A few weeks before he was shot and killed last month, the 20-year-old rapper XXXTentacion was on the phone with the record executive who had taken the first chance on him, hammering out a contract for his much-anticipated next release.
Since barreling into the mainstream last year, XXXTentacion had become one of rap’s biggest and most controversial new stars, with a No. 1 album and a fervent congregation of young fans.
At the same time, disturbing allegations of abuse had made him a potentially toxic business partner, especially after Spotify briefly banned his music from its playlists under a short-lived “hateful conduct” policy.
Yet even with the Spotify scandal still dampening his business, XXXTentacion signed a new agreement with Empire, an independent music company that last summer had released his first album, “17.”
The latest deal, for XXXTentacion’s third official release, was worth about $10 million, according to three people briefed on the terms — a rich sum for a young artist, but also only the latest sign of a heated market for online rap stars.
Ghazi Shami, the founder of Empire, said that XXXTentacion — a prolific creator who started his career posting tracks by the dozen to the streaming site SoundCloud — had finished “a significant amount of material” for the new record, but there were no firm plans for its release