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“Sad!”: Reflecting on The Polarizing And Tragic Death Of XXXTentacion

By Matt Clizbe

New details have  emerged about Monday’s shooting death of Soundcloud rapper XXXTentacion. An eye witness told TMZ that the 20 year old was shot in the neck during an alleged robbery in South Florida. Reports indicate that he lost all signs of life instantly, including pulse. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office classified the incident as a likely robbery when Tentcion’s Louis Vuitton bag was discovered to be stolen from the scene. 22 year old Dedrick D. Williams was named as a suspect, and was booked for first degree murder.  

His representatives have collectively issued the following statement in response to both his tragic death, and the many mournful tributes that are still pouring in on social media feeds around the world.   

“XXXTentacion touched the lives of millions around the globe and will forever reside in the hearts of countless fans who listened to his music, attended his concerts, and felt the glow of his uncontainable, undeniable, and unique spirit,” the statement reads.

The statement is attributed to manager Solomon Sobande of EMPIRE, lawyer Bob Celestin and AKW PR.

One of the most controversial rappers of his generation, XXXTentacion’s rise to social media based fame helped define a subgenre of “Soundcloud rap”, which is fueled entirely through the viral activity of web savvy youth, social media trends, and the instant gratification of the music industry’s digital streaming market. Similarly to how YouTube has stylistically changed viewing habits of for online video, “Soundcloud rap” and genre leaders like XXXTentacion, have changed the role that song structure and genre play in the presentation of a song, ep, or album, deliberately creating something different for its fans.  

Branding his DIY sound with the same brash and unfiltered nature of his often aggressive and emotionally volatile personality, XXXTentacion’s trajectory mirrored that of a controversy courting YouTuber more than the mixtape rappers/vocalists that were on the platform before him.  Unlike artists of only a few years earlier, Tentacion work grew in conjunction with the industry’s fledgling streaming market, enabling him and artist like him to shift Hip Hop, and create a niche driven sound that is audibly synonymous with the memes, trend bursts, and click bate it’s often found and marketed through.  Just as bloggers or vlogger might be seen as authentic, (or without corporate agenda) when seen in a dressed down setting on youtube, Instagram or other platforms, Tentacion was celebrated for the alarming nature of his uniquely troubled life, which, like social media, was steaming to a mass of directly connected followers in raw form before the influences of mentorship, crossover driven refinement, or commercialism were considered. However raw, his talent was as unique as a fingerprint, and those that connected to it bonded to him with or without the mainstream or it’s gatekeepers.

This gave the then teenage a unique kind of business leverage over the industry when he debuted. In spite of his rapidly growing criminal allegations, XXXTentacion was able to ink his own indie deals with Empire Distribution, and later Capitol Records Group’s indie distribution  division, Caroline Records .

His career began in June 2013  with the release of his song “News/Flock”. Then, after being released from juvenile detention for gun possession charges, XXXTentacion reconnected with fellow Juvie detainee Stokeley “Ski Mask the Slump God” Goulbourne with the belief that they were going to commit a string of home invasions for some quick cash.  However, the eventual purchase of Blue Snowball microphone created a change of heart when his then girlfriend Geneva Ayala helped the two friends realize that music was a better outlet for his feelings.

His first official EP, called The Fall, which included Ski Mask the Slump Godwas released on November 21, 2014, and a collaboration album with Ski Mask the Slump God, called Members Only Vol. 1. However, as his career grew so did the controversy surrounding him. Although he was able to quit his job as a call center operator to pursue his growing music career, following the late 2015 release of his breakthrough single “Look At Me,” but the song’s violent and erratic music video garnered millions of views, thanks in part to the graphic image of XXX lynching a young white child, causing reaction that mix between celebrated artistic risk taking, and out right outrage. This distinct divide was often generational, but the attention would secure his initial distribution with Empire, and the song and edited music videos re-release as part of “The Revenge Mixtape” in 2017.

In spite of the positivity sparked by his then girlfriend and success with a rapidly growing fanbase, he was unable to break his pattern of troubled behavior.  First, he once again got arrested and charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in July of 2016, and then while out on $10,000 bail to finish his album, he then  became charged with false imprisonment, witness tampering, and aggravated battery of the same, then pregnant girlfriend. Many of these charges were still pending today, but the infamy of  his criminal rep grew his popularity like a digital wildfire.

In addition to his graphic breakthrough video “Look at Me” surpassing 50 million views, XXXTentacion was quickly able to release two albums. His debut album 17, on August 25, 2017, and was certified gold by the RAA, while  his second album,?, released on March 16, 2018.debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.  Its singles “Sad!” and ”Changes” peaked at numbers seven and 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.  

“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,” Diplo wrote in a post on Instagram. The DJ added that one of XXXTentacion’s goals was “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 continued. “He reppped Florida to his core.. I love this kid . He was gonna do so much more he promised me.”

At the time of his death, XXXTentacion was putting the finishing touches on a Parkland Florida mansion worth $1.4 million.  Neighbors say the rapper was quiet, but friendly. He was loved by so many, and troubled by so much.  When you consider his age, the fact that he was already turning his life towards charity, and all he overcame to find the right path in life, perhaps the greatest tragedy is that he won’t be able to meet the potential so many saw in him, and become known  for more than his uniquely tragic life. Rest In Peace.


Related Media 

The Philip DeFranco Show Discusses The Life And Death Of XXXTentacion

Published On June 20, 2018 (Contains Explicit Language)

 Before They Were Famous XXXTentacion (Updated Version) (Contains Explicit Language)

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Published On September 22, 2017