How Long Will They Mourn Me?
After the tragic passing of XXXTentacion last year, Kyle reflects on the slain artist's legacy and their Freshman experience together.
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Summer 2019 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands in July 2019.

Before I met XXXTentacion, my impression was that he was this scary rapper. That’s the issue with how the public and media promote [negativity] more than anything. I started listening to his music and was instantly a fan. Once X got to the XXL Freshman shoot, I was standing right there when he walked through the door. I was kind of nervous to say what’s up to him. I walked up and said, “Hey man, I’m Kyle. My older brother put me on to you. I love your music, bruh, the shit’s fire.” He started smiling and laughing and said, “Yo, you’re the guy that made the ‘iSpy’ song” and [X] started singing it. “I love that song.” He dapped me up and I gave him a hug and told him a joke. Contrary to the popular opinion at the time, he was hella cool, a super warm spirit to be around.

There was nobody at that XXL Freshman shoot that had as much star power as X did. When X came in the room, it got serious. I was in a different cypher but I remember watching theirs: the Ugly God, MadeinTYO, X [and] Playboi Carti one. When he picked up that microphone, the room stopped. Everybody was like, “Aight, hold up!” When he spit that shit at the end, I was like, “Damn!” That was my first glimpse into, “Oh no, he’s serious. He has a lot of passion inside of him.” Everybody else was trying to have bars and have fun. He was on a mission.

Lauren Gesswein for XXL

A month later, he DMed me like, “I genuinely don’t want to see anything but love and prosperity for you. You are a great source of energy and a great human being. May the universe bless you on your journey.” He would FaceTime me and I would FaceTime him. We would keep up this ongoing conversation about how important it is to have optimism and live right. To live life on the side of light instead of darkness. And how it important it was to preach that message to kids out there. That was something I was such a huge proponent of. I think that’s what made him gravitate towards me and me to him. That’s something he definitely had to fight for during his career, remaining optimistic about his situation.

He was really comfortable with owning mistakes, basically saying mistakes don’t define you for life. He was always talking about transmutation, that you have the power to create yourself to be however you want to be. It was really inspiring for me to know him because I got to see an individual who stood for so much. I remember asking how old he was. He was like, “I’m 19,” and I’m like, “What? Bro, you are so intelligent for your age!”

XXL

X will be regarded as one of the best artists of my generation, for sure. To become a legend in such a short amount of time—it was a little over a year, really. It’s crazy how much focus he had in making sure his message in his art was as potent as possible. The more love I see him getting, the more I’m realizing how strong of a legacy he has left behind. It left me feeling a little better because at least I know that the work he was planning on doing is still going to happen through him and because of him. Kids everywhere, when they’re at their lowest point, will use X’s music to pull themselves out of that place. That’s what he wanted. And that’s why I was such a fan.

See Behind-the-Scenes Photos of XXXTentacion at the 2017 XXL Freshman Shoot