As unrelenting as death is, many of us have learned to give it its proper respect. We cry when it takes the innocent, and bawl when it knocks on the door of our loved ones, heroes, and friends who were graciously given years to earn their aches, pains wrinkles, and gray hair.
But when death takes the repugnant, physically abusive and—at times—vile, many of us offer a head nod of thanks. We open the door and wish death well, minding our manners as it moves on to its next victim. Death, the ever consistent villain, doesn’t always get it right, but when it does, we have an accord.
On Monday, June 18, rapper XXXTentacion was fatally shot in what has been reported as a robbery gone awry in his native state of Florida. The 5-foot-6-inch rapper was leaving a dealership when he was approached by two gunmen. A graphic video showed XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, unconscious in a black BMW as onlookers recorded footage with their phones.
Less than an hour later, the 20-year-old was pronounced dead, leaving some in a moral purgatory of sorts, including myself. To be honest, I didn’t like the kid, but I didn’t want him to die either.
At best, XXXTentacion could be described as putrid. His frail frame was made more sinister by his caramel yet ashen skin, thin lips, slanted vacant eyes and chunky locs. The elephant face tattooed on his throat may be artistic, but it’s quickly offset by the number 17 placed on the right side of his forehead. A Reddit user (in the private subreddit XXXTentacion fan group) explained how the tattoo acted as a morbid wish. For his 13th birthday, XXXTentacion allegedly wished to be dead at 18, so his last year alive would be his 17th year.
XXXTentacion rose to fame after the 2017 Soundcloud release of his song “Look At Me,” and his sophomore album, ?, landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart. And while listeners did just that, they soon became aware of his laundry list of criminal allegations, most of which included domestic violence.
Onfroy was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, false imprisonment, witness tampering and domestic battery by strangulation. His ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, has gone on record and accused him of slapping her so hard after admiring a friend’s Snapchat that she heard ringing. She then revealed he threatened her with the option of being penetrated with either a long-handled barbecue fork or a wire barbecue brush.
She reportedly passed out just as she began to feel the fork graze her inner thigh.
For those of you who say she just should’ve left, XXXTentacion’s song “SAD!”—in which he threatens suicide if she dares break-up with him—explains why she may have stayed.
“Even if someone as sour as XXXTentacion doesn’t merit your condolences, he should at least earn our silence…”
During an interview with the Miami News Times, Ayala said after coming forward about her abusive relationship with the rapper many of his fans began cyberbullying her, hacking her Twitter account and deleting her Instagram. She also said she was forced to quit her job at Dunkin Donuts shortly after being hired because of threats and harassment made by his fans.
Yet those close to the artist say they sensed and saw a change in him. His talent was respected by many in hip-hop, and his supporters ensured his relevance lasted longer than the 15 minutes many thought he merited. XXXTentacion’s ability to make listeners feel and relate to the depression that plagued him had an insanely sticky effect, which is why despite the grotesque allegations, many still sided with him.
Days before his death, he took to Instagram to reveal he was working on a charity event for Florida, and Instagram Live footage shows the rapper speaking candidly about what he hopes his potential death would do for his fans.
“Worst things come to worst, I f**king die a tragic death or some sh*t and I’m not able to see out my dreams, I, at least, want to know that the kids perceive my message and were able to make something of themselves, and able to take my message and use it and turn it into something positive, and to at least have a good life. If I’m going to die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy, or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life.”
Maybe he was at a turning point in his life? Maybe he saw the error in his ways?
But for those of you who made it this far in this editorial, I could’ve very well laid out all the reasons why he’s undeserving of any kindness even in his death. For some of us, XXXTentacion’s transgressions aren’t enough to offer thoughts and prayers. For most of us, his behavior was so egregious, we took to social media to celebrate his demise and thank karma for lightening death’s load.
XXXTentacion, in a lot of people’s eyes, deserved his ending, and in a world where the public doesn’t often get the satisfaction of witnessing abusers meet their maker, XXXTentacion’s passing was the front row seat that proved revenge enjoys an audience.
It’s also not lost on me, a black woman, that when reports of his abhorrent brutality towards another black woman were made public, the Internet didn’t offer a shoulder shrug. And if you were so astute to draw the comparison between a black woman who often shows undeserved empathy towards a society that wouldn’t spit on us if we were in a fire, I would call you just and well within your right to roll your eyes.
The World Health Organization states as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by male intimate partners globally.
I get it. I promise I do.
But Jahseh was 20 years old, which means five years ago, he was 15 and 10 years ago, he was 10. His death has required that we be the bigger person and acknowledge and respect that his life was taken, even though he didn’t offer the same courtesy through his music and actions.
It feels good to match someone’s petty, and even better to have the last laugh. But if this 20-year-old was killed, and some of us find joy in that, how much have we exfoliated away at our own empathy and humanity? How raw have we become?
This is a hard sell, trust I know. I in no way condone or support his atrocious behavior and am not using his age as an excuse to okay his actions, but I don’t believe anyone has the right to take someone else’s life.
Yet even if someone as sour as XXXTentacion doesn’t merit your condolences, he should at least earn your silence, because being delighted and vocal about his untimely death, despite his horrid past, is just…wrong.