dropped in summer 2017, the same summer where I was held captive and sexually assaulted. And while I wrestled with that bag of trauma, one of my best friends, David, died of an Oxycontin overdose.
It’s like the album came out at the perfect time. I related to it on a mind boggling level during that torturous summer. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the uncontrollable rage, the sleepless nights. I give 17 credit for getting me through that cartoonishly tragic period of my life. I can’t emphasize enough how much that album helped me cope with the assault. And I know it’s a weird dynamic for the art of an abuser to play a seminal role in me coping with my own abuse.
17 is eerie, powerful, and uncomfortably vulnerable. It sounds like a confused teenager trapped in a whirlwind of miserable melodrama. His lyrics feel like something an emo white kid would carve into his wrist while screaming “I HATE THIS TOWN” at his 5th consecutive stepdad. Mental illness is the main theme of the album. As someone with bipolar disorder, I’ve always connected with raw, angsty music as a form of therapy. Mainly because downloading angry albums is way cheaper than actual therapy.
The hopelessly soulless, distorted crooning on Save Me and Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares rang true and tugged on my heartstrings like a Vegas ventriloquist. Jocelyn Flores brought me to an emotional crossroad that made me think of my friend David. I see David’s face when I hear the song and get goosebumps every time.
But wait, am I really relating to a dude who allegedly almost blinded his GF? This is uncomfortable. If I wanted to feel this awkward while listening to good music I’d build a time machine and go back to my 8th grade dance.
Can I separate the art from the artist? There’s no answer to that question.
As a standup comic, Cosby was my hero until we found out about his extracurriculars. I thought Bill Cosby: Himself was the comedy Bible. But now I can’t enjoy Bill Cosby: Himself because I hate Bill Cosby himself. Also, I’ve been waiting 3 years for an excuse to make that joke.
Woody Allen’s work has influenced me and affected my life on an unparalleled level. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was voted “Biggest Creep Of The Year” 9 years in a row at The Creep Awards, an awards show I just made up.
To make matters even uglier, X leaned into his villainous image. Rapping about violence towards women on some of his earlier, pre-17 work. I’m the hugest Eminem fan in the Western Hemisphere but when Em raps about abusing women I can at least spew the cookie cutter response “but he doesn’t ACTUALLY do it.”
But XXXTentacion walked the walk, he’s what it would be like if Eminem actually did the stuff he rapped about, which is something no one even wanted. XXXTentacion is like a handjob in your 20’s, nobody has ever asked for it.
X was clearly a very sick, horribly disturbed human being. But people are complicated and 3 dimensional. If these horrific allegations are true (which they seem to be), does that mean X was plainly, wholly evil? Was he an irredeemable monster? Or just a mentally ill, deeply disturbed teenager who desperately needed help?
I don’t know, I just like asking questions I don’t have the answers to, it makes me seem deep. Is there a God? How is Trump not in prison? What are hot pockets made out of?
My hope was that X would serve his time in prison, get the serious psychological help that he clearly was in dire need of, and get a chance to turn himself around as a person. He died young before a chance at rehabilitation. XXXTentacion did some truly terrible things that I would never consider defending. He is not a martyr, but he is a human being.
In these hectic times, it’s tempting to look at everything in black-and-white, and to ignore nuance. If you read what people say online, XXXTentacion is either a soulless monster who deserved to be killed, or a misunderstood angel who is immune from any criticism. Both arguments are total BS. The truth is in the middle.
The story of XXXTentacion is a tragic one. His mental health was clearly an absolute dumpster fire, and he dealt with his trauma by bringing his demons outside and violently taking it out on innocent people who did not deserve it. A talented, deeply troubled kid shot dead, with grainy video clips of his lifeless body plastered on cheap gossip sites. A mother just lost a son. Nothing about this story is pleasant. X’s life unfortunately ended on a fittingly tragic note. A fucked up ending to a fucked up story.
I wanted to see XXXTentacion punished. Not killed.