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How XXXTentacion's dark blend of emo, drill and rap won over a generation

Amber Peake June 18, 2022
Final man wanted in XXXTentacionâs murder arrested, deputies say
Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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Today (18 June) marks four years since rapper XXXTentacion’s death.

The multi-genre artist died in 2018 at just 20 years old – he was shot in an apparent robbery outside a luxury motorbike showroom in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

We take look back at the late artist’s career and how his dark blend of emo, drill and rap won over a generation. 

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XXXTentacion’s music career kicked off in 2013

XXXTentacion – real name Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy – was born in Plantation, Florida. He grew up in South Florida and first began releasing music to SoundCloud in 2013. 

His first release to the music site was a track entitled News/Flock. However, as per Complex, the track is no longer available online.

The artist found mainstream success following the release of the song Look At Me! which initially dropped on SoundCloud in 2015. It was later released as a single and, in 2017, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 95. 

Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images

XXXTentacion’s music inspirations drew from multiple genres

His music was considered a melange of different genres, from emo to drill and from rap to lo-fi. Some of the late artist’s musical inspirations were Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Kanye West, Eminem and Lana Del Ray. 

Reflecting on his inspirations, he once told XXL: “I’m really into multi-genre things that aren’t just based around rapping itself. I’m more inspired by artists in other genres besides rap.”

In a 2017 interview with Genius, XXXTentacion said he thought of himself as an ‘artist’ as he discussed how his sound incorporates a variety of genres including “alternative rock” and “melancholy indie” as well as “old-school lyrical boom-bap rap” and “new age rap”. 

Reflecting on why he liked mixing up his sound, he added: “I try to switch up my style as much as possible because that’s what’s really made me.”

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Dark blend of emo, drill and rap won over fans

As well as mainstream success XXXTentacion went on to amass a dedicated and loyal following, who related to his emotive music that included themes of alienation and depression. 

In a Pitchfork article looking into XXXTentacion’s fan base, one fan explained they “heard” their thoughts in his music. Another fan told the publication it was the “music’s bareness” that drew him in. 

As explained by the New York Times, as well as his emotionally vulnerable music, it was his “incendiary persona” that also earned XXXTentacion his following. 

Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic
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Rapper’s success continued after his death

Since XXXTentacion‘s passing, his estate has released a couple of projects posthumously including Skins, which was released in late 2018, and Bad Vibes Forever the following year. 

The latest posthumous release was compilation album Look At Me: The Album, which dropped last month. 

According to E! News, a year after his death the rapper had sold 22 million records – he had sold about one million before his passing.

In February 2022, his 2018 album ? surpassed Drake’s Scorpion as the most-streamed hip-hop album. He also still has a monthly Spotify listening of almost 40 million fans. 

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Amber is an entertainment journalist with a love for anything showbiz, celeb or reality TV. After graduating with a degree in Journalism at Brunel University she became a Showbiz Reporter at Express.co.uk. Having written for both HITC and The Focus, Amber is now a staff writer for The Focus covering the latest celeb and entertainment trends.