A Reflection on Blind Fandom and XXXTENTACION’s 17
by Jordan Scott-Ruiz on September 29, 2017
Posted in: Other
CW: violence, abuse
Artistry and personal behavior are inseparable. I used to convince myself that the way an artist
behaves behind closed doors has nothing to do with their music. I’d like to still believe this so I
could enjoy R. Kelly as much as I used to—but I can’t. I want to listen to Chris Brown without
feeling guilty. I want to listen to a Rick Ross track without his rapey “U.O.E.N.O.” verse echoing
in my head. Now, I want to listen XXXTENTACION’s 17 without his domestic abuse victim’s
horrific testimony reverberating through the album’s 21-minute runtime.
But it’s not possible—at least not for me. I’m not going to get into the fact that the album
itself—as well as its promotion and cover art—are a blatant fetishization of depression and
suicide. I’ll focus instead on the fact that XXXTENTACION stands accused of domestic
violence, battery, and kidnapping, all while his rabid fanbase devours his new project. The
details of the abuse are harrowing.
After reading the gruesome testimony, I browsed social media to see how a few friends (who are
hardcore X fans) reacted to it. It was pretty sickening: some of the typical victim-blaming, a bit
of the let’s-wait-for-the-trial, but no reflection or condemnation.
What shocked me most, though, is that nobody mentioned that violence is such an integral part
of X’s music. His concerts are rife with violent incidents, so much so that certain venues won’t
even consider booking him. (Joey Bada$$ added X last-minute as a featured artist for one of his
shows and the venue nearly cancelled.) X’s music is dense, introspective and full of genuine
emotion and passion; it’s packed with self-reflection and self-loathing as much as it is with
ardent screaming. Fans praise his sadder tracks (such as “Teeth,” “Jocelyn Flores,”
“WingRiddenAngel,” and “I don’t wanna do this anymore”) for their emotional sincerity. So
why are tracks like “Young Bratz,” “#iloveitwhentheyrun,” and “Look at Me” taken so
unseriously, or interpretted as ironic? These tracks reveal as much about X’s belligerence as his
others reveal about his sadness.
This is blind fandom: we become so consumed by music’s emotional resonance that we ignore
the artist themself. We compromise our own moral boundaries for the music’s sake.
I won’t be participating in that willful blindness anymore. I will listen to the victims because
every time we give an artist’s violent behavior a pass, we tacitly support their crimes. I didn’t
need to hear Rihanna’s horrifying account of her abuse to know I should stop supporting Chris
Brown, but once that account became public, continuing to support him became inexcusable.
And as I see it now—after reading X’s victim’s testimony—there is no reason to stand by him.
Though I hope he can go to court and clear this up, and I hope that the alleged victim did not
actually experience the horrors detailed in her testimony, right now, there’s no reason to give
him the benefit of the doubt. However this trial shakes out for X, the fact remains that he is
simply the latest in a long line of artists whose fans believe artistry absolves violence.
Responsible consumerism shouldn’t be confined to the grocery store. Do better, y’all. Make the
unacceptable unacceptable again.