The Glorification of XXXTentacion

Online Music Editor Jaysim Hanspal examines the toxic fandom of XXXTentacion.

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I know you’re somewhere, somewhere/I’ve been trapped in my mind, girl, just holdin’ on”. When I first came across Jocelyn Flores I was on a road trip across California, eating Popeye’s and staring at the endless expanse of desert that stretched out until forever. His calming voice was reassuring and, immediately I felt the pain in his lyrics, a comment on the suicide of his close friend. The pain induced song, released when Onfroy was only seventeen years old, tells a tale of a young man who has lived through events that are beyond his years.

Born in Plantation, Florida, it was clear from the start that he would not have an easy life. Without any financial means of bringing him up, he was sent to live with his grandmother after stabbing a man at six years old, in an attempt to protect his mother. Fast forward a couple of years and Onfroy is forced to drop out of school as a result of several physical altercations with other students, perhaps as a result of his ongoing battle with depression. Either way, it was clear from his violent childhood that Onfroy had experienced trauma far beyond his years.

it was clear from the start that he would not have an easy life

With the news of his recent death, fans and – let’s be honest, bandwagoners – have come forth with tributes and other memorials in an attempt to remember the young rapper, who died at only twenty years old in a supposed robbery shooting in Florida. Surprisingly, after quite a thorough search there is little I can find online about his death. Instead, Google is flooded with articles that detail the rapper’s messy past offences and his dangerous reputation, raising the question as to whether it is poignant or imperative that we keep art and the artist separate.

Onfroys infamous mugshot.

On 6 October 2016 Onfroy allegedly beat his then-pregnant girlfriend. “Victim’s eyes [were] punched to where both eyes became shut and the victim could not see,” the report states. This savage spark of violence is one that is seemingly absent from the tributes and summaries of Onfroy’s life that have recently appeared on various social media websites. Including charges related to this incident, he was also arrested for false imprisonment and witness-tampering, which delayed his debut album Bad Vibes Forever. XXXTentacion met his girlfriend online before she attended one of his shows and moved in with him that very night. Despite an optimistic beginning, their relationship deteriorated rapidly and the very first incidence of domestic violence occurred only two weeks after they met as he reportedly slapped her, breaking her phone, and presented her with two grilling implements that she would have to choose between. This may seem like a young man conflicted between a habitual life of crime and his passion for music, but the undeniable truth only paints Onfroy for who he was, a violent man with an even more violent past. Music aside, this image of the man seems light years away from the XXXTentacion that the public embraced only a few years later, with hundreds gathered at his funeral last month. And for many, this is just another example of an artist exposing the problematic truth between fame and justice.

Google is flooded with articles that detail the rapper’s messy past offences and his dangerous reputation

Onfroy did not shy away from his notoriety, starting public feuds with Drake and other popular rappers. In 2017, the rapper released the music video for his new song “Look At Me!” and sparked outrage with a video depicting a white child being hanged by Onfroy as a black child watched on. The video also showcases footage of the Philando Castille, Rodney King, and Heather Hayes police shooting incidents, and was assumed by many liberals to be a comment on race and equality in America. However, many conservative public figures denounced the album, seeing it as a deliberate attempt to spark racial violence. In truth, the rapper’s explanations often seemed like throwaway comments, and his love of the shock factor remained at the forefront of his motivations, casting doubt on the purpose of the video, and the intentions of the artist himself.

In short, the glorification of XXXTentacion reflects the systematic problem of stardom: musicians remain basically guilt-free and receive no real punishment or correction for their transgressions. Looking back at cases like Chris Brown and his abuse of Rihanna, which met with little to no drama, further exacerbates the extent of this issue, and he has since released well-received singles with the likes of Lil Dicky and Gucci Mane. ‘Freaky Friday’ celebrates the lifestyle and infamy of Chris Brown showing him surrounded by attractive women and fans. XXXTenacion is yet another example of this starstruck trend which only seeks to create heroes out of a celebrity culture which offers no one of real worth. It’s safe to say that before you rapidly post a “heartfelt” RIP post about an artist “gone too soon”, you should maybe dig a little deeper, and acknowledge the shiny facade we so willingly hold up to society.

If you have experienced domestic violence in any capacity, you can contact the free 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 0808 2000 247.

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