How Will You Remember XXXTentacion?

Around six months prior to his death, the embattled 20-year-old rapper XXXTentacion would share an urgent manifesto via Instagram Live. You can call it eerily predictive, his words belying a sense of grim resignation. “If I’m gonna die or ever be a sacrifice, I wanna make sure that my life made at least 5 million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life,” the rapper said. So, How Will You Remember XXXTentacion?

As he summarily addressed “the negative”, he moved toward cementing his persona as a potent if the counterintuitive source of inspiration. The rapper, at the time of his death, was facing serious charges. One of these charges were assaulting a pregnant woman; who by the way was his girlfriend. And even going as far as witness harassment. How Will You Remember XXXTentacion? However, he would trail off into an Oprah-esque affirmation for his young fans especially those dealing with mental sickness:

I know my goal in the end, and I know what I want for everyone, and I know what my message is. So I just wanted to say I appreciate and love all of you, and I believe in you all. Do not let your depression make you. Do not let your body define your soul. Let your soul define your body. Your mind is limitless. You are worth more than you could believe.

And in the hours after the rapper was shot and killed on Monday in his native Broward County, Florida, the video has been circulating around on Twitter and Facebook. It is truly chilling to watch it now. Young and stormy, the rapper seemed very aware that his time among the living could be rather short-lived.

XXXTentacion has been one of the most infamous of an ad-hoc collective of young artists often referred to as “Soundcloud rappers”. He was fully aware of the contention which surrounded his work and persona. Somewhat “dark and brooding”, the late rapper had spun the narrative of his misunderstood genius in his music too. Introducing his massively successful album  ? with “(instructions),” he said:

I’ll offer this warning and set of instructions: If you are not open-minded before you listen to this album, open your mind … It’s very comforting but discomforting at the same time, so with this project again you’re entering my mind, feeling my insanity, feeling my genius, my energy.

Both the album and the Instagram Live message offer a view to the interiors of his mind. It points to the dark corners, encourages listeners to accept their existence without much interrogation of what he has hidden under the shrouds.

Within a short span of time, he has had a meteoric career, and his music was nearly inseparable from the myriad allegations of violence. As he released his album, he was already accumulating a stomach-churning laundry list of criminal charges: aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering.

There is a detailed list of abuses on his ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala. In the words of Ayala, it includes: slapping her and breaking her phone because she complimented a male friend, threatening to penetrate her with a barbecue pitchfork, stomping on her, threatening to cut out her tongue, hitting her with plastic hangers, holding her under running water in the bathtub, and punching her until her left eye closed and leaked blood, among them. Ayala has already started a GoFundMe campaign for funding an orbital surgery which is necessary to preserve vision in the eye as Ayala said.

In his music, he made threats to suicide should a partner ever leave, on the track “Sad!”. Add to the list, chastising a woman for killing his vibes with her tears on the same record he dedicates to Parkland students(“Hope”). The tracks may be playful but, they are also harrowing at the same time. The music is hypnotic, and it has helped to shape the public persona of a man who seemingly saw people making attempts to hold him accountable as an obscure group of haters.

All through his short life, XXXTentacion only subtlely expressed remorse for the actions he committed. He probably struggled with depression and if he did, he had turned his demons outward. It is preferably easier to mourn the loss of a dazzling career than to interrogate what could have transpired should XXTentacion have lived out the full course of his life. How Will You Remember XXXTentacion?

Onfroy, through his music, has reminded young fans particularly, that their hurt is valid. However, he also reminds them that it does not form the sum total of their lives. He has given voice to their insecurities while wrapping their unending dread in the cover of lyricism, transforming those nervous bundles into an electrifying body of work.

When all is said and done, How Will You Remember XXXTentacion? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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