Content warning: This article contains graphic language about domestic violence.
Rapper XXXTentacion, 20, was shot dead outside of a RIVA Motorsports around 4 p.m on June 18. Two armed men approached his car in an alleged robbery, pulled the trigger and X went limp.
XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was pronounced dead Monday evening at Broward Health North, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.
He was a break-out star who was catapulted to fame by his first single, "Look At Me," a distorted soundtrack where he repeats that imperative with increasing demand throughout the song. And since his death, the i
nternet has been doing just that. Everyone seems to be looking at him, with his controversial legacy torrid with criminal prosecution and allegations of abuse, contrasted with a deep love for his fans and music.
The debate can be seen splashed all over the internet. Many articles have been written mourning his early death, with rappers like Kanye and J. Cole taking to Twitter to express their condolences. Others, however, have pointed to his history of brutal violence against women and his run-ins with the law.
It all ultimately boils down to the classic question: How do we judge a man?
Is he marked by certain actions above others? How will people choose to remember him — as XXXTentacion, the rapper with a gilded future ahead, or Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy?
Maybe there isn't even much of a difference overall.
Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy was born January 23, 1998, in Plantation, FL to Cleopatra Bernard. According to a Miami New Times interview, Onfroy spent much of his earlier life neglected by his mother, living instead with his grandmother, or even at a residential program for troubled youth called Sheridan House Family Ministries. He used to pick fights just so his mother would notice him.
"I used to beat kids at school just to get her to talk to me, yell at me," he told the Miami New Times.
Once in middle school, when he and his mother were together, he told her about a girl who showed that she liked him by hitting him. His mother allegedly told him that he should give her three warnings, and if she didn't stop, he needed to handle it, reported the Miami New Times.
The next time the girl harassed him, he said he beat her.
He did it for his mother, who he worshiped throughout his life, though she was shocked at how seriously he took her words. She continued to be an influence, even nudging him to join a choir when his passion for music was discovered, according to Vulture.
He tried to teach himself how to play piano and guitar, and beginning in 2014, he started to release music on SoundCloud under the name XXXTentacion. This was all before his sleeper hit "Look At Me" in 2015 brought him into the forefront of rap with millions of plays.
While his brand grew bigger and his music took off, eventually landing him on Billboard charts, he met his then-girlfriend who later filed domestic abuse charges against him. According to a 142-page testimony from her that Pitchfork acquired, she accused him of pushing her head under running water in a bathtub. He allegedly beat her until her eyes leaked blood, strangled her and said he wanted to cut her tongue out for humming along to the verse of a featured artist on one of his tracks.
Since then, Onfroy's grown to be a polarizing figure in the music scene. He's been celebrated for his innovations in rap and the unique distortion of his tracks that give a gritty quality to his music. He's loved by his fans for his personal relationships with them. But he is despised for his criminal background and the allegations of abuse he later denied.
Onfroy was never the clean-cut man in the media. Some label him a woman-hater, an abuser, and a monster. Others tell tales on YouTube channels about how he personally reached out to them and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. He was reviled by some and transformed the lives of others.
The media is split, the internet is polarized and the people are at a loss. Because perhaps the most difficult trial of his fans will be contextualizing his life choices and understanding what role they play in the bigger conversations about the music industry, violence against women and about what it means to have idols that fall short of perfect.
For now, though, the fact remains: A man has died. Strip away the fame and the money and the millions of followers, and that is the truest fact there is.
He was a controversial man, a deeply polarizing figure in the music industry. But he belonged to the fans he touched and the friends and family he left behind in a unique way. And that must be respected.
Onfroy or XXXTentacion, he deserves no excuses made for his actions if they're true.
But after death, perhaps he deserves some peace.