Rapper XXXTentacion, who was shot to death on June 18 by two men in a suspected botched robbery, had signed a $10 million deal with music distribution company Empire weeks before the tragedy, according to the New York Times.
XXXTentacion, one of rap’s hottest and most controversial young stars, had made his name by uploading songs by the dozen on SoundCloud before going on to sign a record deal with Empire for his debut album, 17. It opened at No.2 on Billboard and was praised by Kendrick Lamar for its “raw” energy in August last year.
This was months after details of an aggravated assault on a former girlfriend, who was pregnant, landed the rapper in trouble with the law. Although accusations of sexual assault skewed the public perception, it didn’t stop XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, from signing a $6 million deal with Universal for his second album, ?, which released in March of this year. That album, thanks to the rapper’s rapidly burgeoning base, opened at No.1 on Billboard.
Ghazi Shami, the founder of Empire who had brought XXXTentacion to mainstream success by first striking a deal with the prolific musician last year, confirmed that his company had signed a record $10 million deal — the rapper’s biggest ever — weeks before his unexpected death by robbers while he was leaving RIVA Motorsports in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
— Variety (@Variety) July 8, 2018
According to Shami, XXXTentacion was concerned that sexual assault allegations against him, which had led Spotify to ban him briefly for “hateful conduct,” would stall his career — more so because he had depended so much on the scores of online fans he had garnered through years of uploading free music.
“Are you sure you want to sign me, even when my streams are down?” XXXTentacion reportedly asked Shami as the two negotiated a deal for his third album, which wouldn’t have released till at least October this year because of a clause that Universal had put in the rapper’s second album.
“I said, ‘I believe in you; I don’t believe in playlists,'” Shami said. “‘Playlists are nice. You are a musical phenomenon.'”
He added that because XXXTentacion had been so prolific during his short but fruitful career, his estate possessed a trove of archived material which it would likely license in the future. As for Empire itself, it has quite a bit of material for XXXTentacion’s purported third album in possession, but whether or not that material will see the light of day remains anybody’s guess at this moment.