“Unknown Temptation” glares from the stage, striking pangs of admiration and a hint of fear into the crowd, before hoisting up a box of pizza and proceeding to offer it to hungry fans.

Fans waited in line for hours through bursts of torrential downpour to attend XXXTentacion’s sold-out show at the Majestic in Detroit. This hardly does their dedication justice, as X’s cult-following and ravenous supporters have propelled him to do things no one thought could be done in ways that didn’t seem possible. How is it that he went to jail, only to get more popular during his stay? How does a rapper with limited releases and mysterious PR tactics take the rap world by storm, to the point of being able to make seemingly valid claims about Drake biting his style?

At the show last night I got some form of an answer, as I watched a room full of people squat, jump, be silent, and scream all on his command. X is particular about his stage presence and spent most of his time directly addressing the crowd both verbally and physically. He could’ve done anything up there and they would have loved it, which speaks to their devotion more than any personal testimonies could.

In addition to the pizza, X brought several fans up onstage and had several of them dive back in–to their delight. On almost every song he could be seen dapping up the front row, and of course he entered the crowd a few times as usual. At one point he even duelled one of his friends in what could only be described as the most vicious chicken fight I’ve ever seen, minus the pool and add a several hundred people. There’s no question that X has a hold on the minds and hearts of his fans, and at times he tried to use that power for good, offering such advice as, “there is balance…to maintain some sort of mental stability, that’s all we need…to create and evolve,” and “before anyone or anything else, work on yourself.” His motivational moments were more reminiscent of his musings on astral projection and meditation than of his explosive rendition of “#ImSippinTeaInYoHood”, but both were equally important.

Photo by Anthony Rassam / EMCEE

XXXTentacion is an eclectic and polarizing figure to say the least. He has never been one to shy away from sometimes abrasive honesty. He cites his tumultuous upbringing as a precursor to his cynicism, and his music could be described as a calculated manifestation of deep-seated pain coated in earnest self-assertion. The distorted and often violent music that he makes is part of the appeal his fans, many of whom face a moral dilemma stemming from some of the disturbing allegations that have been made against him. And if that wasn’t enough, his last few Revenge tour stops have seen him getting sucker-punched in San Diego and retaliating against an aggressive fan in Salt Lake City.

All of this and more has prompted many questions: What is the relationship between an artist’s personal life and their art? How do we reconcile apparently contradictory aspects of a someone’s personality? Who makes the rules? Who decides what is right from wrong?

The answers are elusive, but there’s no question that examining X’s personal history, his art, and his meteoric rise to rap infamy would be thought-provoking. What you do with that information is up to you, and I imagine he’d respect your opinion, as long as it was your own.

About the author: Allen C. Picard is a young man on the open road looking for a seat. His interests include contemplating self-efficacy and seeing how much random objects weigh. He cannot be reached on social media or anywhere else, for inquiries please contact Emcee Network.

Broccoli is a scientific artisan with a personality disorder. His work often centers around identity, the relationship between an artist and their work, and the psychology of emotion. He likes to lay out in the sun and grow.

Leave a Reply