XXXTentacion is the Reality of a Dark World
Pennywise X XXXTentacion
Stephen King’s IT mirrors a prominent moment in recent hip-hop culture. Lurking from the sewerage is a grotesque creature whose goal is to drag you into hell. Disguised in the body of a clown named Pennywise, it taunts you with illusions of grandeur, inviting you to join him in a world filled with popcorn covered in warm melted butter, sweet candy floss and big shiny balloons. Though you know deep down that it’s probably a bad idea, you can’t help but be curious as you reach for your little paper boat that sits within its grip. XXXTentacion, covered in tattoos, and donning colourful dreads, reminds me of Pennywise, and the paper boat is your intelligence.
The Grand Interview
A few days ago, DJ Akademiks did a three-hour interview via live stream with hip-hop’s latest divisive figure; this was a great interview. AK was not skilled enough to make the exchange fantastic, but X – real name Jahseh Onfroy - was charismatic enough to make it worth watching all the way through. He said silly things. There were immature moments injected with candid ones. He dropped information easily searchable on the internet, most of which had AK looking befuddled; ‘I feel like Barbara Walters right now’ mused the YouTuber. The fact that AK didn't know anything beyond the rapper's surface is an example of why there seems to be something both endearing and terrorising about X. Is the 19-year-old rapper some Charles Manson-esque weirdo, or are we all being duped?
Relevant to the Youth
Up until a few months ago, I didn’t know X existed until I came across a picture of a mugshot in the media. I later learned this image was used for his lead single ‘Look at Me’ off his 17 studio debut, which had charted on Billboard. The complementing video took place in a school setting, ended with two young boys (one black, one white) in a 'Sophie’s Choice' scenario – and blah, blah blah.
Shock value isn’t new in hip-hop. If anything, I found the cover to be distasteful, and shrugged it off as there wasn’t anything about what I saw that differentiated him from what pops up in the polluted rap landscape, until I saw the poetic ending of said video, and watched the interview he did with radio host, K. Foxxx.
This was a much stronger interview; though she was in awe, he was a lot humbler here than his moment with AK, which is ironic as he had supposedly gone through emotional growth since the first conversation took place. YouTuber Brandon Sean Taylor created a video saying the young rapper uses Adolf Hitler’s philosophies to grow his cult base. I say he'd be a hit in Russia.
When Shit Gets Real
A lot of this may very well be click-bate, but I do believe what underpins all of his is a bible-thumping fear, or at least righteous plugs, in everyone’s reaction. I know, because I pitched doing a story on the rapper to a few of my editors, all of whom dismissed the idea because the allegations of him abusing his girlfriend. He has a sinister past; He has said some wild shit. And if the claims are valid, he damn well should be in jail. His then-girlfriend, a stunning young woman, seemed just as misguided as he was.
This is precisely why I’m curious to hear his side of his own troubled life story. I would never chuck this up to him being young; Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna, and I’ve maintained a staunch position on that incident. Though X has asshole tendencies, he has maintained his innocence, both in his lyrics and via his social media channels. If his girlfriend posted on her Instagram that he needed to be free and celebrated rather than convicted, then she’s suffering from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome. She too should be locked away.
This is also what makes fame, the internet and the media a deadly mix. If the horror that X has facilitated is true, then don’t we all need to hold some accountability? We knew we saw and we praised regardless. And we continue to do so until it becomes all too real, as we see in this nightmare. But had it not been for his fame, where would he be?
Florida Means Alot
Florida is a contentious state. Its conservative white population makes up 77.6% of its 20million plus population, with blacks at a mere 16% - more than Hispanic and those classified in other, but there is enough to be a clear divide between classes. X, along with his peer Kodak Black (another complicated rap figure), come from poverty. These are common rap fairy tales – had it not been for the genre and the rise of social media, living life on the straight and narrow may have been an unattainable dream. Even now, with all the money and adoration, because of his soiled past, he still has not left America. It’s likely that he doesn’t even have a passport. Why wouldn’t he dictate his lesion of fans? He lives vicariously through them and vice versa.
From the Dark Vortex to the Light
X is self-aware. He’s been consistent but he’s a man-child who is bearing the insurmountable weight of his audience and the public, while not even old enough to legally drink. Let’s not put X on the same level as the Pope, now. He’s not all the way there, but he is precocious. I know because I’ve met many rappers who had a similar trait minus the volatility. What he presents has drawn the discussion of him being ‘fake deep’, and I don’t agree. He’s created a clever persona who ‘made it out da hood’ as an ‘emo-Rockstar' and plays his cards depending on the situation. He’s also a human being.