"I believe he’s going through a transformation, growing as an artist and as a person," says one radio PD of the controversial rapper.
XXXTentacion has achieved legitimate hip-hop stardom over the past 18 months, despite the harrowing controversies attached to his name. The 20-year-old Lauderhill, Florida, native's last two projects (? and 17) debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart at Nos. 1 and No. 2, respectively. His latest single, "Sad!," also gave him his first top 10 on the Hot 100, as it vaulted to No. 7 (March 31), after "Look at Me" and "Jocelyn Flores" each entered the top 40 last year with hardly any radio impact. For XXXTentacion, streaming has been a saving grace: His legal drama -- including a litany of charges stemming from his 2016 domestic violence case -- has not stopped a large population of listeners from pressing play. Now, it seems as if radio is beginning to join the bandwagon.
Although "Sad!" sits at 2,000 lifetime radio spins compared to 145.3 million streams since its early March release, according to Nielsen Music, the song debuts at No. 31 on Rhythmic Songs, its first time on the airplay chart, and was up 91 percent in weekly plays for the week ending April 8. As XXXTentacion tries to rehabilitate his public image and continue to court a young fan base who seem willing to overlook the violent allegations, there is evidence that radio is increasingly open to giving his music a shot.
"X is talented and knows how to connect with his audience 24/7," Thea Mitchem, Power 105.1 WWPR-FM New York's program director, tells Billboard; Power played "Sad!" 32 times during the latest tracking week. "I believe he’s going through a transformation, growing as an artist and as a person -- as he should, he’s 20 and he will have to learn some lessons the hard way."