The death of the 20-year-old Florida native shocked the hip-hop community and resulted in a spike in sales and streams of his first two projects, 17 and ?, both of which were in the Billboard 200's top 5 last week.
17 was released under the independent music distribution company Empire, and the Times reports that the company gave X a huge deal for his third official project. Though its founder Ghazi Shami, who helped break X into the mainstream, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the deal, he did confirm that X, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, did complete “a significant amount of material” for the album before he was shot and killed on June 18.
Shahim mourned the loss of Onfroy in an interview with Beats 1 earlier this month. "His loss is catastrophic,” he said. “There's a whole generation of youth that looked to him for a voice. I think that watching him mature as a human being in just like, the 14 months that I knew him—16 months, whatever it was. I mean, to see him go from a child—he was 18 years old when I met him in the jail and did a record deal with me—to where he was at now, just before it passed away...just the conversations he was having with me, and the things that he was focused on, and the things that he wanted to accomplish, showed the potential of what he was going to contribute to the world. I think it was cut catastrophically short.”
At the time of his murder, XXXTentacion was awaiting trial on multiple charges including domestic battery by strangulation, aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, and false imprisonment. Reports that X abused his former girlfriend Geneva Ayala didn’t deter Shami from the deal, even when Spotify briefly pulled his songs from its playlists under its short-lived “hateful content” policy.
“Are you sure you want to sign me, even when my streams are down?” Shami recalled XXXTentacion asking him.
“I said, ‘I believe in you; I don’t believe in playlists,’” Shami said. “‘Playlists are nice. You are a musical phenomenon.’”
“I know the person,” he later added. “My job was to nurture him and let him be the best version of himself that he could be, not to villainize him.”
X’s unreleased music is expected to eventually see the light of day, though it’s not clear when. The Times reports the earliest it can drop is October, due to a clause in X’s deal with Universal Music Group for his No. 1 album ?.
This new music wouldn’t be the first XXXTentacion content to drop posthumously. The day after the rapper’s memorial service in Florida, Onfroy’s mother released the ominous music video for “SAD!”
It’s still unclear if Universal will play any part in the release of X’s untapped catalog, or what stake the rapper’s heirs—his mother and brothers—will have in the rollout of unreleased music.