February 22, 2019

XXXTentacion Signed $10 Million Album Deal Before His Death

XXXTentacion, a native of South Florida born Jahseh Onfroy, was in many ways the most representative artist — “the zenith point,” Mr. Shami said — of the loose-knit SoundCloud rap scene. Though he was billed primarily as a rapper, XXXTentacion also dabbled in genres like punk and emo, favoring a lo-fi aesthetic that came from recording at home instead of in professional studios. With his free releases, he gained an audience of millions before most traditional gatekeepers even knew he existed.

But while building that audience, XXXTentacion had repeated conflicts with the law. Bob Celestin, a veteran entertainment lawyer, began working with him in late 2016, while the rapper was jailed on charges including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, his former girlfriend.

“The first time I met him, he was in shackles,” Mr. Celestin said.

With XXXTentacion’s self-released song “Look at Me!” exploding online, he began to be courted by major-label scouts offering six-figure deals, Mr. Celestin recalled. The rapper rejected those more traditional deals in favor of a one-album contract with Empire that offered a lower upfront payment but gave him full ownership and a higher royalty rate.

“He wanted to control his destiny,” said Mr. Celestin, who declined to comment on any further details of XXXTentacion’s deals.

“17,” released in August 2017, opened at No. 2 on the Billboard chart, just as graphic details about XXXTentacion’s legal case began to trickle out in the news media, sparking a debate among critics and fans — but also raising his profile. With his streaming numbers soaring, XXXTentacion soon signed another lucrative deal for a single album, with Caroline, a Universal distribution arm, for a reported $6 million.

Along the way, he earned rapturous praise from the hip-hop elite.

“Listen to this album if you feel anything,” Kendrick Lamar wrote of “17” on Twitter last year, adding: “Raw thoughts.” Mr. Lamar’s team was among those who lobbied Spotify to roll back its conduct policy, returning XXXTentacion to influential playlists.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/arts/music/xxxtentacion-death-album.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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