The music world is torn about how to remember XXXTentacion
Content warning: this story contains details of sexual assault.
The music industry has blown up in the last 24 hours over the news that rising rap star/controversial figure XXXTentaction was fatally shot in a drive-by incident at age 20.
The artist has been lauded by peers for being a fresh voice on issues such mental health in the scene but condemned by the media over charges of multiple counts of aggravated battery, domestic battery, false imprisonment and witness tampering.
He was also heavily scrutinized for comments made in 2016 where he openly bragged about viciously beating a gay male while he was incarcerated for what the rapper described as “staring at him”.
Pending trial and on house arrest when he passed away, the duality of the artist and his legacy has proved difficult to compartmentalize for a large portion of the music community as they’re forced to ask the question, “What kind of weight does an untimely death carry when attempting to divorce the art from the artist”
From industry to musical peers to fans and critics, the community is torn with how to deal with such a deeply conflicting artist and his tragic death.
Back in May, Spotify rolled out its Hateful Conduct Policy in an attempt to rid itself of music that “advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual.” XXXTentacion was among one of the two artists (the other being R.Kelly) specifically mentioned by the streaming giant as the type of music that would be removed.
Less than a month after the policy came into place and after some extreme criticism from artists like Kendrick Lamar, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitting that the initiative was “rolled out wrong” and reinstated all previously eradicated songs.
Following news of the rappers death, keen-eyed Spotify users spotted a ‘This is XXXTentacion’ playlist, celebrating his body of work, underneath a banner that read “Rest in peace, XXXTentacion”.
The move has attracted criticism from fans and critics alike who accuse Spotify of putting streaming revenue above all else.
The Music Network reached out to Spotify who responded with no further comment.
Spotify made an “R.I.P. XXX” playlist. Money over everything
— Steve G. Lover (@Steve_G_Lover) June 19, 2018
Chain of events :
Spotify : no more bad people on our playlists 🙌🏻🙌🏻😫🙅♀️
Spotify : 🙂 you guys are welcome
*Spotify reads xxx got popped*
Spotify : 🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑🤑
Here’s a new xxxtentacion essentials playlist guys !!!!
— johnny utah (@clowndaddie) June 18, 2018
Fuck Spotify. Takes xxx of playlists and now they’re tryna profit off him dying with a special playlist
— GAYLORD (@actuallastname) June 19, 2018
So not too long ago you ban his music off playlists but now he’s passed you’re capitalising off his death. Smh Spotify. RIP XXX. pic.twitter.com/UqwPokerAU
— Hamza Shaikh 🇵🇸 (@_Hans34) June 19, 2018
— DROWZY 🖤 (@TheDrowzy) June 19, 2018
The orbital media has taken a firm negotiated stance when it comes to reporting on the death with many outlets repeatedly detailing his alleged crimes as a footnote to his violent last moments.
Knowing the power and clickability of the subject, outlets have been running with every new development – whether it be the social media post of his ex-girlfriend and alleged abusee or the conspiracy theories that claim the XXXtentacion is still very much alive.
Predictably, hardcore fans of the rapper have flocked to social media to sing the praises of an artist taken in his prime, erasing the pain and hurt that he inflicted during his life.
Nevertheless, fans are mourning the loss of an artist they connected to with a memorial being erected outside the motorcycle dealership where the artist was shot.
According to Variety, Police in Los Angeles were forced to break up a vigil of approximately 300 to 500 people that congregated on Tuesday evening local time to remember the rapper.
— Taylor Caniff (@taylorcaniff) June 20, 2018
A career that had the backing of the likes of A$AP Rocky and Ski Mask the Slump Lord during his short career, it wasn’t a surprise when the tributes from XXXTentaction came flowing following his passing.
Artists such as Kanye West, Diplo, Pusha T, J.Cole and more coming out to mourn the rapper, with many not mentioning the controversy that hounded the young artist.
My heart dropped when I heard about @xxxtentacion, I feel like we only got to see a glimpse of his artistry. I didn’t know him personally but I respect how passionate he was about his music and message. Nobody deserves this kind of ending. gone too soon, damn! RIP
— Sean Don (@BigSean) June 19, 2018
rest in peace 🙏🙏🙏 I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here thank you for existing pic.twitter.com/QU7DR3Ghbw
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) June 18, 2018
This got me fucked up. RIP X. Enormous talent and limitless potential and a strong desire to be a better person. God bless his family, friends and fans.
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) June 18, 2018
R.I.P. @xxxtentacion 🙏🏿
— King Push (@PUSHA_T) June 18, 2018
This kid was a genius . true artist. He made his own rules. He has his faults and we was willing to pay for his sins.. but he was young and he worked so hard on his own self . He wanted to be better. he loves everyone so much . He lived for every kid out here. He had the biggest imagination. He texted me this weekend it was one of his goals to get me & Skrillex to finish his next album. I Invited him to La this week. I was wondering if he was gonna come 💛 . He used every second of his life to create . He reppped Florida to his core.. I love this kid . He was gonna do so much more he promised me 💔
Those outside the music realm have taken a more neutral stance, calling out the loss of an artist while also acknowledging his reputation of violence.
No love for @xxxtentacion but certainly no hate. May this be a warning to the young men who listen to him that karma is real and if you live a destructive life you will be destroyed by it no matter how talented you are. RIP.
— Ronald Funches (@RonFunches) June 18, 2018
— Louis Theroux (@louistheroux) June 18, 2018
What is the right way forward?
XXXTentacion was just one in a long line of artists with problematic reputations.
His passing does not erase the pain that he inflicted on the people around him and the community at large.
He also touched a lot of people with his music, something that his death also does not erase.
The key to navigating a conflicting artist XXXTentacion is acknowledgement – of both his contributions and his subtractions to the music industry at large – in a hope that it will encourage the artistry that his displayed and discourage the hate that he expelled for future generations of musicians.
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