Rob Stone, a co-founder of The FADER, has a knack of telling stories in their best form. Their recent documentary, “In His Own Words: XXXTentacion,” which is available via Altavod is a prime example of this. It takes the audience through never before seen footage of XXXTentacion during an exclusive sit-down interview where we get the raw and unique perspective of Jahseh Onfroy (XXXTentacion).
Rob Stone co-directed the film with Lesley Steele — who he says was very thoughtful throughout the entire process and was a great partner. Get to know Stone and his perspective on film, XXXTentacion’s journey and more below:
My two passions were always music and sports. It was what drove me, and I just always had a fascination with talent and artists. My greatest moments, for me, were being in the presence of greatness in the studio. If it was Biggie or watching puffy put a record together. I always just felt so blessed to be in those situations and be a part of that. About 20 years ago, we started Fader films. It was just a much different world. Fast forward to this project. The way it came about is really interesting. I never met Jahseh. I've only spent time post his death with his mom, his manager, and with Bob, who was his lawyer, and the three of them are incredible people. It's obviously a lot for a mom to go through losing your son for so many reasons, at such a young age at 20.
He lived a very complicated life and a very chaotic life. His story was a very challenging story to tell, because of the allegations, and because of the temper and the violent side that he had, and pepper in there mental health issues and talent. The importance of that was to tell his story. We had to thread the needle. We had Cleo on one side who lost her son. I had Solomon who lost his friend and client. They wanted to tell one kind of story which I understood. I understood it so well because I was a part of the Biggie camp when he was killed. I watched the family heal. Those experiences helped me in understanding how to move this forward and do it the right way. It was essential to have a very thoughtful director.
It doesn't just happen, it took a couple of years to get that together. It took hours of interviewing the right director. I remember the first time I flew down to Miami to meet with Cleo and Solomon, I have,very good reputation of handling business the right way in the industry. Bob Celestin, a longtime music industry lawyer, vouched for me. Solomon and I would talk about the potential of what this could be and what we were dealing with post his death. They had another deal in place when I approached them to do the documentary. We had already shot this footage from 2017. I was just very calm about it. I said, “Look, if you have another deal in place, pursue that.I think they're making a different film than I would make, but that's okay.” I said, “If it doesn't work out, we can talk and a few months later, it wasn't working out for them. We revisited it. I said, Well, the first thing would be to meet Cleo. Solomon flew down, and I flew down there. I spent the day with her talking about life. And, you know, she was and still is trying to heal from her loss. We just talked about what this could be. I think what we got out of that day, at the very end, I told them, I want to make a meaningful film that will help people, and I have experience doing that.
He's brought us all together to tell a really important story. And if we do this, I said, I think we all can be really proud of that. So that's kind of how we left it. We had some conversations after that. And then the real moment is, we have this incredible footage from the interview, and only some of it was used in the film, “Look At Me,” which is the film that's on Hulu. “In His Own Words” came about because there was so much of this interview that we didn't use in the film. I think the real bonding moment was when Solomon, Cleo, and myself sat in my office in my conference room, and we watched this three hour interview. We laughed, we cried, and we hugged. It was such a bonding experience. When you watch footage of someone who passed with their mother, it's just a different energy. It's emotional on such a different level. So I think that's when we knew we had to make the film after watching that interview.
“Look At Me” had to tell the whole story, right, and it does a great job of that because it involves Geneva, the ex girlfriend. It involves all his legal battles. It involves the chaotic nature of his life and his violent side. It's a very telling film, and it's a very honest film. But the purpose of our film is that this is really the last time his fans are going to get to see new footage of him. It's also insight into his mind, into his inner thoughts, and I think his evolution. He goes on to say in a jail phone call, that he created a lot of negativity, and he's like, “I've created so much negativity, but I want to turn that around. And I want to help these kids that need help.” For a 19 year old, a year before he passed to say that was huge. That's monumental for a 19 year old, who can be as arrogant as he wants. He was humbled, and he was admitting his mistakes. He was admitting that he was still young and had so much to learn. I just found that to be really powerful. I think his fans are really going to appreciate the things he's talking about.
“He definitely did grow. Without spoiling what he’s talking about, he talks about things in very temporary terms. There is a theme in “Look At Me” where he is with Ghazi, the label owner that he partnered with. Ghazi has a kid and told him, “You’re going to be a great father too.” He looks at him and is like, “No I won’t. I’m not going to be here.” He was living with this belief he wasn’t long for this world. I do think there is a part where he had a lot of wisdom, but he was working things out in his mind. He was starting to understand he had power and attention. He said he created so much negativity and now wants to create a positive situation for all of these kids and help them be the best they can become, which I thought was very powerful.
He had some genius moments that I discovered while digging into his music. I think his honesty, and when I say honesty, I don't know if he was always right, but I think he was always honest about who he was, and what he was doing. It wasn't choreographed. In a sense, he kind of lived his life online, and he was open. It was important for him to have a charity to help kids and to do things and to give back, which not all artists want to do. He was very open to that, and it was very important to him. From my perspective, he was trying to write a lot of the wrongs that had happened because of him. I think that impact is that you can evolve and you can change, and he talks a lot about evolving, and how important it is. I think this film will help some of his fans and help some of the other artists and people realize what you did yesterday doesn't define who you are tomorrow.
I love storytelling in all forms. I definitely now have the bug and want to direct more films. I'll make a sports analogy. Michael Jordan, Kobe or LeBron could probably go out and score 50 points every game. There's a momentum and a rhythm that you have to pay attention to, and you kind of have to let things come to you, as opposed to enforcing the pace of something. I think we live in a world of immediacy right now. I think timing is really important. I think I've been blessed with being able to have really good timing, and knowing when something's right, and when something's wrong.