Imagine being left with the daunting task of handling what could be the final chapter of XXXTENTACION‘s musical legacy? That’s exactly the responsibility X’s manager Solomon Sobande and producer John Cunningham took on alongside Jahseh Onfroy’s mother and Bad Vibes Forever co-producer Cleo Bernard when rising to the occasion to piece together the late artist’s last brainchild, Bad Vibes Forever.
Songs making the 25-track album date back to 2017 sessions for sophomore album ?, when X would consciously put certain records to the side while recording on house arrest in early 2018. Cunningham recalls his late friend using words such as “diverse, “masterpiece,” and “unique” when describing his vision for BVF‘s finished product. “[X] was really the most unique artist of our generation,” he adds.
Sobande shared a scene from X’s forthcoming documentary, where he forecasted his plans to ultimately evolve into a one-stop shop for all genres of music that his fans could come to for whatever they wanted. “‘I want to be the only one my fans need to come to for any type of music,” the Florida native stated. “If you want rock, i’ll give you rock. I’ll do all that to give you what my fans need.”
XXXTENTACION was fatally shot outside a motorcycle dealership in Deerfield Beach, Fla. back in June of 2018, at age 20. The controversial rapper, who faced a litany of disturbing charges during his life — ranging from witness tampering to aggravated battery of a pregnant woman — was not only on a journey towards improving himself, personally, but was just scratching the surface of his musical ability. “The only thing that makes me sad is he was just getting started and getting the tools to be his ultimate self,” his manager states. “I was looking at him like [a] music Superman. There’s almost nothing that he can’t do. He had so much more to say and prove.”
With an obsessive, cult-like fanbase, X’s faithful have done their part in making sure his musical heartbeat is preserved, partly through continuing to stream his music, as X accumulated nearly four billion streams on Spotify in 2019 alone.
“There were a lot of people that felt misunderstood, and that’s who he really appealed to,” Sobande explains of X’s connection to his fans. “He wanted to be their protector. That’s why his music is so consumed, and his legacy is so strong. It’s because of what he embodied to those kids. He was a hero to the kids that didn’t have a hero.”
Sobande and the rest of X’s estate aren’t closing the door completely on releasing more music at some point, either, even though BVF is being billed as his final body of work. Below, you’ll find Sobande and Cunningham collectively breaking down 10 tracks from Bad Vibes Forever.
John: The introduction to the album was an instrumental I played, and he loved it and wanted it to be on the album. I know he had written a song to it, but we never recorded those vocals. A few months ago, I came across some words speaking on his life on my phone from a session. He’d improvise some amazing s–t out of the blue and I’d have my phone recording to remember it. There was something about him telling that story that felt right.
“Bad Vibes Forever” (feat. Trippie Redd & PnB Rock)
John: That was a song that we wrote in late 2017. It was at the studio we actually met at when he was making 17. That was the place he liked to stay whenever he came to Los Angeles. He had that chorus in his head. A lot of the final instrumentation was talked about, but we didn’t complete it until a couple months ago. The idea was getting people that had a relationship with him while he was still here. He had songs with both PnB and Trippie.
John: That is 100 percent him. It was one of the songs we put out completely untouched. I believe he found the sample online and sang over it. He recorded himself probably with this blue desktop microphone he had in his room. He used a free recording program called Audacity. I remember finding the session to the song maybe six months ago and thought, “What the f–k is this?” I played it and was like, “Oh s–t, this is the song in full we had all been wondering about.” It was a clear vision to not mess with it all.
“School Shooters” (feat. Lil Wayne)
John: The school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018 — he lived right down the street from that, and was essentially neighbors with the high school when that happened. He was really affected by it, and he wanted to lend his support and put out a song to show people that he was trying to help. We recorded a couple songs, and when I played him this beat, he kind of went aggressive. It was really fire, but he felt his message would be received better if it was more about compassion and light. Then we did “Hope,” which he dedicated to anybody affected by the shooting.
“I Changed Her Life” (feat. Rick Ross)
Solomon: I think, at that point, Jah was f–king with Rick. He was very supportive of Jah, and he had a good relationship with Cleo. He wanted to have that Florida union on the record, and pay homage to him.
“Royalty” (feat. Ky-Mani Marley, Vybz Kartel & Stefflon Don)
Solomon: That’s [X’s] culture. He’s of Jamaican descent. In the house he was probably listening to Bob Marley and all these guys. As he grows up and finds his own people, he was a huge fan of Vybz Kartel. Through his family’s descent, they had relationships with families like the Marleys. That’s how he kind of hooked up with Kymani. It was a dream of him to get with Vybz at the time because he was locked up. Stefflon was the sprinkle on top, but that was really paying homage to his culture.
“Daemons” (feat. Joey Badass & Kemba)
Solomon: Joey and Jah have had a relationship. They were supposed to do a joint project, and they did music together. They were such big fans of each other’s work. Kemba is a newer artist I just signed to my imprint at Republic Records. I remember playing his album for Jah, and he thought it was really dope. It really kind of meshed together. It embodied that old-school, boom-bap style of hip-hop. They brought that energy to the table, and it was dope to see Jah in that world.
John: He wanted [his ex-girlfriend Geneva Ayala] in the video. I don’t think any of us could’ve made that decision. At the time, when he brought up the idea, there was a pending legal case, and we came to the decision that it wouldn’t make sense. We figured, why not make that wish come true when it was time for it to come out? I think people would understand now the fact that she’s in the video that would indicate they were close. We gave her the option and she said, “Yes.” She was a dream to work with.
“NorthStar [Remix]” (feat. Joyner Lucas)
John: I remember when Joyner’s “I’m Not Racist” video came out and Jah was like, “This guy is really dope.” They DM’d a little bit. I know they had the intention of working together, but Joyner was one of the people who reached out and was supportive. He wanted to finish what he started with Jah.
“IT’S ALL FADING TO BLACK” (feat. Blink-182)
John: When we were messing around with the order of the track, when we got to the end of that song, I just got goosebumps all over my body. That was my signal I took that it was in the right place. There is a lot of pain in there lyrically, but the type that breaks your heart in a good way. If there was to be another chapter to his music, “IT’S ALL FADING TO BLACK” is a good cliffhanger.