At this point, the rap and hip hop communities are probably weary of reading new headlines talking about the untimely and tragic deaths of their most promising and well known young stars. Even as far back as the late twentieth century, young musicians in the rap and hip hop genres have chosen lifestyles that have led to their incarceration, or worse, early death. From Tupac Shakur in the late twentieth century to names like Juice Wrld or Pop Smoke, young artists are either getting murdered in cold blood, overdosing, or making lifestyle choices that end their lives too early. Another name that was recently in the headlines was that of XXXTentacion, who was murdered in 2018. Many studies have been done that link the hip hop genre to an inordinate amount of attention from the criminal justice communities, but unfortunately it seems like often the lifestyles that are chosen by some of these artists are too much, too fast, and too often for their health and safety. They put themselves at risk, say too much, and they do too much; it often has very lasting negative effects.
Who Was XXXTentacion?
It is really quite disappointing to write an article about someone born in 1998 in the past tense. Nobody should have their life come to an end that quickly, especially someone who offered up a lot to the music community. However, due to his murder, he XXXTentacion only lived for two decades.
Born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy in January of 1998, XXXTentacion was a rapper, singer, and songwriter. Despite having several legal issues that plagued his career and put him in a negative light across the board, he gained a cult following through his music and the message he created. He wrote music of a very vulnerable nature and shed light on issues like depression and alienation. He also wrote very cross-genre music, shifting between emo, trap, hip hop, and rock.
Like so many of his fellow musicians, especially within the rap genre, Onfroy’s early life was incredibly difficult. He was raised mostly by his grandmother because his father was absent and his mother dealt with personal character issues that did not allow her to be an active member in his life. When he was only six years old, he had to try and stab a man who was attacking his mother. No doubt several of his experiences as a young man grew into the music he made before his death. He allowed them to shape his perspective and he was able to give a voice to the very difficult circumstances he found himself in.
His musical career began young as his aunt persuaded him to attend school and church choir at a very young age. This was the first time he expressed any interest in music, but he was shortly thereafter kicked out for attacking a fellow student. He attended middle school before also being expelled for a violent altercation, and he dropped out of highschool before completing the tenth grade. In all, the difficulties of his childhood combined with the stress he underwent as a young adult definitely led to the mistakes he made later on in his life and probably contributed heavily to his death.
XXXTentacion’s Musical Career
Although he started singing early, XXXTentacion did not release his first song until June of 2013 when he was fifteen years old. He released “News/Flock” with an artist he met in juvenile detention named Stokeley Clevon Goulbourne who also went by Ski Mask the Slump God. After their release, the two met up in order to commit a string of home invasions, but this plan fell apart after XXXTentacion bought a Blue Snowball microphone and began recording his own music, convincing Goulbourne to do the same. Onfroy’s first official song was titled “Vice City” and he released it on his Soundcloud under the stage name XXXTentacion, which was based on the Spanish word tentación, which means temptation. It was at this time that he decided that he would make the switch from a life of crime to a life dedicated to music because he felt at the time that it would be a better outlet for his feelings and his emotion.
His first EP was called The Fall and was released on November 21, 2014. In April of 2016, he followed that up with another EP called Willy Wonka Was a Child Murderer which was heavily inspired by both heavy metal and indie sounds. Shortly after this release, he quit his job at a call center to pursue music full time. However, shortly thereafter, he was arrested for aggravated battery on his then pregnant girlfriend.
After his release from prison, he released several studio albums produced by either Empire or Bad Vibes Forever. He released Revenge in 2017, 17 also in 2017, Skins and ? in 2018, and then finally Bad Vibes Forever the album was released in 2019. He broke several Spotify records both during his short career and also after his death.
Something that marked XXXTentacion’s short career was his several run-ins with the law. His first bid was in 2014 where he spent a year in a youth detention center for gun possession charges. However, he was charged as a minor, not as an adult, and avoided a lengthy sentence.
Then, in 2016, he was arrested and charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and home invasion. He posted bail and was then arrested again due to assault allegations stemming from an incident involving his pregnant girlfriend. This led Spotify, the streaming giant, to remove his songs from their curated playlists due to the public backlash. It was later leaked that he had said, “I already got what I wanted, I already bashed her face–her face on the internet, bruh, I done made her look bad on the internet, bruh.” He spent several months on house arrest leading up to his death.
His reckless lifestyle did not improve his public image nor did it serve to extend his life. Unfortunately, on June 18, 2018, after stopping by a bank to pick up fifty thousand dollars in bills, the rapper was stopped as he tried to drive out of a parking lot, robbed, and fatally shot. Since then, four men have been arrested in connection with the event, but the case was still active as of April, when one of the suspects wrote a judge begging to be released due to fears surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic. The same man is apparently trying to hire a private investigator to determine whether the information collected that implicates him is enough to convict him.
Kanye West responded to his death by releasing a statement that said, “Rest in peace I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here thank you for existing.”
While he brought a beautiful new sound to the world of hip hop, his life was cut short. Hopefully his fans will remember the good without the bad and appreciate the beauty of finding someone who was emotionally vulnerable enough to share his struggles, personal demons aside.