While motorcycle shopping, as any wildly successful young rapper might, XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was sitting in his car when he was approached and shot by an unknown gunman. Before fleeing the scene in a black SUV, the assailant made out with X’s Louis Vuitton bag, presumably containing a large sum of cash. In a graphic video released just minutes after the attack, sirens blare in the distance as a crowd gathers. One man is seen desperately and unsuccessfully searching for a pulse. Although initially reported to be in critical condition, his death was later confirmed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Department.
Losing anyone to violent crime is tragic; losing someone so young and full of potential is heart-rending. Celebrities and fellow rappers took to social media to offer their condolences immediately following the news.
Kanye West was among the first to respond via Twitter saying, “rest in peace I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here thank you for existing.”
Big Sean offered one of the more thoughtful takes on X’s early departure tweeting, “My heart dropped when I heard about @xxxtentacion, I feel like we only got to see a glimpse of his artistry. I didn’t know him personally but I respect how passionate he was about his music and message. Nobody deserves this kind of ending. gone too soon, damn! RIP.”
Others were not as kind in their recollections of Onfroy. His legacy was controversial to say the least, tainted or perhaps propped-up by his continual run-ins with the law. Many criticized him for condoning violence and drug use while simultaneously and hypocritically preaching messages of peace and love in various ranting videos posted online. In July 2016, Onfroy was arrested with charges of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. At the time of his death, he was awaiting trial for a domestic violence incident involving his pregnant girlfriend.
The reasoned voices of dissent, i.e. those who aren’t facetious in their blatant disrespect for life lossed, urge us not to eulogize and unquestioningly extol the man behind the music. They argue that death is not the ultimate, biblical force of forgiveness many want it to be. Rather, we should distinguish between XXXTentacion the musical talent and Jahseh Onfroy the person, if such a thing is even possible, in our praise of his career while acknowledging the blemishes of his conduct.
Death was certainly not a subject Onfroy shied away from in his music. Throughout high school, he suffered from depression and used songwriting as a relief valve for these pent up feelings of anger and sadness, often inciting grotesque imagery in his lyrics – a technique undoubtedly borrowed from the grunge and nu-metal music he was so avidly consuming. His debut album “17” and subsequent project “?” featured death as a central point of reference. While he struggled to transcend the adolescent angst often associated with platitudinous, clichéd statements of the depressed person, it was clear that his music was evolving toward a more nuanced, honest articulation of his mental state. Speculation is of course a moot point as his musical evolution and understanding of self was cut tragically short at just 20 years old.
Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.