American rapper XXXTentacion has been killed in Florida as influential figures celebrate his artistic contributions, but following a life of repeated violence and abuse against women is it more appropriate to celebrate his death?
XXXTentacion, an American rapper with a huge cult following who was charged with numerous cases of physical abuse, was shot dead on Monday night near a Riva Motorsport outlet in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
The death of the 20 year old rapper ignited a flurry of reaction on social media ranging from pure hatred, to disbelieving anguish; XXXTentacion, or ‘Young Dagger Dick’ as he was also known, certainly divided opinion.
Given his history of abuse against women, is it right to show remorse for XXXTentacion, or should there instead be a feeling of relief that an abusive predator can no longer do harm?
Messages of sadness
Many famous figures in music voiced their sadness at the death of X, including Kanye West, Chipmonk, and Blackbear, who tweeted to his 1.92 million followers, “how we keep losing the most influential ppl this year #ripx”.
Tributes went beyond the music community however, as documentary maker Louis Theroux chimed in to pay his respects, “Notwithstanding personal demons, he was a huge talent & bringing a beautiful new feel to hip hop. So sad.”
— Louis Theroux (@louistheroux) June 18, 2018
Others commented that death should not be wished on, or celebrated by, anyone, especially someone so young, regardless of wrongdoings. But, when your “demons” result in repeated violence against others, can they still be described as “personal”?
XXXTentacion, or Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy (his real name) had a short and troubled life. Born in Pompano Beach, Florida, he was mainly raised by his grandmother due to his mother’s “financial situation” and tried to stab a man attacking his mother when he was just 6 years old. In the years that followed he was in and out of institutions, including a juvenile centre where he spent time for possession of firearms. During his stay, he attacked a homosexual cellmate.
I think the most heartbreaking thing about XXXtentacion passing is the fact that he spent majority of his life depressed and wanting to end his own life, but someone else ended it while he was on the road of recovery
— Devon Daigle (@devondaigle9) June 19, 2018
Onfroy took solace in music, releasing his first single “Vice City” on Soundcloud shortly after his release from the Juvenile centre. He would later garner an enormous following with a sound that defied genres, resting somewhere between rap, electronic, lo-fi, and emo. His lyrics were graphic and usually centred on personal struggles with depression, sadness and suicide.
Thomas Gorton, news editor at Dazed said that “Seeing loads of ppl happy that someone got shot and killed is grim”. He went on to stay that XXXTentacion “was clearly a bad person who’d done awful things, but sure everyone rejoicing would be appalled at the idea of death via the state”.
Despite finding some solace in music, Onfroy was a prolific abuser, leaving behind many victims of violence. In 2016 he was charged with “aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness-tampering”.
Back in September of 2017, Pitchfork published parts of a 142-page transcript of an interview with one of Onfroy’s victims who detailed a “grim pattern of routine abuse”. When asked how often he would threaten to kill her, she claimed, “Well, when we lived in Orlando, it was literally like every day.”
She also told a harrowing tale of how Onfroy once came into their room with a “barbecue pitchfork” and a “barbeque cleaner” before asking her to choose between the two, because he was going to stick one up her vagina. Music magazine Pitchfork says “She chose the fork. He told her to undress. He was lightly dragging the tool against her inner thigh when she passed out. He did not penetrate her with it.”
Dying, however young or violently, doesn’t make a monster a decent person.
It doesn’t erase the trauma he caused, nor does it elevate his art.
— MEL Magazine (@WeAreMel) June 19, 2018
She described another particularly graphic incident upon discovering that she was pregnant. She had been sleeping with another man while Onfroy was in prison and so didn’t know who the father was. Onfroy reportedly said to her “You need to tell me the truth right now or I’ll kill you and this jit” before he began to attack her.
Taking from the manuscript, Pitchfork reported that “He then started elbowing, head-butting, and punching her. He strangled her until she almost passed out. He took her to the bathroom and demanded one last time that she tell him everything or he would kill her in the bathtub. She couldn’t even recognize her face in the mirror—it looked “distorted”—and her left eye was completely shut and “leaking blood.” She was losing vision. She vomited”.
Mourning the loss of an individual with such savagely violent tendencies can be problematic, especially for people in positions of influence and power, like Kanye and Louis Theroux. It could be seen by their followers as tolerating abuse, as long as the abuser is creative and ‘successful’.
Onfroy was was found in his sports car and was described at “comatose” by dispatchers on the scene and Riva Motorsports where he had been shopping for motorbikes. Police have released suspect descriptions, “two black males wearing hoodies, with the shooter wearing a red mask.”
It is thought that these two individuals are Soldier Kidd and Soldier Jojo, rappers who posted to Instagram earlier that day posing with a red mask. They left several more clues on social media linking them to the incident including geolocation tagging which placed them close to the scene of the crime. Currently no arrests have been made in connection to the death as messages of both love and disdain continue to be expressed.