I’ve been thinking about death lately. There’s been a recent spate of deaths in the news lately albeit for a variety of different reasons. The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, and the murder of Florida rapper XXXtentacion in broad daylight, in addition to the shooting that resulted in the death of two kids in my hometown of Toronto; as well as the not too distant death of Lil Peep.
I was upset by the death of Bourdain in particular. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Bourdain’s avuncular charm won the world over; he seemed to have it all. But deep in the recesses of his mind was playing out a struggle that no one seemed to see.
And that’s why I’ve decided in future weeks, we’ll be talking about depression on the podcast with Kid Cudi and the Man on the Moon series as a launching point, and as part of our Rewind! series. There I will go more in-depth about my own depression, but for now, I’d like to talk about XXXtentacion and why he was an important figure in hip-hop.
XXXTENTACION WAS A YOUNG ADULT. IT IS UNFAIR TO CALL HIM A KID OR A MAN BEING THAT HE DIED AT THE AGE OF 20.
XXXtentacion was a young adult. It is unfair to call him a kid or a man being that he died at the age of 20. He stirred up a lot of controversy in his short rise to fame and really ignited the conversation of what is acceptable behavior for an artist before we can no longer support their artistry in fandom.
This may be somewhat controversial, but I supported XXXtentacion’s music. Upon hearing the news of his removal from Spotify, I purposefully bought his music on Apple Music. The reason for this is because X caught my genuine curiosity. After listening to some of his interviews, it seemed to me that he was someone who knew how to formulate thoughts and ideas. His music was substantive. And, in my opinion, this is something that is missing from rap music today. Hearing how much thought he put into his name and how articulate he gave me hope for a future generation of rappers.
But clearly, XXXtentacion was a very deeply troubled soul. One look not far in his music to find suicidal ideation, and talks of; co-dependency, depression, and isolation. And unfortunately, these are some things I have struggled with in the past myself. While I was able to get access to a mental health professional and work through some of my own inner turmoil; XXXtentacion was someone who was brought up by the system through incarceration, foster care, etc. But let me clear: this is no excuse for his behaviour.
The details of XXXtentacion’s domestic abuse are particularly heinous, and I think it best not to make him out to be a martyr. But had X gotten proper mental health treatment, we may have had different conversations surrounding his life.
Mental illness is prolific. And a voice like X’s helped assuage some of the emotional disturbance for a young audience. An analysis of the prevailing cultural mood can see that there is a lot of hurt and pain in the world.
For us depressives, XXXtentacion‘s music provided refuge, not unlike Kid Cudi ‘s insular projects. I have my own demons lurking in the back of my mind. And to me, somebody like X by putting out his emotional distress was being forthcoming to create empathy. To create a better conversation surrounding mental health struggles.
Maybe it’s naivete or maybe optimism, but I can’t help but wonder whom XXXtentacion could have been. Had he truly been repentant and worked towards repair-work, perhaps he could have worked towards being a role model and a voice for change. Some of his music suggests that he could have been that person (Riot). And I am a believer in rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.
But this is speculation of course. There is no way to know what was in X ‘s heart. Whether he was remorseful or not.
An apt metaphor is the “Weighing of the heart” done by Anubis in ancient Egyptian mythology. Anubis weighs the heart of a person against a feather before they can move on to the afterlife. If for a moment we supposed that the afterlife was real – Was X sincere and would he have been able to transcend his transgressions? – Anubis only knows.