The “Stans” and Public Perception of XXXTentacion

Michael Pasquella, Editor

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There is a growing trend in music culture, the trend of the “stan”.  A “stan” is a fan obsessed with a certain musical artist. Of course, there have always been super fans of musical groups, but it is much easier to identify these crazed fans as they bond and relate their shared love all over social media.  Some of the most iconically crazy “stanbases” today include Ariana Grande stans, Kanye West stans, and Beyonce stans. These people are more than willing to defend and support their favorite musical artist at any inclination on Twitter.

But this idea of stanning over a certain artist had me thinking about one with an extremely devoted and passionate fanbase.  These are the stans of the late XXXTentacion, real name Jahseh Onfroy.

This would surprise many people at first because from the surface you could look at the criminal charges XXXTentacion has racked up over his shortened career and question why anyone would support the clearly disturbed young man.  His breakout single, “Look at Me!” blew up while Jahseh was in prison, and when he walked out a free man, he also walked into fame. Jahseh came out of prison ready to take on the world, and seemingly he didn’t leave his anger behind.  

He came out of prison, guns-a-blazin’, accusing the current most popular rapper in the world, Drake, of stealing his flow on his song “KMT.”  Drake denied these accusations. Jahseh was then involved in an altercation in the street with the Migos. Weeks after, Jahseh was sucker punched and knocked out on stage while giving a performance by an affiliate of rapper Rob $tone.  His only response was “You should have killed me.”

A lot was happening very fast for the young man, and this aggressive life narrative attracted many edgy young fans to the rapper.  But they were all thrown for a loop when he released his debut album, “17”, in August 2017. Jahseh had released mostly intense, heavy bass, metal-infused rap music to this point in his career.  But his debut album was a 22-minute emo-folk/hip-hop album(that’s the best way one could describe it.) It was not a fun album whatsoever, as the slow songs dove into distressing material such as suicide and depression, the exact opposite of his archives.  

The album immediately clicked with fans, and I credit it as the moment that they turned into stans. At first, I was surprised at how well the album was received but psychologically it makes sense.  Think of the demographics of Jahseh’s stans. The youth who indulged in the ear-numbing and intense music may have a correlation to an inner depressive nature themselves.  

A study by the American Psychological Association found in an analysis of 551 college students found “significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression among listeners of heavy metal/hard rock music, as compared with non-listeners.”  So when these fans of Jahseh were exposed to the vulnerable and depressive album that was 17, they could have been given an outlet for their anger and sadness, along with a hero to stand behind.

Jahseh kept contact with his fans through Instagram live streams, where he gave life advice and talked philosophy with them.  He had seemingly given up his aggressive personality for a more genuine and thoughtful one. He became a charity addict towards the end of his life, and his former aggressive nature had seemingly disappeared.   And his fanbase began to treat Jahseh as a “misunderstood hero” of sorts.

When Jahseh was unexpectedly robbed and shot dead in June, his stans unified even deeper.  Fans flocked to memorialize the musician. The day after his death, his single “SAD!” broke Taylor Swift’s Spotify record for most streams in one day.  He has hundreds, if not thousands, of active fan pages on Instagram which shows his cultish following is still alive.

An independent XXXTentacion memorial on June 19th, organized by internet personality Adam22, was broken up by police in riot gear who fired rubber bullets. Over 1000 people were in attendance in the streets of Miami.

Mass media continues to suppress coverage of Jahseh, due to his gruesome criminal record, but that does not stop his fans from defending their hero.

Sacha “Son Raw” Orenstein, a Montreal-based DJ, influencer and fan of XXXTentacion’s music, thinks the behavior of Onfroy’s fans is “beyond the pale.”  However, he thinks the derogatory media coverage of Jahseh’s death is undeserved.

“X was an extremely charismatic artist that touched a lot of vulnerable young people in a genuine way. He was also someone who caused a lot of harm to those around him,” Orenstein said.

“But adults don’t get to decide if the latter invalidates the former for his fans, particularly when our own heroes have extremely checkered histories of violence … I do feel the press’ good intentions when it came to reporting his misdeeds crossed a line into a campaign to make an example out of him, and today that further fuels his martyrdom.”

Jahseh’s influence is undeniable, and it seems that all his fans push positivity and peace rather than anything aggressive.  The XXXTentacion foundation most recently just helped a paralyzed young woman buy a 25K device to help her recovery.

But the questions looms whether or not Jahseh should be considered a role model.  Does his positive impact on many kids and promotion of positivity and charity annul his poor life choices up to that point?  That decision remains in the hands of the critic or fan.