Directed by Lesley Steele and Rob Stone, In His Own Words: XXXtentacion is a companion piece to the highly acclaimed Hulu documentary Look At Me. Both films are about rapper Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, whose stage name was XXXtentacion. Often shortened to just X, the music artist proved controversial but quickly gained a considerable following thanks to his songs’ themes of alienation and depression. Tragically, he was murdered by a gunman in 2018.
Using an unreleased interview as their jumping-off point, the filmmakers let X speak for himself, just as the title promises. He discusses his thoughts on fame, why music matters, his hopes for his future career, and how he wishes his fans view him. X’s rambling can be hard to follow on occasion, but an artist with this much creativity and passion for their work speaking so candidly is enthralling.
“…discusses his thoughts on fame, why music matters…”
Most impressively, one does not need to know much about X or his songs to appreciate everything going on in In His Own Words. Watching how the subject lights up when his fans ask for pictures or seeing how massively his SoundCloud has blown up as of late is fascinating. X had a drive and passion in life that the directors harnessed into the momentum to keep their film going.
There are a few minor issues, such as trying to place where X is and why. A lot of fan interactions are at a mall, maybe? A concert venue before the show? But context about his comings and goings are secondary to the man’s thoughts and energy. In that regard, the film is less a narrative than it is an examination of one person’s inner workings. Anyone who has suffered or is suffering through mental health issues and found a means of escape (even temporarily) will relate to what X is saying and what he wants.
In the end, In His Own Words: XXXtentacion does a fabulous job of allowing the subject to speak their piece. X had been through a lot and hoped his challenges could help others. The rapid way his fanbase grew showed he was right. Steele and Stone do Onfroy’s legacy proud with a thoughtful examination of who he truly was and what drove him.