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Recommended: Look At Me: XXXTentacion on Hulu

The rapper's short, violent life gets a clear-eyed treatment in this absorbing documentary.
  • Jahseh Onfroy, aka XXXTentacion (Photo: Hulu)
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    Look At Me: XXXTentacion | Hulu
    Music Documentary (1 hour 53 minutes) | TV-MA

    What's Look At Me: XXXTentacion About?

    Shot during a robbery when he was only 20, Jahseh Onfroy, better known as the hip-hop musician XXXTentacion, left a contradictory legacy of violence and hope. This film asks the people who knew him to contend with it. 

    Who's involved?

    • Onfroy recorded enormous swaths of his life. He appears frequently in the film via social media videos he made talking to fans, making music in the studio, and occasionally assaulting people.
    • Onfroy's mother Cleopatra Bernard, who is also an executive producer, gives clear-eyed testimonials about the many things her son did wrong, the ways she saw him changing, and the reasons she refuses to stop loving him.
    • Geneva Ayala, Onfroy's ex-girlfriend, speaks frankly about their abusive relationship and the charges she filed against him, and she has an on-screen conversation with Bernard about what happened.
    • Sabaah Folayan — who previously helmed the documentary Whose Streets, about the murder of Mike Brown — directed the film.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Despite his professional success, this film makes it hard to see Jahseh Onfroy's life as anything but brutal. To a person, everyone who knew him describes how he was immersed in domestic violence, assault, neglect, drug abuse, and depression. His mother says he was diagnosed as bipolar. His friends say they learned to be "gladiators" because their online followers expected them to fight people for attention. His collaborators recall how often he said he hated himself.

    Foyalan deosn't flinch from this, but she also doesn't pretend that Onfroy's chaotic life excused his abusive behavior. She requires her interview subjects to acknowledge the hurt he caused, and in one scene, she includes off-camera audio of herself pushing his family, manager, and producer to talk about it more explicitly.

    Because of that, the segments about Onfroy's good side feel earned. We're not being sold a sanitzed, estate-approved story of an angel who was mistaken for a devil. Instead, we're being shown how a deeply disturbed young man also made music that spoke to many. We're shown how an abuser eventually tried to become more caring. All those things are equally true, the film says, even if they don't fit comfortably together.

    That's a lot deeper than most music docs go. Foyalan makes space for these tough ideas not only by speaking to so many people who knew Onfroy personally, but also by avoiding the parade of music critics, A-list artists, and social scientists who typically pop up in docs like these to put a musician in context. Those folks easily could've talked about XXXTentacion, but this movie isn't about that persona. It's about the kid — barely 20 when he died — who created it.

    Pairs well with

    • Maid, the Netflix limited series about a woman who flees her abusive husband, then has to support herself and her daughter with a low-paying job cleaning houses.
    • Somebody Somewhere, the HBO comedy about deeply wounded people finding community in a small Kansas town. (Streams on HBO Max.)
    • Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss, another doc about a hip-hop artist who died young. (Streams on HBO Max.)

  • Look At Me: XXXTentacion
    Premieres on Hulu May 26, 2022.
    Starring: XXXTentacion, Geneva Ayala, Stokely Goulbourne, and Solomon Sobande.
    Directed by: Sabaah Folayan.

    TOPICS: Look At Me: XXXTentacion, Hulu, Geneva Ayala, Sabaah Folayan, Solomon Sobande, Stokely Goulbourne, XXXTentacion