Nearly two year after first releasing his breakout single on Soundcloud, controversial rapper XXXTentacion released a video for “Look at Me.” Beginning with a silly depiction of a classroom riot that culminates with X smacking a teacher with a giant blue d***o, the video takes a dark turn and the song “Riot” plays as the score to a collage of America’s most gruesome instances of racial violence. At the end of video, X lynches a white child in front of a black one, and then speaks about racism and the prosperity of our child in a well-articulated monologue.
The interesting thing about X as an artist and an entrepreneur is that he does not care about the rules. Not only does he release 22-minutes albums, he also directs clickbait music videos. At first we think X is promoting debauchery in the classroom, but his true intention is to speak about racism. As “Riot” isn’t as known as “Look at Me,” X had no choice but to use the latter song to reel in viewers.
Although his apathy to the rules of artistry and marketing is a topic of conversation, the thing to really talk about most is his seemingly contradictory mission as a hip hop artist. On one hand he promotes satanism and yells “can’t keep my d*** in his pants,” and on the other, he speaks out an advocate for mental health and equality. With his controversial actions and domestic abuse case, one must ask: “Can X really be a voice for social issues?”
XXXTentacion, though raising the bar by lynching a child, is not the first controversial artist to take a stance on social issues. 2pac, whom many consider the god of hip hop, had many jail stints and was a self-proclaimed thug; however, many of his songs, such as “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Changes” had sociopolitical messages. So, one may argue that hip hop has a controversial nature despite its initial intention to be a medium for blacks to uplift other blacks. This is evident as Public Enemy was seen as controversial for its “militant” aesthetics.
Even Eminem, whose goal was “to destroy your little 4-year-old boy or girl,” had songs with socially conscious messages, such as “Sing for the Moment” and “Mosh.” However, the difference between Em and Pac and Chuck D is that Em fashions himself to be a self-expressive artist where Pac and Chuck D are fighting on missions.
With hip hop’s history of controversial artists speaking on social issues, X is a part of a long lineage. However, he seems to fall more on the Eminem end of spectrum. Although he defends his controversial nature with speaking about racism, he seems to be more destructive than constructive. He promotes beef (“I’ll put a whole in your parents”), has a violent history (even with women), and uses a moniker which can be translated to “porn temptation.” Unlike Em, X proclaims be an artist on a mission, but there’s so little showing for it.
Although the child lynching at the end of the music video is a response to a recent attempted lynching of a black child, X doesn’t stray from using excessive shock value to catch attention. For example, when promoting for “17,” X posted an Instagram video in which he appeared to have hung himself when he just hung a puppet. That act seems to promote suicide rather than advocate for mental health awareness.
In regard to his interest in advocating for equality, X’s domestic abuse case features many acts of irrational violence toward his ex-girlfriend. Although he argues that the testimony is fabricated, his twitter posts below shows that he might not be above these actions:
As Eric Andre stated, responding to X and Kodak Black’s misogynistic tendencies, violence against women is a form of bigotry. Although X claims to be for equality, his violent actions and speech towards women completely contradiction that claim. Sure, racism and misogyny are forms of hatred targeted towards different groups, but they’re forms of hatred nonetheless.
Now it’s time to revisit the question: “Can X be a voice for social issues?” Who knows? His debut album centers around depression and his music video details the gruesomeness of lynching. However, his depraved image, controversial stunts, and misogynistic violent tendencies may make him come off disingenuous.
What do you think? Comment below.