XXXTentacion’s meteoric rise to fame has only been matched by his massive crash back down to earth. The 19-year-old rapper burst onto the scene earlier this year with his platinum single “Look at Me!” before his debut album, 17, arrived with equal commercial success. But, last October, XXX was charged with several insidious crimes including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness-tampering. Despite these allegations, the rapper’s celebrity continues to rise.
Pitchfork released the full transcript of the testimony of XXXTentacion’s reported victim, which included disturbing details of his systematic abuse. Earlier this month, TMZ reported that XXXTentacion had been denied bail after new charges of witness tampering and witness harassment. He is currently facing decades in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, America is in the middle of purging accused sexual assaulters from the workforce. In early October, dozens of women began revealing the sexual harassment they experienced at the hands of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was promptly fired, sparking a flurry of accusations and firings across the country. Prominent men like Matt Lauer, Mario Batali, Roy Moore, Russell Simmons, Garrison Keillor and more lost their jobs as a direct result of the sexual assault allegations against them. After their respective harassments leaked, the general public demanded immediate retribution.
So, why is XXXTentacion not the target of the same public contempt given to other alleged sexual assaulting public figures?
When other media personalities received retribution in a matter of days, XXX’s career remained thriving well after initial news of his abuse broke. His album 17 remained in the Billboard top 40 albums for three months after Pitchfork’s report of his abuse. If the public had given XXX the same treatment as other accused media personalities — the treatment he deserves — his album would have immediately plummeted down the charts.
Arguments in favor of XXX typically go along the lines of, “not all of his alleged abuse has been confirmed,” or, “he’s had a tough past, we should cut him some slack.” But we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than ignorance towards cruelty. When the New York Times reported comedian Louis C.K.’s sexual harassment, the public outcry was immediate and intense. The response was not to weigh C.K.’s entertainment value with the accusations against him, but to immediately criticize and denounce the comedian. Not to downplay C.K.’s harassment, but the allegations against XXXTentacion are much more egregious, violent and continuous.
Perhaps the key difference in these situations is that XXX is a young rapper and (based off stereotypes), the public expects chaotic and dangerous behavior from him; endangering others is just a part of the lifestyle for an archetypal young, wild rapper. If this is the case, it’s downright lazy judgement.
Or maybe fans just aren’t willing to accept any responsibility for XXX’s success. Much the same way that individuals believe climate change should be combated, like it’s not an individual’s responsibility to conserve gas because of the small impact they have, perhaps fans think XXX deserves punishment but aren’t willing to stop streaming his music. Again, this is lazy judgement. Every stream on an XXXTentacion song gives him royalties and bumps him up the Billboard charts. Admittedly, each stream has a miniscule effect, but when millions of people think their streams don’t matter, XXX’s profits and public standing continue to rise.
It’s inexcusable to give XXXTentacion a pass in the public eye no matter what the reasoning. It does, at least, appear that XXXTentacion will be punished by the law to the full extent, and will likely serve decades in prison. Thankfully the court is taking action, but music fans should have been outraged long ago.
If we want to continue progressing equality and justice, we have to be willing to condemn artists we love.