As a rap fan, I was, as many others were, intrigued by Florida rapper XXXTENTACION’s blitzkrieg to mainstream recognition in mid-to-late 2016 into 2017. X appeared from what seemed out of nowhere, screaming lyrics over grainy, unmixed tracks on his SoundCloud page.
I didn’t hear about him until his song “Look at Me” started gaining prominence due to a beef with Drake over a similar flow pattern the Toronto hit-maker had used on his song “KMT,” which appeared on the 2017 playlist “More Life.”
Following this bit of media attention, the breakthrough act landed the 10th slot on XXL’s 2017 “Freshman Class” cover edition after fans voted him in, solidifying his jump from niche hip-hop hero to one of the loudest new voices in the mainstream rap community.
Undoubtedly stoking the flames of X’s wildfire rise to fame is the controversy surrounding the artist. Only released from prison in March of this year, X is now facing new charges of aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, false imprisonment, domestic battery by strangulation and witness tampering.
The charges, while still alleged, are evidenced by a 142-page testimony from the victim – an ex-girlfriend – detailing her long entanglement with X. Besides successive instances of verbal abuse and X threatening to kill the woman and their unborn child, the rapper also allegedly punched, kicked, elbowed and head-butted the victim.
These terrifying and gruesome accusations are eerily reminiscent of another domestic abuse case between celebrities. In 2009, popular singer/dancer Chris Brown was in court for savagely beating fellow musical superstar Rihanna in a car in Feb.
Brown originally plead not guilty to the charge of aggravated assault, but after receiving a plea deal, he plead guilty to one charge of assault with the intent of doing great bodily injury. He received a sentence of court-ordered domestic abuse therapy, along with a period of mandated community service, but did not serve any jail time.
What is most shocking about both of these cases, perhaps, is the fact that neither artist’s criminal activity negatively affected the financial success they enjoyed from their music.
For example, Chris Brown’s most recent musical release, “Royalty,” in December 2015 got him nominated for Top R&B Album at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and was certified Gold, while X’s debut album “17,” which I reviewed in the Gatepost’s first issue this year, streamed over 100,000,000 times and was the number one album on Billboard’s R&B Charts in the first week.
At the end of the day, the music we listen to and celebrate reflects the values we hold as a society. By placing artists who commit violent crimes on a pedestal because of their talents, we subconsciously condone that violence. If we want a world where the music we love comes from artists who actually care about treating other people well, it is up to us to find and support those artists, and to denounce and boycott those committing heinous crimes.