One Year On: Dealing With XXXTentacion's Toxic Legacy
Today – June 18th - marks one full year since Jahseh Onfroy, otherwise known as XXXTentacion, was shot and killed whilst leaving a motorcycle dealership.
A confrontation that was unprovoked led to the loss of one of the most successful young artists in the world at the time. Inspiring a world of kids to dreadlock their hair and wear industrial chains around their necks, he was seen by his fans as their outlet to rage and pure emotion in a world that wasn’t letting them be themselves.
Making his stance in the scene as a SoundCloud rapper, he started releasing music in 2013 and began taking it seriously after meeting Ski Mask The Slump God in a juvenile detention centre. Gaining traction in 2017 due to the release of ‘Look At Me’, he released his debut album ‘17’ later in the year and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart.
Earning a place as one of XXL’s Freshman as well as releasing another charting album – the murky, introspective ‘?’ - just before his death, it was clear that this was a talent whose life was taken extremely too soon. A funeral that was star-studded also allowed fans to pay their respects before they said goodbye to someone who inspired so many and who they admired dearly.
However, during the release of his numerous songs and projects, XXXTentacion’s reputation and standing came under serious scrutiny. The main case during this period involved false imprisonment, witness tampering, and most seriously of all the aggravated battery of his then-pregnant girlfriend.
In this current time, it’s extremely difficult to discuss this considering Jahseh is no longer with us to defend himself but it raised questions of whether the public should continue to support his music during his difficult case.
On a personal level, it also forced fans to ask themselves: if you supported his music, were you condoning abuse?
With high-profile cases of abusers being outted and then cancelled in the public eye, it's becoming more and more difficult for fans to separate the artist from their behaviour. In XXXtentacion’s case, fans were determined to do this especially with the information that Jahseh Onfroy was trying to change his past ways; this included raising social awareness about police brutality, mental illness, and giving back to his community.
Support poured in from the likes of Lil Yachty and Erykah Badu, which provided clarity on whether others believed in these changes to his moral and personal viewpoints.
With that being said, there are songs that gave a small insight into his emotions at the time and there are also songs that delivered messages encouraged change. Attempting to relinquish his flaws, XXXTentacion had major input into today’s music and inspired genre-defying projects by artists such as Billie Eilish, Denzel Curry and more. His songs and messages moulded him into the artist he once was and forever will be.
'Look At Me'
The track that launched Jahseh into infamy was known for its overpowering speaker popping bass and ‘ay’ flow that Drake was accused of stealing for his song ‘KMT’.
With lines such as "I put a hole in your parents..." that pierced through your ears, the song frightened the world but also intrigued them into discovering why it was so catchy.
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Another distorted bass track, this one was filled with pure rage and teenage angst. The lyrics were almost completely inaudible...until the second verse where the anger had seemingly calmed down but was still fuelled by a constant dominant burst of bass.
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A song purely demonstrating another emotion other than anger, ‘Sad’ is one of XXXTentacion’s most honest songs. Detailing his relationship with his love interest, he describes what the relationship has done to him and what it will do if it was to ever fall apart.
A song filled with melancholy and sadness (no pun intended), this song was Jahseh’s highest charting song and peaked at number one on the Billboard 100 chart.
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Appearing on Lil Wayne's long-awaited ‘Tha Carter V’ album, XXX’s posthumous vocals featured on this song, a track that is widely considered one of the standouts on the album.
Unaware that he was to appear on this album, the track acts – albeit inadvertently – as the perfect send off and a message to the late rapper’s fans they should not grieve over his death but instead remember their love for him, his life, and contribution to society.
Words: Debbie Ijaduola
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