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XXXTentacion’s Reported $6 Million Deal Is a Test For the Music Industry

Throughout his rise into a fully blended mix of notoriety and fame, XXXTentacion remained independent, releasing his music through the distribution company EMPIRE as opposed to signing with a major label, such as Atlantic Records, with which EMPIRE has often partnered. This all will soon change, though: Yesterday, Billboard reported that X has signed a deal with Capitol Music Group (through a subsidiary label named Caroline), which one source said was worth as much as $6 million.

This news comes at a most interesting time, with the entertainment industry at-large finally beginning to reckon with its institutional treatment of women—from harassment to abuse—in the wake of new reporting about Harvey Wesinstein. Two months ago, Pitchfork published excerpts from a deposition given by XXXTentacion’s ex-girlfriend, who he is accused of abusing and imprisoning. (He will stand trial on Dec. 11.) The woman’s testimony is terrifying: she says that the rapper beat her, strangled her, and threatened to kill her and her unborn child on multiple occasions until she was one day able to escape by hiding behind the opened door of a refrigerator and running out of a side exit of an apartment the two shared.

X’s ascendance has not been uninhibited by these accusations; on the contrary, it’s possible, if not likely, that the depressive danger of his music is so magnetic to his fans because the person who makes it may also be an unstable monster in real life. (His ex-girlfriend is mentioned by name on his recent album, 17). Capitol Records has yet to confirm or comment on its reported signing of the rapper, but it has to know what questions are coming. In a separate Billboard piece about X’s looming trial date, anonymous record executives passed the buck, placing the onus for making a judgement about an alleged abuser at the feet of “families to the government to local police” and saying things like, “the music is really powerful, and in my business that’s what it’s about.”

The enduring truth of that maxim will soon be tested, and the reported $6 million handed to XXXTentacion feels like nothing if not a test case of the music industry’s footing in a post-Weinstein world.

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