Prior to his violent death, XXXTentacion was relatively unknown to people in majority of the other parts of the world. He was quite popular in the US and had gained some level of success as a rapper. It is quite appalling though at how popular death can make someone. And this was exactly what happened to X, he became way more popular in death than in life. This was perhaps due to the circumstances surrounding his death, the violence of it that is, and also the unsavoury allegations of his battery of a pregnant woman, his former girlfriend. His death has brought all these to the fore, major flaws in his character, especially as related to meting out pain and violence to others.
There have been calls that his demons shouldn’t be focused on in his death, rather the focus should be on his art which strangely brought succour to his fans, even though it stemmed from a chaotic soul.
Born to a teenage mother in 1998, Janesh Dwayne Onfroy, XXTentacion was raised by his grandmother, his mother was really never around, she was came in and out of his life at intervals. This surely contributed to his violent behaviour, he was said to have started fights severally all to get his mother’s attention. He said “I used to beat kids at school just to get her to yell at me”. Yet again he loved his mother and was very protective of her. As a child it was said that he attempted stabbing a man for “messing” with his mother.
Due to his behaviour he went to juvenile detention a few times, and was expelled out of middle school and then finally he channelled all that aggressive energy into his music. The disturbances he had as a child morphed into what we have seen today. The childhood and all that surrounded it could be regarded as a curse and yet a blessing; the music which his fans have so much come to love, came from that dark and forlorn place.
XXXTentacion was found slumped in the driver’s seat of a BMW sports car just outside of a motor sports store in Florida. He was taken to the hospital and later in the evening he was confirmed dead by the doctors from the gunshot wound. It was said to be a robbery, as his Louis Vuitton bag was also taken from the scene. It hasn’t been confirmed though, but a 22 year old man has been arrested in connection to the murder and soon will be charged.
The rapper came into popularity in the last two years, precisely about 18 months ago when his break out single “Look at me!” hit the billboard Hot 100, it peaked at no 34, making him the first breakthrough artist of the SoundCloud rap movement. Until his death he was the most popular artist for this movement. The music is Rap alright, but with a raw fusion of many other elements including Metallica, grunge, punk, hardcore and a whole many other influences. XXXtentacion’s sound is nothing like the easy flowing calm Drake rap that seemed for a while to be the in thing. There’s so much energy to this genre, so much rawness, so much originality and it is beginning to get into the mainstream.
The genre is probably called Soundcloud Rap because the music portal Sound Cloud is the place these rappers choose to promote their music on. Sound Cloud had the least entry barrier for them, so these young guys could actually make authentic music, original just the way they wanted it without having to bend to the market demands or the whims of record label bosses. And XXXTentacion was the poster boy for the movement. Now that it why it’s been a little bit problematic, loving and yet vilifying the rapper. He deserves so many accolades for his art, but then again his lifestyle which influences his art is very questionable.
Masked Gorrila has been following the rise of the Soundcloud rap movement and its owner Roger Gengo also had problems regarding X. He was also torn in betwixt two about his music and his behaviour. Mr Gengo said “it was always this internal struggle for me – he’s so popular and shedding light on this scene, but he’s been accused of these terrible things. Taking into account what he’d been accused of doing; his music was still incredibly authentic. His true self bleeds through all his lyrics and his music”. In closing he said, “Wanting someone to be held accountable for their actions doesn’t mean you want them to be killed in the street”. The fact that the rapper’s music was making waves and getting popularity for the soundcloud rap and all other brands connected was a point of concern for everyone. Surprisingly though, his fans, a lot of them do not believe these allegations, that goes to show the amount of influence this young man wielded.
So it wasn’t surprising when Spotify, the most popular music streaming platform, said they’d be taking off XXXTentacion’s music for its promotion of hate. It also wasn’t surprising when they received backlash from his fans and lovers of his music, most especially Kendrick Lamar and his record label TDE. This act raised questions of censorship and Lamar said it was targeted at artiste of colour, he therefore threatened that he and his record label TDE will sever ties from the music streaming platform and pull off his music from there. XXXTentacion wasn’t the only one affected though; R.Kelly was also amongst the first musicians to be affected. The policy was rescinded and XXXTentacion’s music was put back and his track ‘Sad” has gone back to being one of the most streamed on Spotify. Apart from taking a stance for the young rapper Lamar also helped promote Onfroy’s debut album “17” when he wrote on twitter ‘’listen to this album if you feel anything. raw thoughts’’. Lamar is not the only rapper to have showed some form of likeness for xxxtentacion’s music, “rest in peace” Kanye said in a tweet “never told you how much you inspired me when you were here thank you for existing”. Though some would say isn’t it a bit too late? However better late than never, yeah?
Some have related his death to being the effect of Karma, a way for him to pay for bad he’s done. Yet in the eyes of some others, it has in a way deified him. Raising him to a level a few rungs below the likes of fellow rappers Tupac and Biggie, who died young with their careers in full swing. Rap lovers will think of how death has deprived them of the talent and so much music which this young man could have produced. No one wants to die young true, but artistically it can have its advantages, especially when one is at the peak or approaching the peak of his career. It’s almost like the case of the proverbial actor leaving the stage when the ovation is loudest.
Death is the great absolver some people have said and we can see death using its sponge to absolve XXXTentacion of his alleged crimes. As J.Cole said in his tweet ‘This got me f**ked up. Rip X. Enormous talent and limitless potential and a strong desire to be a better person. God bless his family, friends and fans”. We can’t be too sure about Onfroy wanting to be a better person; he never seemed to show any signs of remorse for some of the unsavoury acts he’s been involved in, however, J.cole tried to look for something good about the young man.
A lot of times though, Onfroy was not protected from the violence in which he dealt in, a few times he’s shows have been cancelled due to riots, he’s also been attacked on stage a few times, one of those times he actually ended in the hospital.
Amidst all the chaos that surrounded the life of Jahesh Onfroy, he wanted to make his world a better place. As someone who had struggled with depression, he sought to use his music as a tool to heal depressed souls. “Here’s my pain and my thoughts put into words. I put my all into this, in the hopes that it will help cure or at least numb your depression.” This was a video he put on Instagram when he realeased the album “17”which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Charts.
He literally put his soul into his music, and it came out as authentic, real straight from the heart. These kinds of thoughts and music has a way of resonating with people, and resonate it did especially with the younger folks who were also struggling from depression, and other mental illnesses. His lyrics was a big departure from the usual hip hop and rap lyrics, which features sex, partying and usual spending money in the club. His lyrics told of the violence, the sadness, the chaos in his soul. And a lot of his listeners have said this is actually an endearing term; living the music that you sing, that if he was any different, then he would be a hypocrite. So yes his affinity for violence and pain was excused by lots of people due to his art.
Then again his words could also be as sad as they were uplifting in one Instagram video he said “If I’m gonna die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy”. This video was posted last year. In his music and words it seemed as though he prophesied his own death, especially in some of his latest social media posts prior to his dying.
I don’t think that XXXTentacion should be looked at as a saint, neither should he be looked at as a sinner, he was somewhere in between, he did bad, some of which he admitted to himself and also he did some good in this world. Let’s just enjoy the good (the music) he left in this world, and probably think to ourselves that he’s paid for his bad with his blood.