“What is real will prosper” — XXXTENTACION’s motto


XXXTENTACION is blowing up at an incredible rate — faster than any rapper in the country. Over the course of the last two years he has left his mark all over Twitter, Twitter, and SoundCloud (282 thousand followers and counting). His combative, raw, and decidedly lo-fi musical aesthetic and tendency to *bare all* on social media, (he once posted a video of himself having sex with a porn star in a car; another time, he confessed that he was “addicted to hentai”) coupled with his real-life propensity for breaking the law, have given him the unmistakable air of authenticity.

There is also the air of mystery. X has an ethnically ambiguous given name (Jahseh Onfroy) and complexion (he is of Egyptian, Indian, German, Jamaican, & Italian descent). He has never revealed his age (court documents reveal that he turned 19 earlier this month). He has released zero projects, zero music videos, and, until recently, done only one interview, an 80-minute marathon with No Jumper. (No Jumper host Adam22 is now his manager.)

But something else has been brewing since the beginning of 2017. After garnering 700 thousand views in its first eight months online, X’s No Jumper interview has accumulated nearly 700 thousand additional views in the past month alone. The reason for the increase in his popularity and notoriety is obvious: he is currently in jail, awaiting trial to face charges for savagely beating his pregnant girlfriend. X and his fans vehemently argue that he is innocent. The line between prosperous career and cautionary tale has never appeared so razor-thin.


XXXTENTACION (pronounced XXX-tentación) grew up in Pompano Beach (home of Kodak Black), North Lauderdale, Lauderhill, and other communities around Broward County. At age 6, he plunged a glass shard into a man whom he believed was threatening his mom. He got expelled middle school for punting the mouth of a kid who had made fun of his mom. He has a complicated with relationship with his mother, who kicked him out of the house for delinquent behavior when he was barely a teenager. “Mom just had it hard, bro,” X told No Jumper. “Raising a kid was not her priority.”

According to his own description, X was living the life of a “young savage” — correctional houses, grandma’s house, robbing houses. He built up a formidable rap sheet: armed robbery, armed burglary, possession of a firearm, resisting arrest, three charges of grand theft, oxycodone possession. Cops found hollow-tipped bullets in his gun. He spent a year in jail. There he met Ski Mask the Slump God, a talented rapper with whom he quickly formed a close bond. Upon their release they teamed up with Wifisfuneral and Craig Xen to form the rap crew known as Members Only.


X was musically inclined from a young age. He told his mom he wanted to do music, so she signed him up for choir. “They tried to teach me notes,” he told No Jumper. “I hated fucking notes. I hated anything that made me feel dumb.” He was kicked out after he punched a fellow choir member in the middle of a performance.

When asked about his favorite artists growing up, X cites rappers like Tupac Shakur and bands like Papa Roach. He is most frequently found rapping aggressively over heavily distorted, unmixed beats. But overall his style does not exist at a convergence of his influences, but rather as a disparate approach that is almost experimental in nature. He flirts with the atmospheric R&B of Toronto  (“I Don’t Want To Do This Anymore”) and the dusty boom-bap of ’90s-era New York City (“Riot”). “King” abruptly transitions from a brooding, Radiohead-esque ballad to full-on screaming. “Look At Me,” his most popular song, has recently been thrust into the spotlight after Drake debuted a song with a suspiciously similar flow. The Drake co-sign is powerful, no matter what form it takes.  

Legal troubles

X was arrested three times in 2016: first in July on charges of robbery and aggravated battery with deadly weapon, then in October for aggravated battery of a pregnant victim and false imprisonment, then in December for violating his pre-trial agreement. Fans hoped he would be freed after a January 19th court date, but two days before the hearing authorities discovered new evidence and pushed it back to April.

On a since-deleted GoFundMe page, X’s ex-girlfriend claimed that he beat her for cheating on him; that he fractured her nose and jaw, caused nerve damage, and left her blind in one eye. X and those in his corner claim that she is lying; that she was jumped, using the incident for money. They claim that she tried to bribe his mother and cite this document as evidence that she was never pregnant to begin with. 


X does not shy away from violence. In one video, a foe flashes a gun and a shirtless X runs up and urges him to “bust me.” Though his frame is slight — 5’6”, 120 pounds — he is ferocious with the hands and appears to win most fights he’s in — the ones that get uploaded to the internet, anyway. He once brutally beat a small-time rapper with whom he quarreled over payment for a verse. Indeed, he has burned his fair share of bridges with other artists. He has “Fuck [SpaceGhost]Purpp” tattooed on his wrist.


Even if you’re not counting Drake’s alleged swaggerjacking, X has received numerous other co-signs from high-profile artists. DJ Carnage and iLoveMakonnen tweeted “Free XXXTENTACION.” Ugly God wrote that “XXXTENTACION’s music makes me want to jump myself.” Lil Bibby tweeted the opening bars of “Look At Me.” A$AP Rocky recited from memory the same bars on Instagram Live and called X the “hardest nigga in Florida.” If that’s not a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.