About half an hour into this documentary, Cléopâtre Bernard, the mother of rapper XXXTentacion, lists the occasions when her son was beaten by his father. They are numerous. “But”, concludes Bernard, the father “was not violent”.
Moments like these make watching “Look at Me: XXXTentacion” – directed by Sabaah Folayan and produced by Bernard – both compelling and infuriating.
XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Onfroy, was a Florida rapper whose brief life and career ended in a shooting in 2018. Prior to that, his soulful music, incendiary personality and criminal notoriety earned him a fanbase of children most disgruntled people in America – and multi-platinum record sales.
He learned he had bipolar disorder in his early teens and was making rap records before he was 15. One such lead in the film sounds like a cry for help that went unanswered.
A frantic and sometimes proudly violent person whose brutal beatings of his girlfriend Geneva Ayala are chronicled here in heartbreaking detail, XXXTentacion used one of his mugshots as the cover of his breakthrough single “Look at Me.” .
The film features personal video footage of a celebration of his release from prison, during which he accepts platitudes offered by family and management (“do the right thing”, “one day at a time”) . After which, he categorically lies about his abusive acts. “She was already bruised,” he says of Ayala.
The musician’s life – and that of many around him – has become a terrifying and toxic mix of street culture, mental illness and social media. Speaking of the world outside of his circle, XXXTentacion crew member Bass Santana observes, “All these people want to see is destroy each other.” He doesn’t seem entirely aware of the larger truth of what he’s saying, and it’s heartbreaking.
Look at me: XXXTentacion
Unclassified. Duration: 1h48. Watch on Hulu.