Before I get started, I want to be clear: All Black lives matter in my eyes.
No Black body should be gunned down and murdered in the street the way XXXtentacion’s was earlier this week. I cannot imagine what his family is going through as they have to bury this 20-year-old man for something so senseless, cruel and callous. This never should have happened.
But when news hit of the young rapper’s death, I felt nothing. I just kept scrolling on my Twitter timeline bopping to Bey and Jay’s new album. In no way was I celebrating his death—that would be crass and unlike myself—but to be honest, I just didn’t care.
First, I barely know this man’s music and only heard of him last month when Spotify handed down their now-defunct hate content policy, where they stopped promoting his and R.Kelly’s songs. What I was more familiar with was his twisted and sick history of alleged violence against women. According to a recent Miami New Times article, XXXtentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was charged in 2016 with aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness tampering.
According to his ex-girlfriend Geneva Ayala, XXXtentacion beat her repeatedly in front of his friends, who sadly never once intervened. She also claims that he threatened to rape her with a long-handled barbecue fork or a wire barbecue brush—she had to choose which one he was going to use on her. Court papers also claim “that he choked her, broke clothes hangers on her legs, threatened to chop off her hair or cut out her tongue, pressed knives or scissors to her face, and held her head under water in their bathroom while promising to drown her.”
But one of his biggest act of sadism was in October of 2016, when she was pregnant. He strangled and beat her for hours and instead of taking her to the hospital afterwards, he took her phone and held her hostage for days. Luckily, she escaped and reported the crime to the police.
But XXXtentacion’s violence wasn’t just toward women: He was arrested for allegedly stabbing his manager and he even bragged in an interview that while once incarcerated, he beat a gay inmate for looking at him funny.
Despite being a rising star on the hip-hop scene, if these allegations are true—and I believe them to be—this is the behavior of a violent psychopath. But to no one’s surprise, his colleagues don’t necessarily see it that way. Folks from the likes of Kanye West to J. Cole to Kendrick Lamar, flocked to social media to share their condolences and to pay homage to the slain rapper. Most of them either ignored the rapper’s history of alleged violence, treated him like a martyr or told folks not to judge him for past indiscretions and mistakes.
Even worse? Y’all’s “Classic Man” Jidenna even went as far as to compare the Florida rapper to Malcolm X and stress how much he could have grown had he not been killed.
XXX’S fans were just as bad, from claiming that “even Black rapists lives matter” to stressing that what people do in the past shouldn’t matter to calling folks like me cruel for not giving a damn. They’re even so heinous that when Ayala tried to bring gifts to a vigil for XXX this week, they chased her away and set the presents on fire.
You’d think she beat and tortured him.
But this is to be expected when in life (and in death) people refuse to hold our men accountable for their abusive and dangerous behavior. We’ve been socialized to protect Black men at all costs, but why does is it have to be at the expense of women? Even if XXX was finding himself as a man, but why does using a woman’s face and body as a punching bag have to be the lesson book to self-discovery?
I wonder how many of these same people would be willing to cut Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed seven Black churchgoers, the same slack? Given he was only 19 at the time of the mass shooting, can he change into something better?
Most importantly, if all of a sudden people who are so concerned about XXX’s growth, potential and young age, why didn’t anyone step in earlier and say, “Nah man. You can’t act like this anymore.” Instead, they turned the other cheek, while he was rewarded with a $6 million contract because talent, profits and a strong fanbase trumps violence against women of color.
Meanwhile, Ayala is still raising money on GoFundMe so that she can afford surgery to repair her eye that was severely damaged during that infamous beating. Where’s her collective outpouring of empathy from people? Given the trauma she’s experienced, what about her potential and growth? What’s her life going to look like 10-20 years down the road? Better yet, does anyone even care?
In the end, I do hope that XXX’s family gets justice for his death, but I personally cannot separate the man from the music, nor can I force myself to care about him and Ayala at the same time. Right now, my heart only breaks for her and I’m not ashamed to admit that.