Installation. Temple of Color and Sound. 2018.
BEFORE YOU PROCEED ONE THING:
- This isn’t a read invested in the veracity of the devil’s existence. There are forces in the world–one of those forces is evil. Over the course of human history this force has incarnated as all number of entities and energies…
Barely a week after XXXtentacion’s death and twenty-four hours after its release, the single and visual for “sad!” is already breaking streaming records. I have wanted to write about XXX for a long long time, even before his death, but there is so much about this person’s life and death that is very hard to approach in print.
- Jahseh Onfroy is dead. Prematurely and violently. I don’t want to disrespect or trivialize someone’s death. Not the individual necessarily but the sacred and terrifying process of a human being transitioning from one form to another. I thought about pitching something to a mainstream publication, but that honestly felt gross.
- A lot of this story triggers me personally. I spent a year being abused-loved/loved-abused by a musician, who I think saw a lot of themselves in XXX. Was it a genuine identification? Or a genuine identification with something that seemed to be “working”? I don’t know, these days its hard to tell. In either case, he introduced me to XXX’s music (Look at Me, what a moment of manic joy.) ***Never has curing a man’s misery been my ministry, but there I found myself locked in a room with a man trying to figure out how to go viral.
- Trying to write about XXX makes segregating the planes impossible. What do I mean by this: *There are laws and truths governing the physical plane and also the ethers. Some of these laws and truths are mutually exclusive, some are intersecting and co-apply, others may outright diverge or conflict.
- Because of the explicit esoteric content in XXX’s body of work and his last video, I can’t just write as a music or social critic or feminist (sometime) professor of English Literature (my students read a lot in Freshman Comp about social media algorithms and so-called “sad rap.”) Because of XXX’s directness and maybe because of how is art entered my life, I have to write as spirit, as student of the mysteries and wanderer of the earth. And that is a lot. That subject matter, the spiritual or esoteric, I have never addressed in print. I make my shrines, I usually let them speak for themselves. To write about XXX I have to talk about scary shit, like the devil, in print.
Is the occult, daemon, angelology/demonology imagery and thematics present in XXX’s work partially marketing manipulation? Sure. Of course XXX, his label, his team recognize his audience’s affinity for all things “dark”, they know Illuminati “conspiracy” theory and “hotep” niggas have kept YouTube relevant on the street –and now there is IGTV debuting…So marketing yes, but capitalism in the esoterics of money is equivalent to what entity or energy?..Get where I’m going with this one?
The fluid transitions and conversations between Christ-like entities and Luiciferian aesthetics and energies is presented unironically in “sad!” It defies skepticism in an unsettlingly visceral way. XXX’s daemon/demon is named. There is a difference between the two, the line is thin, one can become the other but can it work the other way around? Can you come back from the “agreement”? That is perhaps the video’s question and the question that might have caused XXX his life?
And so here, it gets personal again. In that room where I first heard XXX’s music, Some things happened to me in there that harmed me. They changed me. See the earlier illustration. Have you ever tried to love a maniac? Has a maniac ever loved you?
It is an ugly reality of the physical realm that people fetishize mania in beautiful men and mostly devour it in beautiful women.
A few days before his death, I was looking for this IG video of Virgil Abloh playing “Look at Me” at his show with a caption declaring its validity and its impact . The energy behind that song was kind of undeniable despite its kind of banal, vapid lyrics. It was something else, maybe not something good, or maybe it was (who knows, daemon or demon) that made the song compelling.
When I heard the news of XXX’s death I was sad. I saw people were circulating videos of his body, blindly defending his actions in life, celebrating his death–I felt pretty sick about where we are as a “culture.” Not that I begrudge either “side” their private emotions — but there is something strange about the display of them that technology provides. Every day our feelings of organic joy and pain, and by extension–empathy are being eroded and replaced with the whims and commands of various algorithms. The veil is thin. The ethical use of your energy from whatever end of the spectrum is really imperative in this time.
Niggas will “like” you right into an early grave. Then use your dead body to inject some feeling back into the game. Cold world.
It’s show business and the business doesn’t stop.
Rest in Peace.
I loved you, but I couldn’t feed you.