Florida police have arrested a suspect in the Monday (June 18) shooting of rapper XXXTentacion. Officials have charged Dedrick Devonshay Williams with the murder of the 20-year-old MC, who was born Jahseh Onfroy. XXXTentacion was gunned down while shopping for motorcycles in Florida.
What’s going to be interesting moving forward is the rapper already looks like he’s going to be lionized as a modern-day Tupac Shakur.
XXXTentacion was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the monster young talents of his generation. A 2016 breakthrough, “Look at Me!” showcased him as an MC with a raw and gritty delivery at a time when rap has never sound more homogenized.
Don’t take our word for that on the everyone-sounds-the-same front—instead check out the following words of wisdom from Snoop Dogg, who suggests that he has trouble distinguishing Future from Migos from Drake from __________ (insert name of your favourite rapper here).
By doing something original in an era where everyone sounds the same, XXXTentacion quickly began piling up hits, “Look at Me!” and “Sad!” among the tracks to crash the top 40. Last year’s full-length official debut, ?, shot straight to number one on the Billboard charts.
In the wake of Monday’s shooting, the rapper became, as is often the case, even bigger in death than he was in life, with “Sad!” smashing Taylor Swift’s single-day “Look What You Made Me Do” streaming record on Spotify. To hop on Instagram or Twitter is to unearth a Mt. Everest pile of posts from folks who are proclaiming XXXTentacion’s early death as the biggest national tragedy since Martin Luther King.
He’s certainly going to be missed by fellow stars like Kanye West, Travis Barker, and Lil Flip, all of whom paid quick tribute to his genius.
And that’s where things get weird.
One of the strange things about celebrity is that you pretty much get a pass for things that, in the real world, would make you nothing less than a total fucking pariah. Google "Chuck Berry farts on a hooker", and then ask yourself, one you're finished puking, why anyone not named Keith Richards cried the day he died.
To delve into XXXTentacion’s past is to quickly come to the conclusion that he was anything but a fine upstanding citizen. Genuinely decent people don’t beat their pregnant girlfriends to the point where they can’t see, and they don’t threaten to assault them with barbecue tools.
You can go here for a rundown of his relationship with the woman who will be birthing his child sometime this year. Lowlights include:
- The first incident of domestic violence occurred about two weeks later. He slapped her and broke her iPhone 6S, because she had complimented a male friend on his new jewelry. (XXXTentacion later repaired the phone.) Later that day, XXXTentacion left the room and returned with two grilling implements—a “barbecue pitchfork” and a “barbecue cleaner,” she said—and told her to pick between them, because he was going to put one of them in her vagina. She chose the fork. He told her to undress. He was lightly dragging the tool against her inner thigh when she passed out. He did not penetrate her with it.
- He then started elbowing, head-butting, and punching her. He strangled her until she almost passed out. He took her to the bathroom and demanded one last time that she tell him everything or he would kill her in the bathtub. She couldn’t even recognize her face in the mirror—it looked “distorted”—and her left eye was completely shut and “leaking blood.” She was losing vision. She vomited.
In interviews, XXXTentacion talked at length about a childhood that was endlessly troubled, starting with frequent fights in elementary school. In an interview with the New Times of Miami, the rapper recounting beating up a female classmate with how he “slapped the shit out of her and kneed her.”
In 2016, he told No Jumper that his mother was basically an absentee parent, which didn’t stop him from doing his best to protect her when she was around. Witnessing an altercation with his mom and another man when he was six, XXXTentacion recalls stabbing the man with a shard of glass and then biting out a piece of his flesh.
By his teens he was a frequent flyer at juvenile detention centres, locked up for charges including, but not limited to, robbery and assault. That would of course provide fuel for his burgeoning musical career. When he wasn’t behind bars XXXTentacion was blending hip-hop, black-hearted emo, and road-rash punk on tracks that served to exorcise his various demons.
Except that, even as he blew up—eventually riding SoundCloud stardom and a bank account with millions in it—the MC was more than happy to play the part of a borderline sociopath. An original video for “Look at Me!” featured grainy images of a six-year-old white kid being lynched by the rapper while a black child watched. The video was taken down from YouTube after racking up over 5 million views. His desire to push buttons with his art was something that he should be applauded for—as Childish Gambino’s great “This Is America” proved recently, anything that sparks discussion in an era where race relations are basically on a high boil is probably helping make the world a better place.
The problem was XXXTentacion seemed determined to make the world anything but a better place when he wasn’t making art. Even as he crashed the mainstream the MC ended up sparring with fans on social media on the indefensible issue of domestic violence.
After pleading not guilty to a whole host of charges in 2017—domestic battery by strangulation, aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, witness tampering—he was jailed for a total of 15 felonies at the end of the year. To scroll through the various stories that have been posted since his death is to put together a picture of a person with a history of getting into violent conflicts with whoever crossed him, whether it be beating fans from the stage with a microphone, or proudly leaving fellow inmates bloodied in prison.
Suggesting that he talked it liked he walked it, XXXTentacion leaves behind a legacy that suggests he wasn’t always happy with where he found himself in life. In "Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares," he raps, "Tired of feelin' like I'm trapped in my damn mind.” A talent who’s wringing every bit of sunshine out of life doesn’t roll out tracks like “NUMB", "I Don't Wanna Do This Anymore”, and "Depression & Obsession”.
This week, the man who wrote “Dead Inside” ended up dead behind the wheel of his black BMW outside of motorcycle dealership. He’s been mourned as not a man who did no shortage of bad shit, but instead as one of pop culture’s most revered figures: a rising star who lived fast, died young, and left a good-looking corpse.
Dedrick Devonshay Williams--who some might argue did the world a favour--may end up behind bars for the murder of XXXTentacion.
In the meantime, as Jahseh Onfroy achieves full-blown martyrdom, his fans should really ask themselves who exactly they are mourning: the artist, or a man who’s anything but worthy of their tears.