[Update: 10/26/2017, 6:31 p.m.] On Wednesday night, XXXTentation posted a story on Instagram stating he is “terminating” his deal with Capitol Records and is open to working with new business partners. Variety also reported that the the alleged deal was just a “distribution pact” and that initial reports “overstated” how much the deal was worth.
On Thursday, October 19, Billboard reported, citing multiple sources, that rapper Jahseh “XXXTentacion” Onfroy signed a $6 million deal with Caroline Records, an independent label distributed by Capitol Records. That wasn’t the only story Billboard ran on the south Florida rapper yesterday, whose name cannot escape headlines. The magazine also reported on how the music industry is reacting—or better yet, not reacting—to the disturbing domestic violence charges facing the rapper.
Last month, Pitchfork published a detailed report of the accusations leveled at XXXTentacion by his ex-girlfriend, outlining a harrowing pattern of physical and mental abuse. The rapper currently awaits trial, which begins December 11. Onfroy pled not guilty to the charges—but the allegations are tough to stomach, even for an industry that goes out of its way to “separate the art from the artist.”
Billboard’s story from yesterday is titled “Ahead of XXXTentacion’s Domestic Violence Trial, Can the Industry Focus On the Music?” The resounding answer from the numerous industry executives quoted in the piece seems to be “Yes.” Here are a few quotes from the unnamed execs:
“If I felt like what was driving the interest was the conflict [surrounding his personal behavior], I would be conflicted. But the music is really powerful, and in my business, that’s what it’s about.”
“We’re the last people that need to respond to [accusations of violence]. There’s everybody from families to the government to the local police. Do I think that it’s right for someone to beat someone up? No. Should that person be taken to justice? Yes. The rest takes care of itself.”
“In this business you have to put up with a lot more than you’re comfortable with.”
The various quotes showed there appeared to be little concern over Onfroy’s charges and instead, a desire to put one’s attention back on the music. Dan Rys, who wrote the piece, noted how Atlantic Records released two albums by Kodak Black, which hit on the top five of the charts, despite him facing his own sexual assault trial. Drawing comparisons across genres, Rys also mentioned that the indie rock duo PWR BTTM were dropped from their label and management once allegations of abuse came out about band member Ben Hopkins. The message appears to be that if an artist can proves to be successful, which XXXTentacion’s No. 2 album debut suggested, then it’s still worth the risk—but if the artist is still on the rise, then best to cut them loose.
As the allegations against Harvey Weinstein continue to mount, it seems the music industry, in light of XXXTentacion’s reported deal—we reached out for comment, doesn’t feel enough pressure to do any major self-reflection when it comes to supporting abusive artists.