Split de­ci­sion: Some praise XXXTenta­cion, oth­ers crit­i­cize

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MESFIN FEKADU AP Mu­sic Writer XXXTenta­cion

NEW YORK (AP) - The praise and ad­mi­ra­tion for rap­per-singer XXXTenta­cion poured in heav­ily fol­low­ing his sud­den death, from the fever­ish fans who streamed his mu­sic to pop­u­lar fig­ures like Kanye West, J. Cole and Di­plo, who called the artist an in­spir­ing, gifted fig­ure in mu­sic.

Oth­ers, though, felt dif­fer­ently about the trou­bled but plat­inum-sell­ing per­former, crit­i­ciz­ing his bad be­hav­ior and mul­ti­ple ar­rests, in­clud­ing charges that he se­verely beat and abused his girl­friend.

The re­sponse has been split re­gard­ing the life and mu­si­cal­ity of 20-year-old XXXTenta­cion, who was shot Mon­day and later died at a Fort Laud­erdale, Flori­daarea hos­pi­tal. He was a ris­ing artist who re­cently launched his first No. 1 al­bum and Top 10 pop hit _ suc­cess com­ing mainly from the heavy stream­ing of his mu­sic by fans around his age.

He blended sounds in his mu­sic: he's from the school of SoundCloud and emo rap and he eas­ily sings on one song and spits rhymes on another. His al­bum “?'' in­cludes both soft rock and scream­ing rock. He even re­leased a Latin-tinged track ti­tled “i don't even speak span­ish lol'' _ which reads like a text by a mem­ber of his gen­er­a­tion.

But while XXXTenta­cion, born Jah­seh Dwayne On­froy, was pop­u­lar among his peers, to oth­ers he was known for dis­turb­ing al­le­ga­tions. In 2016, he was ar­rested on charges in­clud­ing home in­va­sion for a 2015 in­ci­dent, and less than a month later was jailed on charges that he at­tacked his girl­friend, who was preg­nant at the time. Later, he faced more charges in­clud­ing wit­ness tam­per­ing. He was await­ing trial when he was killed.

“He's had a trou­bled up­bring­ing, a trou­bled past and what he was ac­cused of do­ing, I think for a lot of peo­ple, is so far be­yond the pale,'' said Marc Ho­gan, a se­nior staff writer at the mu­sic web­site Pitch­fork. “It seems like a lot of his big­gest fans just dis­re­gard it and then peo­ple that are crit­i­cal of him, they're ac­knowl­edg­ing that this is a lit­tle bit more heinous than we kind of ex­pect.''

“It's not like a rap­per who might have been a drug dealer or some­thing that's non-vi­o­lent and eas­ier to un­der­stand and con­tex­tu­al­ize,'' Ho­gan added.

XXXTenta­cion's rise on the charts be­gan last year with “Look at Me!,'' which hit a peak a year af­ter its re­lease as more sto­ries about his provoca­tive life were pub­lished and re­vealed. The song reached the top 40 of the pop charts and went plat­inum; his de­but al­bum,“17,'' peaked at No. 2 on the Bill­board 200 al­bums chart and reached gold sta­tus; and the songs “Jo­ce­lyn Flores'' and “(Ex­ple­tive) Love'' also be­came plat­inum hits.

The per­former, who rapped and openly spoke about depression, made it onto XXL mag­a­zine's 2017 “Fresh­man Class,'' a goal for most new rap­pers.

But as XXXTenta­cion's mu­sic peaked, so did the drama sur­round­ing him.

“There's a lot of things that he has done that we do not agree with and there's a lot of things he's done that I don't con­done ... but that doesn't mean I'm go­ing to judge you,'' said mu­sic pro­ducer Drumma Boy, who has worked with T.I., Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. “It doesn't mean I don't want to work with you. That doesn't mean I can't save you or help you be­come a bet­ter per­son.''

“It's just a re­ally un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion,'' he added. “I don't re­spect a lot of the things that he did, but I do re­spect the fact that he's try­ing to be suc­cess­ful. He's try­ing to change his way of life, he's try­ing to make mu­sic. He could have been rob­bing, killing, sell­ing dope or what­ever. To see some­body try to make some money, gen­er­ate a fan base and be suc­cess­ful, you got to tip your hat off to the ef­fort.''

XXXTenta­cion's sopho­more al­bum _ ti­tled “?'' _ de­buted at No. 1 in March, while the lead sin­gle, “Sad!,'' is dou­ble plat­inum and reached the Top 5 on both the rap and R&B charts. Since 2017, he's had 16 songs on the Bill­board Hot 100 chart.

“His ap­peal was he didn't care what other peo­ple thought,'' Ho­gan said. “He'll do or say any­thing re­gard­less of the con­se­quences _ that was part of the ap­peal.''

Kanye West tweeted Mon­day, “I never told you how much you in­spired me when you were here.'' “Thank you for ex­ist­ing,'' he added. Blink-182's Travis Barker, who ap­peared on XXXTenta­cion's re­cent al­bum, said he spoke to the per­former “weeks ago'' and that he “loved col­lab­o­rat­ing with you and was hon­ored to call you a friend.''

“You were a true artist, one of the most (ex­ple­tive) tal­ented of our time,'' he wrote. “Your mu­sic will live for­ever.''

But some of those well-known per­form­ers were crit­i­cized sup­port­ing XXXTenta­cion, as some felt West and oth­ers ig­nored that the rap­per-singer was be­ing charged for abus­ing a woman, among other al­le­ga­tions.

“We all make ra­tio­nal­iza­tions about our fa­vorite per­form­ers. I've lis­tened to R. Kelly's mu­sic for years, and he's a rather con­tro­ver­sial artist, be­fore I fi­nally had to grab­ble with the fact that I couldn't put my sup­port be­hind what he was ac­cused of do­ing,'' he said of the R&B su­per­star, who stands ac­cused but not crim­i­nally charged of sex­u­ally abus­ing women.'' And I'm sure that for peo­ple that are teenagers it's got to be even harder to wrap your head around that.''

He added: “I think part of it might just be youth and also part of it would seem to be that ... his role was also the provo­ca­teur who would say and do what­ever.''

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ALL BLACK ME­DIA

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