Disclaimer: This is not me defending the heinous acts that he had committed, but rather a reaction to the surge of hateful comments since his passing.
On 19 July 2018, XXXTentacion (real name Jahseh Onfroy) was shot and killed in an apparent robbery gone wrong at the age of 20.
I did not like XXXTentacion. Not even considering the various domestic violence allegations and crimes that he committed , Onfroy was still a bitter and hateful man who would lash out against anyone and anything. His unbridled rage was that akin to a schoolyard bully whose rampage wouldn’t just stop at you but would spread it to your friends and family as well.
I did like his music though so not being able to hear more from a talented young artist as himself was a shame. On the other hand, the vile deeds he’d done and the abhorrent comments on his disdain of the lives of himself and others around him were repulsive, so much so that they far outweighed the admiration I had for his talent. It became difficult for me to empathise with his passing when all he stood for was hate and animosity against the world.
In his short 20 years on this Earth, violence was inseparable from Onfroy’s life. His first brush with the law was at the tender age of 6, where he stabbed a man that physically attacked his mother. From there on, he was constantly entangled in physical altercations with his schoolmates and dropped out of school at 15. Not long after, he was sent to juvenile detention for gun possession charges. But in the middle of all this chaos, he fell in love with music and learned to channel his aggression into songs. As his breakout single “Look At Me” blew up on SoundCloud in 2015, mainstream was introduced to the force of nature that is XXXTentacion.
“I took a white bitch to Starbucks
That little bitch got her throat fucked
I like to rock out like I’m misfit
My emo bitch like her wrist slit”
– XXXTentacion, “Look At Me”
Fueled by edgy teenage angst, the appeal of his music spread like wildfire. His debut album ‘17′ reached #2 on the Billboard 200 in 2017, while his sophomore effort ‘?’ became the #1 album in the US upon its release this year. As the poster child of the SoundCloud rap scene, it was a momentous occasion that solidified the residency of the genre in today’s contemporary music.
His fans, many of them underage prepubescent teens, flocked to the emotional vulnerability that he brought. His lyricism that explored the shallow waters of loneliness, depression, and suicide; accompanied with the depressing aesthetic of 90s grunge rock and 2000s emo punk, were a surefire recipe to capture the passion of adolescence. He became the embodiment of the melodramatic polarity that is youth, and the kids adored him.
Still, XXXTentacion could never be a role model and he never claimed to be one, which is a good thing because he was a detestable human being.
It’s widely known that he domestically abused his then-girlfriend Geneva Ayala in extremely brutal acts of violence that stretched across multiple months. He was also charged with witness tampering in regards to these allegations. I won’t go into further detail (a testimony from the victim can be found here) but his lack of remorse and guilt for his actions were disgusting.
“Trapped in a concept, falsely accused
Was used and misled
Bitch, I’m hopin’ you fuckin’ rest in peace”
– XXXTentacion, “Carry On”
In a now-deleted Instagram story, he referenced these allegations in an extended rant where he let loose a tone-deaf response on the matter: ““Anybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’m finna domestically abuse y’all little sisters’ pussy from the back.”
It’s easy to see why the hate for Onfroy has been so rampant since his death. It’s also no secret that many on the internet have been celebrating his death. The utmost lack of empathy was appalling but not unfounded. With known abusers like Chris Brown and R. Kelly still walking streets and enjoying their success, while Harvey Weinstein had only just been charged after decades of sexual depravity; the loss of XXXTentacion was seen as universal karma catching up to him. They applauded his demise and firmly believed he deserved what he got.
But in a dark corner of the internet, his fans banded together, readied their resolve and feverishly defended their idol. Over the years, his fandom had evolved into a cult-like following. To them, XXXTentacion was the person that ‘saved’ their lives. In their darkest moments, his music was there to reach out to them. His lyrical exploration of mental illness spoke to them, while his sermon-like posts of self-love and acceptance of outcasts on Instagram embraced them, in a period where death and drug addiction are the norm, he provided them with a safe space.
^The tweet is false as the clip was from an Instagram live stream from 2017
“At least, if I’m gonna die or ever be a sacrifice, I wanna make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life.”
It is without a doubt that XXXTentacion will go down in hip-hop history as a martyr. The feverish debate currently surrounding him will guarantee that. His fans will make sure of it while his detractors will do everything in their power to tarnish his reputation and prevent it (not that it would require a lot of work). There are even hints of a potential legacy being left behind in today’s music. As evidenced by the trend shorter song and album lengths, alongside half-baked song ideas as an aesthetic are starting to be seen even in the work of music’s biggest names (notably on Kanye West’s ‘ye‘). If anything, Jahseh Onfroy went out with a bang.
Personally, I believe he does not deserve to have a lasting or positive legacy due to the severity of his past transgressions. But I also do not believe in celebrating someone’s death no matter how cruel they were, especially one as young as Onfroy’s. Though naive, I trust that a person can be capable of change. It’s possible that a person may never see the error of their ways and commit to a sinful life, then I hope that these people would be brought to justice one day.
On the morning of his death, Onfroy announced on Instagram that he was planning to hold a charity event for the troubled youth in Florida. Though unrelated to his abuse allegations, it was perhaps a sign that he was distancing himself away from the hate and veering more towards the message of love that he preached. Unfortunately, we will never know and the only thing we get out of his untimely passing will be unanswered questions.
The name of XXXTentacion will be brought up time and time again for years to come, and his controversies will dog him for the rest of time. However, I don’t want to hear about him ever again and the same probably goes for many of you reading this. Let him rest in peace. If he leaves behind a legacy, let it stay within the confines of his fandom. We don’t need another abuser to be immortalized in the hip-hop history books (looking at you Dr. Dre).
As much as most of us choose to not realize it, silence is powerful. Stop bringing his name up alongside inflammatory comments and realize that he is still a son and a brother that is still cared for by his family. Avoid bringing up his allegations time and time again and realize that his victim will have to forcibly recount the experience for the rest of her life if you do.
Let it all rest, so that everyone around him can find peace. And maybe he can too.