Whether Look At Me: XXXTENTACION is dealing with Jahseh Onfroy’s domestic violence and mental health issues or highlighting the highs and lows of XXXTENTACION’s career as an artist, this documentary isn’t afraid to show us a raw and unflinching look at the truth.
“Everybody was so excited to see his next step in the transformation that we never got to see.” That line from XXXTENTACION’s manager, Soloman Sobande, stood out to the most from this film. His rise to fame was relatively quick, and once he reached it, he almost ruined it. Just as he was trying to turn his life around, he was killed at the age of just 20.
His career lasted all of two years, but it is pretty incredible to see what he was able to achieve in that short amount of time. He was really at the peak of his career, and his star was rising even more. That’s what makes his story all the more heartbreaking.
A controversial figure in music and pop culture to say the least, he wasn’t alone in that. But that shouldn’t be the defining part of his life. Following his death, it became popular to make a mockery out of his life on social media and to ridicule his legacy as an artist, and I think that was so unfair to him as a person, especially following his untimely death.
Director Sabaah Folayan made sure to remain as impartial and balanced between the different emotions that XXXTENTACION provokes from a person. I think this documentary benefited immensely by having a Black woman at the helm. This project required that specific point of view, especially when it comes to how director Sabaah Folayan handled the interviews with Jahseh’s mother Cleo and ex-girlfriend Geneva. There were some incredibly intense, intimate details shared in these moments, and it served the doc greatly.
Separating art from the artist is not a new debate. I mean, just in the last few months we’ve seen this being discussed when talking about artists like Kanye West, Morgan Wallen, and Travis Scott.
Having said that, XXXTENTACION’s behaviors in his personal life, particularly in regards to his relationship with his girlfriend Geneva, are vile, monstrous, and jarring. In the artist’s very own words, “There is most definitely a difference between Jahseh Onfroy and XXXTENTACION.”
Hearing from his mother, she doesn’t shy away from that at all. She’s entirely open and upfront, almost surprisingly honest, about her son. It would be really easy to make a documentary about a loved one that only painted them in the most beautiful, positive light, but she chose to bring out the darker, less frequently discussed parts of his past in order to spread awareness and ignite a conversation around it.
X talks about how he wanted to form a villainous character through the art he was creating, but the line between artist and reality started to blur when he became the villain himself.
Jahseh’s girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, was the victim of domestic abuse and got herself two black eyes and dozens of bruises with a toxic fanbase that demonized her. XXXTENTACION got an album cover-worthy mugshot out of the deal and a cult-like following of a fanbase that would come to his defense at all times.
XXX’s friends and Members Only collaborators reveal that they played into the algorithm by creating fake Twitter accounts to reply and stir up trouble in the comments to drive up engagement. There was a method to all this Internet madness, regardless of how questionable the morals were coming from. Just like we have seen with artists manipulating TikTok to build up hype around their upcoming releases, the social media hype machine dates back even further than that.
At once a documentary on Jahseh’s life, the doc equally dives into the SoundCloud rapper era of music. But was XXXTENTACION a rapper? Yes. Was he just a rapper? Of course not. He was also an R&B artist and a musical visionary. One thing he definitely isn’t is a role model, though.
Look At Me: XXXTENTACION is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.