In October of 2016, a heavyweight of SoundCloud rap with the stage name XXXTENTACION was charged with aggravated battery, domestic battery, false imprisonment, and witness-tampering. XXXTENTACION, born Jahseh Onfroy, is not the first artist to have his career stultified by damning allegations. The overwhelming similarity, however, between X’s rap persona and his off-stage reputation is worth noting.
Above virtually every headline about XXXTentacion is one of Onfroy’s several mugshots. The pictures show an eighteen-year-old man with short, dyed dreadlocks adorning a heavily tattooed face. One of the mugshots was taken after an arrest for home invasion, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The charges were suspended and Onfroy was issued with six years of probation. In the midst of this ordeal, he was taken into custody again for the allegations of domestic battery. These recent legal troubles, along with the violent drama at his concerts and the videos of him fighting on the internet, have given X a reputation for violence.
Though Onfroy’s trial for domestic battery has yet to begin, key information about the case has already been leaked to the public. Pitchfork.com released details they had culled from a 142-page testimony from the alleged victim. If true, the thorough and gruesome allegations reveal Onfroy to be habitually predatory and abusive. Hip-hop icons are generally not very critical of those who commit crimes like theft and possession of deadly weapons, but Onfroy’s alleged pattern of cruelty has been a watershed moment for some in the industry. One can find a bevy of articles condemning the widespread acceptance of XXXTENTACION despite the public having access to court documentation concerning his crimes. A writer for DJBooth.com urged readers to “think before pressing play on a song that’s being crushed under the weight of a rape or battery charge.”
Despite the backlash from culture critics, Onfroy’s meteoric rise to relevance in the rap game has not abated since he was arrested in October of 2016 for the abuse of his partner. In August of this year, XXXTENTACION’s hit track “Look At Me!” officially went platinum. X’s debut record, titled “17,” reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It is certain that a sizable portion of Onfroy’s fanbase are aware of the severity of the crimes with which he has been charged. He has not shied away from commenting on the accusations and the accuser in interviews and on social media. In one Instagram post, X said “To anybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’m finna domestically abuse y’all little sisters.” In short, the criminal element is part of what draws people to XXXTENTACION.
Though his name is a byword in certain circles, X continues to be predominantly famous for his music. Music fans should aspire to separate the art from the artist, but the connections between Onfroy the criminal, and Onfroy, the musician, are too numerous to go unnoticed. There are several explicit references to the physical abuse of women in X’s lyrics. In “Jugg Walk!” X says that he “had to slap” a woman. In “I Wonder if Bloods Watch Blue’s Clues,” he declares that “rape is [his] fetish.” In yet another song, he alludes to inserting a “50 Cal” in a woman’s mouth during sex before calling her “a money-crazed cow.”
Eminem, Tyler the Creator, and Rick Ross have all talked about committing rape in their music, but none of them found himself headed to court with a woman alleging that he raped her. Lyrics cannot be conflated with confession to a crime. Nonetheless, X’s compulsion to rap about abusing women will not sit well with those who have read his alleged victim’s testimony.
The allegations have not hindered his career thus far. If the charges are dropped or he is exonerated, X can resume his work in full, and continue being a danger to concertgoers and the women around him. If he is convicted, it will probably mean incarceration, and the end of public interest in the troubled case of Jahseh Onfroy.
Alex Klein is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.