XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Onfroy, was reported dead on June 18. The 20-year-old rapper was fatally shot in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
The rapper rose to fame in early 2017 after his Soundcloud song “Look At Me!” made it into mainstream circles. Simultaneously, people became more aware of his past as his ex-girlfriend’s brutal abuser. In a 142-page transcript of his victim’s testimony obtained by Pitchfork , the woman described the horrific violence Onfroy subjected her to in 2016. This included the former rapper telling her to choose between a “barbecue pitchfork” and “barbecue cleaner” as he was going to penetrate her genitalia with either one. She further explained how Onfroy had head-butted, punched, elbowed and strangled her after telling him she was pregnant. He then confiscated her phone and made her remain in the apartment, stating
On top of this, in a 2016 interview with No Jumper, the rapper told of his experience with a gay cellmate in prison. He had told the guards that if his new cellmate “does anything I disapprove of I’m gonna kill him” so when he felt that his cellmate was staring at him Onfroy’s response was to put his head on the concrete slab of his bed and “started stomping on him.” He then went on to strangle the man in an attempt to kill him but got caught by the prison guards at which point Onfroy “smeared [the cellmate’s ] blood on my face.”
Despite the horrific violence, XXXTentacion left in his trail, he still managed (frankly unsurprisingly) to find success as an artist. Many fans heralded him as someone who’d saved their lives through his music. Many were aware of his abusive behaviour but chose to ‘separate the artist from the music’ whilst others simply deny all claims against him. The girlfriend that he subjected to abuse was frequently targeted by fans who branded her a liar and an attention seeker who’d tried to tarnish the rapper’s career which is strange seeing as abuse almost never ruins the careers of men (Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Woody Allen… the list goes on).
As tributes to the rapper pour out on social media, some have chosen to condemn the rapper and offer tributes instead to his victims. In fact, Twitter was filled with jokes about the rappers death as people celebrate there being one less abuser on the earth. Fans responded to this with rage that anyone would dare to hate someone who brought so much hate towards the people around him. Many advocates against abusers continue to be attacked on Twitter as XXXTentacion claim that nobody deserves to die whilst also detailing how they intend to murder anyone who says a bad word about him. The same fan base that has often called anyone who speaks out against the rapper’s behaviour ‘triggered’ or an ‘SJW’ are now somehow champions of morality who pass judgement on anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
The most interesting product of XXXTentacion’s death is this widespread idea that nobody, no matter how awful they are, no matter how much harm they cause, deserves to die. The first issue with this is quite obviously that death is not something one can evade or escape it is the only guaranteed aspect of the human existence. Whilst death can be tragic, painful and unjust as we might say when an innocent person is killed by police, for example, the question of whether it was deserved is totally irrelevant. To deserve something is to show qualities or actions worthy of a certain response. As we all are subjected to death, I can only conclude that we must all show these qualities and, therefore, be deserving of death. I understand that this might appear to be harsh but it is the truth – even if it’s a truth we don’t like. I thus conclude that any argument that a person is heartless because they believe that XXXTentacion deserved to die is based on nothing but emotion, particularly anger which often makes us irrational, and contributes little to the conversation.
If we move away from the question of whether or not someone deserves death we get to a point where we must ask if this death is one that we should care about or be upset about. Fans like to portray the rapper as a classic tortured artist who released his pain through beautiful music and touched the masses. He is seen as a saviour who suffered for the good of others, almost a Jesus like character. This is a characterisation often afforded to men who cause suffering some but pleasure to others. To take an extreme example of this, Holocaust deniers and Hitler sympathisers try to make Hitler appear as a man we should pity rather than despise. They might point to the fact that he was also an artist who created good paintings, that he cared about his mother or that he was just trying to the best for his country. Of course, the actions of Hitler and XXXTentacion caused two extremely different levels of harm but they caused harm nonetheless. To take an Aristotelian ethical stance the harm that one causes in their life through voluntary actions are what shapes their character. When one put’s causing suffering and pain to others in practice throughout their lives one becomes a person of suffering and pain.
The abuse that XXXTentacion subjected his girlfriend to and the attempted murder of a gay man simply for existing in his proximity were voluntary actions that the rapper made on his own, only he is to blame for his actions and poor moral character. Looking back on his life, the frequent disregard for human life and exercise of control over others lead me to the conclusion that his death was not a tragedy. The only tragedy here is that he was around long enough to do cause so much physical and psychological pain to others and so many people have been ready to accept that. The proposals that he could have become a better ma later on in life are irrelevant because a long life is not guaranteed. One cannot simply spend a portion of their life being an evil human being and justify that with the claim that one day maybe, just maybe, they’ll be a little bit better.
Finally, I am not interested in any good that XXXTentacion has done if it has come from the suffering of others. I will be vilified for having no empathy towards someone who has shown no remorse for their actions and has allowed their fans to continue inflicting their tirade of rage on others. I accept no attacks on my moral character or that of others who refuse to feel sorry for this man as his actions speak louder than the words in his songs. I am not obliged to care about the death of an abuser who has nobody to blame for the damage he’s caused to others but himself.