XXXTentacion, was a highly influential and controversial figure in the world of hip-hop and music.
Although he tragically passed away in 2018, his impact on the industry and his unique artistic expression continue to resonate with fans worldwide.
One aspect of XXXTentacion’s artistry that has drawn attention is his connection to Afrofuturism, a genre that blends elements of science fiction, African culture, and social commentary.
I. Visual Aesthetic: Embracing Anime and Beyond
One of the most striking aspects of XXXTentacion’s artistic expression was his visually captivating and diverse aesthetic. He drew inspiration from various sources, including anime and surreal imagery, which contributed to his Afrofuturist appeal.
- Anime Influence: In his music videos, album artwork, and promotional materials, XXXTentacion frequently incorporated elements of anime. Anime, with its distinct visual style and narrative complexities, aligns with Afrofuturism’s futuristic and imaginative nature. By integrating anime visuals, XXXTentacion blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, inviting audiences to explore futuristic worlds that transcend conventional boundaries.
- Surreal Imagery: Beyond anime, XXXTentacion’s visuals often delved into the surreal, featuring dream-like sequences, psychedelic landscapes, and abstract symbols. These elements create an otherworldly atmosphere, echoing Afrofuturism’s tendency to challenge traditional representations and envision alternative realities.
II. Lyrical Themes: From Pain to Liberation
XXXTentacion’s lyrics were raw, introspective, and often dealt with themes of pain, mental health struggles, and the pursuit of liberation. His lyricism touched on experiences of poverty, violence, and social inequality, all of which resonate with Afrofuturism’s examination of historical and present-day Black experiences.
- Emotional Vulnerability: In tracks like “Jocelyn Flores” and “Sad!”, XXXTentacion bared his soul, sharing his emotional turmoil and vulnerability. This openness about his own struggles mirrors the Afrofuturist emphasis on exploring personal and collective experiences in the face of adversity.
- Liberation and Identity: Afrofuturism often celebrates the reclamation of identity and liberation from oppressive systems. In songs like “I Spoke to the Devil in Miami, He Said Everything Would Be Fine,” XXXTentacion grappled with themes of identity and self-discovery, reflecting the Afrofuturist exploration of the Black experience beyond the limitations of time and space.
III. Production Techniques: Experimental Soundscapes
XXXTentacion’s production techniques further align with Afrofuturism’s experimental and boundary-pushing nature. He blended genres, manipulated soundscapes, and incorporated futuristic elements into his music.
- Genre Fusion: XXXTentacion’s music transcended traditional genre boundaries, blending hip-hop, R&B, Afropunk, which included elements of rock. This genre fusion mirrors Afrofuturism’s approach to mix and merge various artistic expressions, creating a sonic palette that defies categorization.
- Futuristic Sound: Throughout his discography, XXXTentacion experimented with electronic and distorted sounds, creating a futuristic and otherworldly auditory experience. This exploration of sound mirrors Afrofuturism’s interest in using technology and innovation to reimagine Black culture and identity.
IV. Impact and Legacy: Afrofuturism in Contemporary Hip-Hop
XXXTentacion’s Afrofuturist approach to his artistry left a profound impact on the hip-hop and music communities. As an artist who was unafraid to delve into complex themes and challenge societal norms, he paved the way for other contemporary hip-hop artists to explore Afrofuturism in their work.
- Influence on Visual Aesthetics: XXXTentacion’s use of anime visuals and surreal imagery has inspired subsequent artists to incorporate similar elements into their music videos and artwork. This expansion of Afrofuturist aesthetics in hip-hop continues to shape the genre’s visual identity.
- Social Commentary: Just like Afrofuturism, XXXTentacion’s music acted as a form of social commentary, addressing issues such as violence, mental health, and racial inequality. This legacy continues as modern hip-hop artists use their platform to engage in meaningful conversations about pressing societal concerns.
XXXTentacion’s artistry was a multifaceted and thought-provoking exploration of pain, identity, and liberation, drawing from Afrofuturism’s tradition of blending futuristic themes with elements of African culture and history.
From his visually captivating anime-inspired visuals to his emotionally charged lyrics and experimental production techniques, he embraced Afrofuturism as a means to connect with audiences on a profound level.
While his life may have been tragically cut short, XXXTentacion’s legacy lives on, inspiring future generations of artists to explore Afrofuturism and use their music as a platform for social and cultural change.