How I listen to XXXTentacion’s music without supporting him

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For the past few days, I’ve had rapper XXXTentacion’s song “SAD!” on repeat 24/7. This sparked my interest in the newly trending artist, and inspired me to search him up on Google. To my dismay,  I found out that the artist whose song I had been playing at least ten times every day was an alleged sexual abuser and criminal with multiple felonies, with his latest accusation being the most disturbing of his alleged crimes. Immediately, I was torn between whether I should continue streaming his music or not. Like myself, many other students at Townsend Harris who are fans of rap music often listen without a concern to songs by artists who have questionable reputations.

Throughout history, there have been numerous cases of felonies by popular celebrities.  Many have been hidden from the public, but others have been brought to attention, causing much protest and backlash from the media. Especially during recent times, we’ve witnessed celebrities of the music and movie industry come forth about sexual harassment experiences with their coworkers. Through these situations, we can conclude that a person’s work doesn’t necessarily define who they are and how they act with others. So, it is both possible and appropriate to enjoy what they’ve produced, whether it be a song, a movie, or a product. However, the real issue lies within those who attempt to defend or downplay the infamous reputation of the accused celebrities.

Too often, fans and other supporters are not able to separate an attachment to a celebrity’s work from an attachment to the celebrity. With music, especially, fans develop a more “personal” connection with the artist, through their voice and expressive lyrics. When this influential figure suddenly becomes a criminal, both surprise and denial are experienced. When I discovered XXXTentacion’s alleged history of violence and harassment, the word “alleged” gave me hope that none of what I heard was true, and I briefly dismissed all the accusations and evidence I read. However, at the end of the day, a felony is a felony. They can be committed by anyone and, in return, the perpetrator must pay for their behavior and misconduct.

In recent times, thanks to the #MeToo movement and victims of sexual assault speaking up more prominently, scandals such as Harvey Weinstein’s are being taken much more seriously. However, cases of sexual misconduct have always been prevalent in the entertainment industry. A USA Today survey of 843 women in the entertainment industry found that 94% say they’ve experienced harassment or assault.When fans selfishly defend favored celebrities, whether it by excusing their behavior, or doubting the validity of accusations against them, these victims of assault and oppression are isolated and shamed into a corner of silence and injustice.

Especially now, television and social media has enabled celebrities and their fans alike to easily share their views. This has resulted in celebrities taking part in conversations pertaining to politics and society more often. Although many of them use the platform simply to show their support for movements or advocate for causes, some have made more risky statements that subjected them to major backlash by the media. During a recent TMZ interview, popular rapper Kanye West called slavery “a choice”, and elaborated on his point later via Twitter, saying that “for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.” In situations like these, it’s important for fans not to fall victim to blind loyalty – turning a blind eye to the truth in favour of keeping a positive image of the person or cause.