On the 18th of June, 2018, South Florida’s controversial rapper, XXXTentacion was shot and killed during an apparent robbery on Monday in Broward County, Florida. The 20-year old whose real name is Janseh Dwane Onfroy led an amazingly controversial career. His breakout song ‘Look at me‘ was a single which he uploaded to SoundCloud and it burst out of underground music circles and into the mainstream in 2017. The track was short, distorted and disturbing, like most of his previously released songs and ones he released in the later coming months.

One would wonder why a person with so much dirt on his name has such a devoted following, a cult of worshippers you could say even. His career which was trailed by gleaming accusations of abuse has spurred a worldwide conversation about an age-old question: Can great art be separated from problematic artists? But unlike other artists before X, his songs were in-tune with the controversy around him. He became a sensation whilst being castigated by the media for being a sex offender. With him, problems just never seemed to end. As devoted fans of his music, there were certain attributes and traits that we found relatable and admirable, here’s a few of them as an ode to one of the greatest artists of our time.

He felt pain

As an artist, the key to have a devoted following is by living [even if only on the media] what you sing [By the energy you give out]. And who better to be the frontier of this than a person who talks about uplifting [at-least] 5 million youths, and then goes on to release two albums that show he’s connected to the pain they feel. His outwardness breathes the same pain and sadness that his music puts on when he was sad, and extreme aggression mixed with some sort of brashness (As shown in the song ‘Look at me’). Even whilst clouded by the accusations of witness tampering by his then-girlfriend Ayala, he released a song to somewhat address the issue – ‘Ayala‘.

The audience he garnered followed him anywhere much like the disciples did Jesus because they felt that he understood their pain and felt their depression much like they, themselves did.

He was determined to have things go his way.

There must’ve been several cases where these traits were exhibited, but there are these two that struck me since it occurred, In August 2014, for example, South Florida videographer Daniel Calle was booking a show of local acts at a venue in Hollywood, Florida. Calle, who has a hip-hop-Seth Rogan vibe, recalls Onfroy reached out to him and said he would perform.

“It was like, ‘My bad, dude, I can’t get you on this show,'” Calle recalls. “But he shows up anyway. He’s like, ‘I’m performing.’” Calle tried to stop him. Despite his size, Onfroy had a way of making things happen. “You have to understand,” Calle says, “he’s very sure. He’s very absolute.”

Another case in which I thought his determination was apparent was when he was called to court sometimes in 2017; he’d been accused of several crimes that if convicted, could’ve led him to face a serious jail term. He was undeterred, went ahead to do something that a lot of people would consider a fatal flaw in his career, posting his court date and details to his fans. This obviously wasn’t a smart move, first of all, but this man was determined to prove his innocence to the public so much so that he was willing to do what most would consider stupid and irrational.

He had a wide-ranging taste in genres.

XXXTentacion would most likely be referred to on blogs as an alternative artiste, this is because there’s really no particular genre to fit his kind of music. He’d be a trap sensation today, and a Spanish pop star tomorrow, his fluidity with genres made him all the more relatable because you’d most likely always find your kind of music in his discography.

His controversial comment about being a better artist/rapper than 2pac could’ve been more reasonable if he’d said he was a more versatile artiste instead. Which would’ve been very correct.

He was a non-conformist

In a world where everyone struggles to be much like everyone else, someone who stands out tends to be noticed and also tends to be a symbol of critical acclaim both negatively and positively. XXXTentacions’s non-conformity stems from the deep loathing of the media. He lived a distinctive life, different from that of any other rapper that blew up during the period that he did. He didn’t try to flaunt too much, he’d most likely be seen talking about a project he’s working on or addressing a social issue on the gram than he’d be seen pricing the jewelry he has on. This deviation from normalcy is what kept a lot of fans centered around him.

He was intentional

When different Life and Times Of X begin to circle in the future and historians and psychologists dig into his life, they’d see certain things he said and did that proves he knew what he was about, most things that led to him being famous were vile. Very few people would’ve gotten away with such acts. Often times, he made efforts to appease the public by doing certain charity work that might have been intended to keep the media from focusing on his bad history. These sort of actions failed fatally but he still kept on with them.

Being intentional is about knowing fully well the steps you’re taking in a certain direction [doesn’t matter whether good or bad] and seeing it through. ‘Seeing it through’ for X was sealing by either dropping a musical project or having another very controversial interview.

Ayala [Onfroy’s ex-girlfriend] came forward and accused him of the unrelenting, torturous domestic abuse that would send him to jail, to house arrest, and to jail again, then launch him meteorically into the spotlight.

He took advantage of everything available to him.

It’s relatively rare that a song becomes popular years after its release. But when it happens, the track is usually buoyed by something else — maybe a movie or a commercial — that puts it into the public consciousness. For X, it was likely his arrest.

The rapper had originally recorded “Look at Me!” in December 2015 with two South Florida producers, Jimmy Duval and a guy named Rojas who calls himself “The Underground DJ Khaled.” The song was posted to Rojas’ SoundCloud account but received a little reaction. The track was grainy and crude (“I’m like, bitch who is your mans/Can’t keep my dick in my pants“).

Then, more than a year later, in January 2017, the heavily distorted single — a far cry from the polished production of most mainstream hits — exploded onto the charts, attracting an endorsement from rapper A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. There was so much hype that when Drake previewed a similar-sounding song January 28, fans accused him of plagiarism, which compounded X’s fame.

As Onfroy sat behind bars, the media began to question whether the controversy had fueled his fame. In February 2017, Pitchfork published the 2,200-word piece “XXXTentacion Is Blowing Up Behind Bars, but Should He Be?” and a March Washington Post article about “Look at Me!” wondered whether Onfroy’s rise had “more to do with the public’s ghoulish interest in the crimes he may have committed. In August of 2017, “Look at Me!” went certified platinum and Onfroy released his first album “17”. When his second album, “?”, dropped in March 2018, it quickly garnered enough sales and streams to hit the top of the Billboard charts. Its success placed Onfroy in the league of top chart staples such as Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar.

The 18-track, 37-minute album is an exercise breaking down genre barriers, jumping between trap, alt-rock, metal, and reggaeton — an explicit effort to please everyone. “I was trying to appeal to every market,” Onfroy said in an April interview. “Even if there’s someone who doesn’t like the entire album, you have to like at least one song.

His next album would’ve dropped this July of 2018. In my view, Onfroy lived his best life, and although they were certain things he could’ve done differently, he could’ve had time to live better than he did, which is what most, if not all, long for. It should be noted that this post wasn’t written out of love for the artiste by a fan, it’s more of an appraisal of the good part of his life. Because, let’s face it, the internet, before today, had been saturated with epistles of his wrongdoings. So this day, this is X’s day, had he lived longer, he could’ve served time, or worse, died while at it, this is an ode to a consciously great artiste. #RIPX

Written by Emmanuel Paul.

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Internet Company Reaching Young & Smart Africans from Lagos, Nigeria.

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