As J.Cole once said there are “No role models to speak.”
So here’s the story. I’m on Tumblr, scrolling through idly as always, when one of my favorite bloggers reposts a song. They’ve had a good track record with posting fire tracks so I look into it.
It was a Soundcloud link to XXXTENTACION’s song snippet “Teeth (Interlude).” I’ve seen the guy’s name floating around before, but admittedly I wrote him off as another terrible “Soundcloud rapper.”
So I give him a chance and listen to the song.
It’s very short; only about two minutes in length, but the experience to me was so dense. I feel like the song was made in one of those artistic flurries where one produces their best work. I’ve heard nothing like it before. Maybe it teased a memory in me that amplified the emotion, but the creepy antique piano keys contrasting with the lamenting voice of what sounds like an adolescent girl (later found out it’s actually the artist, a male) put me in a very ghostly, chilled state. I adored it.
Don’t go listening to it now since I’ve hyped it up so much, but seriously I fell in love with his music. It also helped that I connected with him. He expressed on a No Jumper interview that he’s going through depression, and his most recent project 17 is all about struggling with depression and anxiety, two thing I am familiar with. Rage and fear saturate his other songs and I was able to vibe to those sort of emotions at my lowest points as well.
A few weeks pass, and I understand the hype. I’m also introduced to his partner in crime Ski Mask The Slump God and I fuck with the vision. But then boom; I see someone on Twitter commenting on one of his tweets bashing him because he allegedly beat up his pregnant ex-girlfriend. I look into it, and a couple of Fader and HotNewHipHop articles later I find out that those allegations might be true. This is on top of the years in juvie he did and all his confirmed gory exploits.
At this point I honestly did not know how to react. They were allegations and he was being tried for them. Like a true X fan my first real reaction was anger. How could you pretend that most of the hip-hop artist you listen to weren’t complete criminal scum? You literally don’t know, and can’t know for certain, if all your favorite celebrities have clean backgrounds. Take Bill Cosby for example. We didn’t know about the Cosby situation until the man was too old to look anyone straight in the face for a sustained period of time. Him being a dirtbag however didn’t diffuse into your subconscious. Your morals were not altered negatively because you watched the Bill Cosby Show at age nine.
And hip-hop is frot with artists that have shaky morals. Many people don’t realize that a lot of party anthems in the male dominated genre always talk about mistreating vulnerable women at parties.
Very explicit. Two bars on the club bop “U.O.E.N.O” that Rick Ross wrote went under millions of noses. Rick Ross has since apologized, but it doesn’t erase the fact that he most certainly might have date raped a vulnerable woman in the past.
This moral calamity isn’t exclusive to men. There aren’t a lot of women in hip-hop, but I’ll give you an example from one of the most prominent women in hip-hop; Nicki Minaj.
For those that like your sexual assault concise, Nicki beat nowhere near the bush. What was meant by this line? There are surely other way to convey power. Many skeptics claim that she made this bar so harsh as a commentary on the male dominated hip-hop genre and how they usually get away with saying things like this. However on the other hand, male rape is a real thing and should not be put in any context that serves to undermine or emasculate. Despite all that, Nicki and her “Barbz” are still out here making noise.
With these moral dilemmas coming from all sides, you’d have to go through some extreme forensics to find out who is worthy of your moral ears. Realistically if one vetted their playlist like that, one would probably lose half of their overall song count, and 80% of their hip-hop track count. You’d probably just have Childish Gambino to listen to, but he obsessed over Asian girls like a fetishist in his early rap career so jot that down for consideration.
Then I started to think about what his crimes have to do with me. Even though I haven’t bought anything from him, I’m supporting him and his lifestyle by giving him plays on SoundCloud, and by Tweeting about how much I love his songs. That’s where it gets hard to separate the artist from the art. Do I support what he did? No, it’s absolutely deplorable if he did it. Does it change the fact that I like his music? No, and there is no other artist that sounds exactly like him who has no assault charges, so replacing him in my playlist isn’t an option in that sense. Listening to him does not make me a woman beater either. Just like how listening to Jay-Z does not make you a cocaine selling enabler.
There are a lot of hypotheticals, and I do avoid his music. But admittedly I go back to his older stuff sometimes. I like all types of music and his stuff is unique and different. I am an appreciator of music first of all, and a judge of character secondly in this instance.
To answer the title question; we already are listening to problematic artists, artist that continually see success even though they’ve already revealed themselves to be morally weak. If XXXTENTACION is not meant to be successful, it will not happen. Right now he has built such a cult fan-base that it’s hard for him not to be. However, you enjoying his music does not make you a bad person, just don’t go to any of his concerts honestly.
Originally published at https://medium.com/@onawav on September 2, 2017.