When XXXTentacion was killed June 18 outside a motor sports shop in Deerfield Beach, Fla., the 20-year-old artist left behind a complicated legacy as one of music’s most captivating rising talents defined in the public eye by allegations of violence. But his attorney, Bob Celestin, says his client’s legacy will be one of love and positivity, something he is committed to seeing through.
“I miss him,” Celestin tells Billboard. “I miss our regular conversations very, very much.”
As XXXTentacion’s counsel, Celestin’s job was to help the artist, born Jahseh Onfroy, with his legal and business decisions, “especially as it relates to his creativity and what he was trying to put out into the world,” he says, praising the rising star’s insight.
“The thing that people should know about X is that he was super, super smart, one of the smartest clients that I’ve had the honor of representing,” Celestin says. “And yet he was very clear-minded about what he wanted, which was independence and control. He wanted to control his narrative. He wanted to control his creations, whether it was music, video, merchandising, whatever. A lot of artists that I represent say that they’re into that, but then they’re really not, or they’re not that concerned about how their deal should be structured and building an empire, and he was. And so the conversations we had were pretty enlightening for both parties. He taught me a couple of things too; he taught me a lot of things, to be honest. He taught me a lot.”
Although Celestin says much to do with XXXTentacion’s posthumous legal and business affairs is yet to be determined, he spoke with Billboard about the artist’s unreleased music, estate planning, philanthropic efforts and more, with an emphasis on protecting his legacy.
Billboard: Right now, XXXTentacion’s website directs visitors to donate to the XXXTentacion Foundation in Honor of Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy. What is that foundation and how will those funds be used?
Bob Celestin: It was X’s desire and wish to spread as much positivity and love as possible. We had conversations about the power artists have and part of that is to help in any way possible and X was about spreading as much love and positivity into the world, not only for his fans but also with other artists. So at the end of the day… We just had a charity event, called the Helping Hand Charity Event, where a thousand homeless folks were fed. The foundation’s job is to continue to do things of that nature to help as many people as possible. His legacy is that of love, as trite as that may sound, but X was about positivity, good energy and trying to really impact the world aside from just being a recording artist. And the foundation is his way of doing that.
I believe they’re two different things. That is something that Lil Uzi took the initiative to put together. I think it’s great. I don’t know the full details of all of that, but anything that’s going to spread love and helping each other, especially in this day and age or these times that we’re living in right now, is a very, very positive thing.
Do you know who will run the XXXTentacion Foundation?
It’s still to be determined, but his mother will have a very strong role in it.
Can you talk about what it looks like putting together his estate now? Who runs that and all the legal aspects?
I really can’t. I mean he’s got some trust and estate attorneys that I’ll be working with and so we’re sorting all of that out as we speak.
XXXTentacion’s mother announced last week his girlfriend is pregnant with his child. Do you know how that changes matters with the estate?
I really don’t, but that child will be surrounded by a lot of love and positive energy, I’m going to tell you. He or she will be loved so ridiculously it’s not even… All the love in the world will be directed towards this child.
What can you tell us about the fate or status of unreleased XXXTentacion music? How many songs have been recorded, or how about features on others’ tracks? What does that catalog look like?
I can’t tell you details about how many tracks. I do know, though, that there are recordings, X was always recording, creating great music, and when the estate is finally settled we’ll be able to give some more information on that.
How does the timeline of those recordings affect the rights over the songs? What difference does it make whether they were recorded before or after his deal with Caroline?
Every bit of music that you hear that X has recorded or put out, he controls. He’s just done distribution deals with these various companies. So he controls, or his estate will control, all the master recordings.
There was some confusion about the final deal he had made, since he’d signed to Caroline but there was also talk he had signed back with Empire. Can you clarify what the deal is in place with Caroline and Empire?
All I can tell you is that X is the type of artist that really was concerned about his independence. And so — as I said before — he owns and controls all the masters and has done licensing deals in the past with Empire and Caroline. And that’s where we are at this point.
And as far as the conversations go about that unreleased music or merchandise, what have the discussions been like about the speed or pace that the estate decides to put anything out?
Again, that’s to be discussed. My client’s estate will be in control of his merchandising as well as his recordings and there are plans being discussed as to when these things are going to be rolled out. I don’t know the full details yet.
X had been planning a number of different charitable efforts. What is the fate of those? Will they carry on through the foundation or his estate?
My understanding is that that is the foundation. There may be some other charitable events that will be maybe related to that. I think the important thing to understand though is, again, that what X’s legacy will be — or what we’ll try to make sure that we maintain — is the legacy of love and positivity. That’s what he was about, spreading as much love and positivity into the world as possible. If you knew him personally, you would feel that from him. He wanted to impact as many people as possible in the most positive way.
Aside from grief, what kind of sentiments have you been feeling or observing over the past couple weeks?
I think the most important feeling, at least I have, is doing everything I can to pay respect to who he was as a person and as an artist and to help his vision flourish and preserve his legacy to the best of my ability.