XXXTentacion VS. The United States OF Music Listeners
I’ve been listening to music a long time, and it has never felt this bad to enjoy music this much.
XXXTentacion has been accused of repeatedly beating and abusing his pregnant girlfriend.
He arguably just put out the best Hip-Hop album of the last five years.
If you support X, I condemn you because it seems like the allegations against him are true. To what degree do we separate art from artist? Do we need the art of the evil to give us perspective, or must we denounce it at all costs?
The theme of his album is suicide. Every great rapper has lyrics of suicide but for the first time we have Hip Hop artists like Logic and Lil Uzi Vert bringing mental health issues to the forefront of Hip Hop.
XXXTentacion is one of the most intriguing artists making music right now.
Every song has over 10M listens on Spotify in just a few weeks, but who’s counting? Maybe it’s not quality, maybe he has a lot of eyes on him right now. Listen to it and decide for yourself. Or don’t. Because listening to his music is not right. Don’t buy the guy’s CD, don’t buy his merch, don’t go to his shows. You MUST filter your enjoyment by supporting artists who are upright citizens, or be damned. Right?
But you might want to at least listen to the introduction to his album 17, entitled “The Explanation” … I can’t remember an intro to an album this jarring, this honest, and raw.
My collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real life situations I’ve lived
17 is the number tattooed on the right side of my head
My own personal number
Soon to be explained in future interviews or instances
By listening to this album, you are literally, and I cannot stress this enough, literally entering my mind
And if you are not willing to accept my emotion and hear my words fully, do not listen
I do not value your money
I value your acceptance and loyalty
Here is my pain and thoughts put into words
I put my all into this, in the hopes that it will help cure or at least numb your depression
You might have to go all the way back to NWA’s Straight Outta Compton to get something this commercially viable and this honest. Dr. Dre lost 22 million in an assault lawsuit for beating up TV host Dee Barnes, pled no contest to beating the mother of his children, among other things, all of which was glossed over in HBO’s recent “Defiant Ones” documentary that sought to glorify the recording career of Dre, NWA, and their business partners.
Forget about album intros and Dr. Dre, X is a man who head-butted his girlfriend while on probation for an armed home invasion!
This is where the trouble starts in the discussion. When you only listened to the album because you heard about the controversy, you go into it not wanting to like it but then you listen to it… and 1) you like it and 2) it makes you feel. In the land of guns, money, drugs, women, and jewelry, when was the last time a Rap artist made you feel?
As early on as track two of X’s debut album “17,” you can see he is clearly suicidal. That doesn’t excuse his actions by any means, but I think we’re dealing with someone with mental health issues:
I’m in pain, wanna put ten shots in my brain
I’ve been tripped by some things I can’t change
Suicidal, same time I maintain, fuck this thing
Get a phone call
Girl that you fuck with killed herself
How is it someone when nobody help
And ever since then, man, I hate myself
Wanna fucking end it
Creating a database of artists with domestic violence backgrounds and attacking fans and listeners of their music seems less like the answer, and that’s what I saw on social media all weekend. And what happens if we denounce all artists with mental health issues?
Educating people and raising awareness about domestic violence, suicide, and mental health seems like the best course of action here. Remember in the 90’s when we could mince together hits and anguish at the same time? Those phenomena are now few and far between. Do our favorite musicians have to double as role models? Where is the line drawn? If you hate this article, I am sure you know.
Is this because we now are in the era of adults needing safe spaces or because merely a few producers are dominating the top 40? Or because within our current technology every pop song has been made and all we can do is recycle old ones? I don’t know. The fact X has so many listens is crazy. His entire album will surely get the Apple Music and Spotify hit song designations, which is a rare feat.
Tupac Shakur spent almost a year in jail for sexually abusing a fan, a verdict he denied until his death. Shakur constantly referred to women as “bitches and hoes” in his lyrics and wrote such female-centric classics as “Dear Mama” and “Brenda’s Got A Baby.” He also sold 75 million albums and is studied at universities nationwide, a hip-hop icon.
I do see the other side; X is black in Trump’s America and he hasn’t even been convicted; yet his sponsors are dropping left and right and Facebook is aflame with opinions on the subject, mostly denouncing everything to do with him and his music.
Keep in mind, this guy got into an argument with his pregnant girlfriend and gave her a choice between two grilling implements—a “barbecue pitchfork” and a “barbecue cleaner” then told her to pick between them, because he was going to put one of them in her “vagina”. This is all according to his girlfriend and Pitchfork.com; but the story is so wild that it’s hard not to believe. The rest of America seems to share the same opinion, and maybe the jury will too.
Innocent until proven guilty? Not if you’re making money. Not if you’re in the public eye. Put your cash on hold until you’re innocent, then we will check with the public and come back to you, that’s how corporate America works. Conversely, can we really bring ourselves to add to this guy’s bank account in any way? Some people cannot. Art and Artist are evaluated as one. And I understand if you feel that way, you have every right to.
Goddammit, why can’t we be allowed to like this guy’s music? I don’t even want to like him. I want to feel bad for his tortured soul and enjoy his music. What’s wrong with that? My demands end there.
I apologize if this article inadvertently glorifies his music, because I also want people to know that domestic violence is completely reprehensible.
There is no gospel of X. He says multiple times in his lyrics that he’s a bad person and that he’s evil and the devil is in all of us; but he is something special. Like Tupac special, or Dr. Dre special. Or Kurt Cobain special. And Hip-Hop is in a weird place right now – it needs X.
After almost seven years of XXL Freshman Cyphers, did he drop the best one of all time? Did he drop the realest a cappella? Was he the first dude to say anything really meaningful? I don’t know, I feel like I keep trying to critique this guy when we should be debating the legitimacy of his court case (and the evidence seems strong against him).
When asked to perform a freestyle for XXL, appearing last after 4 MCs who bobbed and spit to a fresh Sonny Digital beat, the music stopped, X crouched to one knee and said calmly into the microphone over silence….
And hell is just a government creation
And all the information they solicit isn’t nearly close to truth
It was clear since the alteration
Of the books our children study when they said Columbus discovered America oh, the ultimatum
Of telling you the truth but oh well I’m already in hell
I’m tired of havin’ patience
So I’ma sell my soul and say some shit that fuckin’ bothers you
Jesus wasn’t white nor black, I can’t knock it
Was somewhat a Arab and one hell of a prophet
Don’t understand why J. Cole talkin’ ’bout false prophets
But didn’t mention higher-ups
Change your name to Amber Cole
These fucking entertainers is playing it by the rules
Sucking government dick for safety to stay cool
I’m absolutely disgusted by all of you motherfuckers
Tie your throat to a truck bed and pedal the metal quickly
This was after a half-dozen “Rollie on my wrist” and “Sipping lean with my team” improvisations by his peers. The camera panned. The room was frozen. And then it was over.
Are we not allowed to enjoy this guys music? Every once and awhile when we feel down?
I go to his Facebook page and these are the comments:
“Two years ago I lost my ex, due to a drug overdose. I can relate. And this album has numbed my depression, giving me hope that I now know I’m not the only one. You’re appreciated.” – Kat Fitzpatrick
“Good luck with your domestic trial, when you get in the pen you can best believe mfs gonna put your head in the sheets for what you did to your girl.”
– Sean R Ulrich
I hope I’m at least separating the man from the art. Do they have to go hand in hand?
When Tupac and Dre got convicted, should their album sales have just halted?
Tupac, though controversial, is mostly celebrated as one of the top three MCs of all time, if not the best. The same could be said about Dre as a producer. They are both prolific and equally genius… but aggressive and abusive at times.
The thing that separates X from Dre and Tupac is that X is getting heat pre-fame. People are reading the headlines, and then listening to the album. But it’s resonating with them. In every other case these guys were famous first.
All I am going to say is; as human beings, we all have the right to self expression and the creation of art, we all have the right to consume said expressions and art. The choice is really yours. But please learn about the early warning signs of mental health issues in hopes that tragedy can be prevented.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE
National Suicide prevention hotline – 1-800-273-8255