My only context for XXXTentacion is a terrible one. I first became aware of him several months ago, after reading about how his star was rising not just in spite of the numerous crimes he allegedly committed but specifically because of them.
He was back off my radar until a month ago, when Spotify sought to remove his music from its promoted playlists as part of the streaming service’s “hateful conduct” policy, but reversed its decision after an outcry—including criticism from Kendrick Lamar, who reportedly threatened to remove his music from Spotify if this policy stood.
I still didn’t know much about him, though, until reading the extensive Miami New Times profile of him two weeks ago. It’s here that I learned his age (20), his relatively diminutive size (5 feet 6 and 120 pounds), his name (Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy), the size of his record deal ($6 million) and his discography.
I also, for the first time, learned in detail about his alleged crimes—which, without getting explicit, revealed a level of brutality and gleeful sadism that reminded me of what I’d read, years ago, about Uday Hussein.
And when people like that die, as Hussein did 15 years ago and XXXTentacion did yesterday, my only reaction is that the world is a better place with them gone.
I still haven’t listened to his music, so I do not have the same relationship with it (and him) that many of the young people who are mourning him today do. Despite my feelings about XXXTentacion, I am sad that they are sad.
There are also the reactions to his death from grown-ups—including people such as J. Cole and others in the same industry.
Jidenna, notably, had many words to offer:
Ultimately, these types of eulogies are nothing but a rush to pretend that those who write them actually gave a shit about XXXTentacion. It’s performative mourning. They’re also often accompanied, as Jidenna’s was, by an attempt to admonish those of us who are honest about how we actually felt, which adds a level of sanctimony to these performances.
Because if these men like J. Cole and Jidenna and Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West and whoever else with a voice and a platform and any sort of influence actually gave an actual shit about Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy’s life and not XXXTentacion’s “potential,” he might still be alive today.
If they truly gave a shit about him, they wouldn’t have enabled him with continual co-signs and shoutouts. They knew, as we all know now, about the total destruction he reportedly inflicted on Geneva Ayala during his short life (and still inflicts in death, as his fans will undoubtedly continue to stalk and harass her and perhaps even worse). And they surely must have known that support from industry titans provides to be no disincentive. Why would he change if he was getting multimillion-dollar record deals and love from his elders?
I won’t pretend to know what they could have done to genuinely help him become a better person. I just know that retweeting his music and threatening to boycott Spotify ain’t it. I just know that his hundreds of thousands of impressionable young fans also see what we’re seeing, and they wouldn’t be wrong to presume that these co-signs are implicit support of his behavior.
Of course, we already know that these eulogizers don’t give a shit about Geneva Ayala and the countless other Geneva Ayalas abused and discarded by the XXXTentacions of the world—women and girls whose only value is to eventually exist as a redemptive narrative fulcrum; their entire lives and worths reduced to literary devices. That is clear.
But lamenting over XXXTentacion’s murder when you also supported a life that clearly was leading to more destruction of more Geneva Ayalas (and, eventually, his own death) shows that this “care” is about as useful and meaningful and cheap as an “RIP” T-shirt.