XXXTentacion Aims to Be the Biggest Artist Ever Despite Legal Case and Drake Controversy
South Florida has one of the most vibrant rap scenes in the world right now. Ever since SpaceGhostPurrp shed a light on the underground with his lo-fi sound circa 2011, more national attention has been paid to the talent bubbling up in areas like Broward and Miami-Dade County. Smokepurpp, Lil Pump, Pouya and Fat Nick are just a few of the artists who've amassed a following for themselves in The Sunshine State and beyond. But while kids like Denzel Curry and Kodak Black are reaching new heights in their career, there's a young leader emerging in the underground, and his name is XXXTENTACION (pronounced X-X-X-tent-asi-ohn).
The 19-year-old rapper, currently locked up in Broward County Jail on six felony charges across two jurisdictions, sounds unlike anything else out there right now. Songs on his SoundCloud, most of which boast millions of plays, make the leap between melancholy indie records and punk-rap rage, testaments to his desire to be more than just a rapper. And indeed, he's quickly becoming something of a cult figure, as his popularity grows with each new day that he spends behind bars. He might be getting out as soon as this Wednesday (Feb. 8), when his first bond hearing will be held, but if not he's expected to be free by March, a source familiar with the matter tells XXL.
He's facing charges of battery and aggravated assault of a pregnant victim, battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and tampering with or harassing a witness, victim, or informant in Miami-Dade County, while in Broward County he's being charged with armed home invasion and aggravated battery.
His biggest song to date is "Look At Me," the only single he's released on iTunes and Spotify, and in the last couple weeks the track has gained a special kind of attention after Drake previewed a new cut with a flow very similar to that on "Look At Me." The snippet prompted X to tweet at fellow Florida rapper Kodak Black wondering what was good with Drizzy's obvious nod, and fans have since criticized Drake for hopping on yet another trend at the most opportune time.
XXL recently spoke to the rapper born Jahseh Onfroy from jail, and during our conversation he addressed the Drake controversy, touched on the status of his case, clarified who's in Members Only, and spoke at length about what the criminal justice system in Florida gets wrong. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
XXL: How’d you first get into making music?
XXXTENTACION: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was very lost. I felt like music was what I was trying to use to numb my pain. Music gave me a purpose and it just came to me. I just listened to a lot of artists and it was the only thing that kind of soothed me when I was feeling crazy. I always felt crazy when I was younger and I always felt different. Music made me feel like there wasn’t anything wrong with me, music calmed me. I used music as an anti-depressant at first and then it just became something I tried to do myself.
What’s some of the first music you listened to?
The Fray, Three Days Grace, Asking Alexandria, Odd Future, Immortal Technique. I really love Immortal Technique. Papa Roach.
What was some of the first music you wrote?
I wrote two or three songs early on. I had one called “News/Flap” that was more lyrical and then I got a song called “Vice City” which is super old. That’s still up, it’s super weird because I used to be on my lyrical shit, and then I started to experiment with my sound and try an alternative sound.
What made you want to explore other sounds in your music?
I didn’t want to be just a rapper because if I was just a rapper, I wouldn’t be able to touch a certain crowd. I really wanted to be able to put my emotion and my energy into everybody and everything. Being just a rapper was very typical. Being an artist is more than being a singer or a multi-genre artist, I can also illustrate things or produce things or orchestrate things. I didn’t want to be put in that category because it seemed too small for what I felt like I was capable of. I always listened to every genre, so I didn’t want to be limited by the genre [of rap] because my mind was bigger than that. I love rap, I love melancholy, I love indie.
Do you have an official project out?
I actually have no project out. I have an EP [It Wasn’t Enough], but it was just three songs. I’ve done collectives [Members Only Vol. 1 and 2] with my collective music group, I have a lot of projects coming up, I’m gonna drop an album and a mixtape and I’ve dropped an EP or two, but it’s mainly singles and shit like that.
What are some of the projects you’re dropping when you get out?
I got this really really, really good album called 17. That’s more of an alternative, R&B sound. Then I’ve got this mixtape called I Need Jesus, which is mainly rap and the underground sound I did. So I’m trying to give my fans and anybody that comes in and listens to me everything with the mixtape and album. And then I want to come out with Members Only Vol. 3. People are gonna be really surprised about the shit I drop.
Tell me about Members Only. I know you met Ski Mask the Slump God while you were locked up for a year. How’d you meet Craig Xen and Wifisfuneral?
I met Craig when I went on a tour with $uicideboy$ and pretty much, Craig made me feel super comfortable. Craig has the same mental state that I have. We’re both on the same shit. Craig thinks the same way I do and we just got along, he’s very genuine with me. I like the $uicideboy$, they’re very genuine too, but they’re very busy guys and I wasn’t really able to get as close to them as I wanted, but Craig was an awesome guy. He’s my bro. We have the same mentality.
And how’d you meet Wifisfuneral?
I’ve known him since I was young.
Why’d you decide to form Members Only?
Members Only is a brotherhood. Members Only is a family. I always felt alone, so I built a band of brothers. Members Only was literally just a bunch of people who were taking care of me, keeping me calm so I wouldn’t end up in fucking prison and I pretty much showed them how to chase their dreams. Members Only turned into a community involving my fans, because all my fans I consider Members Only. As far as the artists on it, that’s a difference.
Who are the artists in Members Only?
Right now, I actually ended it. [Laughs] Because I’m reconstructing it, so as of right now, just myself, Ski Mask and Craig Xen. But I’m gonna be recreating it and putting artists I consider very good in it. But as of right now, just myself, Craig Xen and Ski Mask.
Your music’s got a raw edge to it. Why do you make your music sound like that?
It’s real. It’s not masked up. It can’t fit into a box. It’s its own sound, and that’s what I wanted to do, is be an individual, so doing that sound made me an individual. Being as raw as possible or as depressed as possible felt real. I made music for my pain to resonate with people, so you can feel the soul in that shit, you can feel my soul and my energy in that shit.
You produce a bit, right?
To some degree. I usually just chop shit and sample shit. I come up with all my samples, every single one of them, but as far as being able to put bass and snares on shit, I got guys for that. My main producer, his name is actually Stain. He’s a phenomenal guy, I love him. He fits me perfectly. That’s who I’m sticking to. As far as programs, I use things like FL Studio and Logic Pro.
You’ve dealt with a lot of anger and depression in your life. Where do you feel like that stuff comes from?
Being alone. With everything that my mom went through… I can’t stress that enough. I’m very thankful, she did everything she could remotely do as a woman and as I’ve grown older and looked back on everything I’ve said, I’d like to give her a bit more credit. She did everything she remotely could with the circumstances she was given. I didn’t have my dad around. It was just her.
We really have nobody, so I felt like with being placed away from her and then she having to pretty much hustle to help me, it was really being alone and being placed away from people I had any attachment to is what made me what I am. Just being alone breeds a different kind of madness and a different kind of pain, and not receiving a certain amount of love. So being away from my mom and not really having anybody around, I guess I just didn’t receive enough love.
When you started making music, was it therapeutic for you?
Hell the fuck yes. I put all my pain and my insanity and dark thoughts into my music. And putting it out there for other people to listen to made me feel like I’m doing something bad but good at the same time. So it was just a good way for me to put all my crazy ass demonic thoughts out there, and people feed on it. I saw it giving people energy and healing them, so it really multiplied. I really cherish it.
While you’ve been locked up recently, what have you been thinking about?
I found the answer to life. I’m gonna get a lot of ridicule for this in the future, but life is but a perception. The way you perceive things is very important. I’ve learned quite a few things and this may be a really off-topic thing to talk about, but life is but brainpower. Life revolves around your brain. Life is purely the brain and your thought process. Your conscious and subconscious mind rule the world, so what I’ve learned is that nothing else matters. Nothing else matters except what you desire and what your dreams are. The whole purpose of humanity is to create, and the problem is that everybody reaches a certain point of enlightenment, it upsets the balance.
As far as what I accomplish as an artist, I want to leave something good for the youth and generations to come. I want to rebuild this world and change this world to a positive end and take my artistry and really be an artist in terms of building better jails so people don’t feel like they’re living in a fucking psych ward when they’re in here and getting all types of diseases in here. Building foster homes, doing anything I can to give back to the community and help this country in any way possible yet. [Being in here] made me want to be a better person and change my world.
Where are you locked up right now?
Broward County Jail.
How are you finding it in there?
Depressing. But it’s been a learning experience and it’s making my brain stronger.
What have you been doing in there to keep your spirit up?
Meditating. I’ve been reading the Twilight series, but mainly meditating and manifesting.
Do you know when your next court date is?
[Laughs] It’s a surprise. Just know I’m not gonna be out when they expect. I’m gonna be out way sooner than they expect.
A lot of people were talking about this recent Drake snippet where he has a new flow and it sounds like your flow on “Look At Me.” I saw you tweet at Kodak about the snippet. How do you feel about it?
I’m gonna address this whole situation. I have the utmost respect for Drake as an artist. I have respect for everyone as an artist. Now, I’m aware of what Drake does as an artist, I’m aware of what any smart artist does, because it’s one of the laws of the universe. If you study Albert Einstein, he says, “A great artist never reveals their source.”
How do I feel about the whole Drake situation is if he used the flow, by all means… it’s whatever, it’s not that serious. My whole perception has changed. But if Drake is gonna take the flow, and I don’t know if he legitimately did, but if that is the situation, at least reach out to a nigga, help a nigga out in this situation, and then if you want to run off with the flow, then run off with the flow, but I’m going through a lot right now, so it would have been nice if before that happened to me, for Drake to have reached out to me personally. He could have reached out to me personally and spoken to me and it definitely would have been more respectable. But he dropped that preview and it sounded a bit like “Look At Me” and he could be a huge, huge help in this situation to get me out of jail, because I’m facing life. So that’s just how I feel. If you’re gonna take the flow, reach out to me, help me out and then take the flow, because helping me out would have been more important.
But if he took it, kudos, that’s lit, it’s Drake. It doesn’t bother me as much as people think it does, but it’s lit at the end of the day because that’s a huge artist so it just gives me motivation to see how big I’m gonna be. My whole intention is being the biggest artist there ever was or currently is.
Who are some of the labels that have been reaching out to you?
I’ve seen a lot of labels reach out to me. I don’t want to say any names but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m just gonna distribute singles. I’m not gonna do any record label signings, I’m not gonna sign over my fucking albums or anything like that. Initially I was almost going to, but I’m just gonna distribute my singles with certain record labels.
You’ve gotten love from some huge artists recently. DJ Carnage and iLoveMakonnen bigged you up, ASAP Rocky said you’re the hardest rapper coming out of Florida right now. Who are some people that have reached out to you while you’ve been locked up?
I heard Danny Brown reached out to me. By the way, I love Danny Brown. I fuck with “Adderal Admiral.” Lil Bibby. A$AP Rocky. I got an email from Metro Boomin. There are a couple really big names that have reached out that I can’t say because it’s gonna be a surprise, but I saw Lil Uzi say “free XXX” so that was lit. And then Debby Ryan from the Disney channel. [Laughs] Shout out to Debby Ryan, she was playing my shit on Snapchat.
Hearing all the cool names that fuck with me gives me a boost, but honestly there are way bigger names, I just can’t elaborate on them. You guys are gonna be like what the fuck? I got some crazy shit planned.
Whose come to visit you while you’ve been locked up?
My girl, two of my homeboys. That’s really been it. It’s been lonely. I understand people say you’re not alone, but I’ve been going through everything by myself. My mom took a step in and has been helping me. She hasn’t come to see me or anything like that, but she’s been beside me and I be looking out for her, take care of her, throw her money because I love her to death. She understands I’m crazy now but that’s my No. 1 fan. It’s just been my girl and my business partner Garrett. He runs a clothing brand, Revenge Official. That’s my brother, I love that nigga to death.
You post a lot of snippets on your SoundCloud. Do you plan to release the full version of any of those?
No. I have the full versions of them but I’m not gonna release them because I don’t want anybody to hear the full versions and I’m just gonna forever tease my whole fan base. [Laughs] Or I might. You never know.
Did you bounce around Florida growing up?
That’s literally what it was. I never actually totally lived in Pompano, I would always stay in Pompano when my mom would drop me off over there. So the whole thing was I was born in Plantation Hospital and then I ended up moving to North Lauderdale, but I was going from North Lauderdale to Pompano and back. And when I got kicked out from staying with my mom, I went to go stay with my grandma. So I never actually had my own crib over there [in Pompano], we never actually lived there. That’s just where I was as a jit growing up.
Do you have any kind of relationship with Kodak Black?
No, I do not. I’ve got a friend that’s actually in his group, I won’t say the name. As far as a personal relationship, I wouldn’t say I know him. But he’s from my city Broward County and I support what that nigga does thoroughly. As far as agreeing with everything he does, no, but I support that nigga thoroughly because he’s from where I’m from and whoever comes from where I’m from, I’m gonna support thoroughly. He’s from Broward, I’m from Broward, salute to that nigga.
What are you trying to do when you get out?
I’m gonna be doing a lot of investing and I really want to invest in a teenage therapy where every teenager that’s happy talks to another teenager that’s depressed. Because I feel like it’s really hard for kids to go speak to a therapist because they can’t relate to them. I want to do a teenage hotline where teens contemplating suicide can call the hotline and talk to other teenagers.
I want to give a donation to the foster homes in my state and give them PS4s and TVs and shit. I’m basically gonna try to run up my money as much as possible and give back to the community. I want to take my mom and grandma to Hawaii. My great-grandma, she’s getting very old, so I want to take her out and do something really nice before she passes. Pain resonated and I just want to show everybody they’re not alone.
What’s the status of your case?
There’s no evidence in both cases. For a conviction, it all comes down to hard evidence, and it’s sad to say I’m in jail with no evidence in any case. Broward gets paid to prosecute so that’s why they’re been holding on to me—for money. It’s not for right or wrong, it’s not because I committed anything. They’re getting money from me being in here and that’s why they’re holding on to me and a couple other inmates.
I want to get a bunch of people start a movement. Broward gets paid to prosecute, and I want to do everything in my power to end that. I want to change it to where they only get paid if they win cases. Because they’re holding on to people who literally have not committed crimes. I just saw it happen the other day. A guy was in jail for three to four months, he didn’t commit the crime and they arrested the wrong guy. He pretty much got fucked over in the process of that.
That’s actually what happened in my Broward case, they have the wrong person. I can’t go into detail, but it’s not me who committed the crime. Even though the victim in the case pretty much came to court and was trying to say it to the judge, he told my lawyer and he told the prosecutor that, but because the judge wasn’t there, it didn’t get dropped. That’s as far as what I know, the victim is saying it wasn’t me and it was someone else. Florida is fucked up, the Florida judicial system is very fucked up.
How do you feel about the police in Florida?
I want to say this as appropriately as possible, because there’s good police and there’s bad police. Everybody down here makes arrests for money. There’s no right or wrong down here. Now, that’s Broward County. It’s not about whether you’re a threat to society. I’ve actually seen quite a few good police officers in Miami-Dade, but a majority of police officers in Broward are making arrests for money. You don’t have to do anything to get arrested anymore. You could be 13, smoke weed and they’re bringing you to jail for the money. It’s not about right or wrong anymore, the society down here is fucked. There has to be a change.
How would you change that?
As far as hearsay arrests, people getting arrested with no evidence, that needs to be thrown out. Holding someone in jail for over 30 days with no evidence, they should be let go. As far as judges rescheduling and pushing court dates back for months, that needs to be changed. People’s lives need to be considered. You can’t keep taking time away from people, taking people away from their kids and family.
I was in here with someone whose mother died while they were in there. Can you imagine the feeling of being in here and your fucking mom dies and you see it on the fucking news? And you could not end up being found guilty? That’s disgusting. And these prosecutors don’t give a fuck. As long as they’re eating and making money, they don’t give a fuck, and it’s sad.
I need over 50,000 people willing to protest in the streets to end prosecutors being paid to prosecute, because the state attorney’s office is running with that shit and people in here are sick and demented.
What’s your relationship with Denzel Curry like right now?
Me and Denzel are okay. He called me, he apologized, he came to my court date. With the allegations…. he pulled a fuck nigga move. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. I ended up showing everybody that the allegations with the girl who they said was allegedly pregnant, who is not pregnant, that I allegedly beat, who I did not beat, I put all the evidence online showing that she was lying and scamming the fuck out of everybody.
She was saying she had a fracture in her brain, a fracture in her skull that was gonna make her blind and she needed $30,000, that wasn’t true. She was saying she was pregnant, that wasn’t true. She was saying I beat her, that wasn’t true. She got beat the fuck up by someone she was staying with and then came down here, got beat the fuck up, and then I let her stay with my friends.
Pretty much, [Denzel] hit up the girl and asked her if she’s alright and does she need help. I was a very good friend of Denzel and he did not consult me before he consulted the girl, so he didn’t get a chance to see whether I did the shit or not before he consulted the girl. Me and him won’t be the closest of friends due to the fact that I see where his loyalty lies, but me and him are okay now.
I saw her GoFundMe was put up and then removed.
Yeah, because everybody figured out she was lying. She was saying she needed surgery, there was nothing wrong with her. She was saying she was pregnant, but she’s not pregnant. It’s not by me. She wasn’t pregnant when I was with her. That whole situation is just fucked up. I got arrested on some fucked up charges. She stole $13,000 from me, nobody knows that. She stole $13,000 from me and fucked my friend. I just didn’t put it out there because I didn’t want to give that shit any power. Now I notice when I speak on people, it gives their names popularity and power and it helps them. She fucked me over.
What artists are you listening to these days?
New rappers? Nobody. Artists overall? Nirvana, The Weeknd and Ski Mask The Slump God. That’s it. I’m not fucking with anybody else. I’m an old head when it comes to listening to certain things, so I listen to more old shit than the new stuff. I feel like when it comes to the new stuff, I feel like I’m the most innovative as far as artistry in my generation. I feel like nobody else is meeting my standard right now. If you’ve thoroughly gone through my music… nobody’s seeing me in my generation.
How do you feel like “Look At Me” blowing up like it has?
If you think it’s big now, it’s gonna be huge. I knew when I recorded it. I’m not an egotistical person and I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I knew it was gonna be huge, like with “can’t keep my dick in my pants,” I knew the kids were gonna love it, it’s a sound for the kids. I knew it was a hit the moment I recorded it. I expected that.
Why do you think kids gravitate to your music so much?
Because I actually give a fuck about these kids. And I mean it when I say I give a fuck about these kids. Giving certain fans money, talking to them when they’ve been depressed, answering all their questions, Persicoping shit and responding to their tweets, responding to their DMs when they message me borderline about to commit suicide, saving them. I give a fuck about these kids.
I really understand how the fuck it feels to be mentally alone. You could be in a room with a million people, but you can still be alone. And some of these kids have families that just don’t understand there’s something going on in their head bigger than everything that’s around them. I understand that feeling and I understand that feeling can drive you to the edge. I will do everything in my power to be a positive role model to these kids, because now everything I do, I’ll be held accountable for. Even if my material is vulgar or I’m seen as a bad person, as long as these kids are happy and I’m giving them something to rage to instead of being depressed, that’s all that matters to me.
How’d it feel to see all your fans show up to your court date back in January?
All of them couldn’t get in because the courtroom’s so small, they weren’t letting people in. I guess I packed it out, they packed it out. I love them. There’s no other way to say it. I love my fans. It’s remarkable sometimes and I’m very grateful, I’m very thankful for them. It was great to see the courtroom hectic and shit. It made everything a little more harder, but I’m thankful.
What’s one message you want to send to your fans?
The law of attraction is the power of your subconscious mind. Anything you can visualize or anything you believe and you give your faith to, you can create. The bad thing about the law of attraction is if you think bad things and you have too much fear within your brain, you’re gonna attract all of these things. Use the law of attraction to your advantage because they do not want you using your brain and you need to become insane to use the law of attraction. Do not put your energy into anything bad that you would not want coming back to you, and exercise the karmic cycle. Anything you give out will come back.
When I get out, I will give all of my fans and this generation information they’re not supposed to receive. The general population is not supposed to receive certain information. I’m only giving my opinion and I don’t mean to disrespect anybody, but religion is for the small-minded. All religions believe in higher powers. So if you’re gonna be a good person, be a good person. If you’re gonna be a bad person, be a bad person. It does not fucking matter. Nobody’s opinion matters. Nothing matters. Anything you put on this planet, it will stay here. If life is infinite and there’s the slightest possibility that you have to come back to this miserable fucking planet, I’d stop putting all this horrible fucking shit out here and make sure you live your life happy. Happiness is all that fucking matters. If it makes you happy, it’s all that matters, and you will struggle and struggle and struggle, but happiness will come in the end. That is my word and I promise I will help everyone find happiness or I will at least help everyone find an answer and a purpose.
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