XXXTentacion: should we honour him?

Twenty-year-old rapper XXXTentacion was recently shot dead by two masked men as he left a motorcycle dealership in South Florida. His death has sparked fierce debate on social media about whether to honour the rapper, who has been charged with multiple offences such as armed robbery, aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness tampering among others. But this tragic controversy is part of a long-running debate over the separation of art and its creator. Can we honour XXXTentacion, the artist, without condoning the actions of Jahsen Onfroy, the man? UNiDAYS explores the debate in further detail and attempts to straighten out the facts.

The most graphic charges against XXXTentacion come from an ex-girlfriend, who alleges that XXX domestically abused her on a near daily basis during their relationship, including whilst she was pregnant. In a 142-page transcript of the testimony given by the reported victim, leaked by Pitchfork, horrifying details of the alleged instances of repeated domestic violence are described. Here are a few:

The reported victim writes that in May 2016, XXX had persuaded her to leave her boyfriend and move in with him in an apartment in Sweetwater, Fla. She alleges that the abuse began two weeks later and in two incidents there, XXX had grabbed her by the neck, strangled her and forced her down on the bed before another person who lived there came to her aid. The woman said that the rapper later slapped her and smashed her iPhone 6S because she complimented a male friend about his new jewellery. The report from Pitchfork continues:

Later that day, XXXTentacion left the room and returned with two grilling implements—a “barbecue pitchfork” and a “barbecue cleaner,” she said—and told her to pick between them, because he was going to put one of them in her vagina. She chose the fork. He told her to undress. He was lightly dragging the tool against her inner thigh when she passed out. He did not penetrate her with it. In early October 2016, she found out that she was pregnant by XXXTentacion. The pregnancy was planned by both of them. On the afternoon of October 6, he told her to move from the bed they were lying on. He then went out onto the balcony, where she could still hear him, and called up the person she had slept with while XXXTentacion was in jail, demanding to know everything. When XXXTentacion returned inside, he told her, “You need to tell me the truth right now or I’ll kill you and this jit.” She said that “jit” was slang for the unborn child.

He then started elbowing, head-butting, and punching her. He strangled her until she almost passed out. He took her to the bathroom and demanded one last time that she tell him everything or he would kill her in the bathtub. She couldn’t even recognize her face in the mirror—it looked “distorted”—and her left eye was completely shut and “leaking blood.” She was losing vision. She vomited.

In addition to this, the woman claimed that XXX had assaulted her after she had hummed along to a featured artist’s verse in one of his songs. “He also wanted to cut out my tongue because I was singing the song,” she said, according to Pitchfork. She suffered “black eyes, a lump on the back of her head, scratch marks, and bruises, including a large bruise on her ankle where he stomped her.”

She alleges that she was locked in the apartment for two days after the attack, XXX telling her she couldn't leave the apartment until her face had healed because otherwise the police would be called. She was left in an apartment in North Miami Beach with barred windows and XXX confiscated her phone, which she did not get back until he was arrested on October 8th. The woman claims she was forced to escape the apartment and was able to contact an ex-boyfriend, whose mother drove her to the Miami Police department. The ex-boyfriend’s mother attested to the woman’s injuries, describing her eyes as “black and blue, purple, every colour under the rainbow", according to Pitchfork.

XXX allegedly beat her with plastic coat hangers, “He broke a good 30 hangers on my legs,” and when asked to pinpoint the days when XXX had threatened to kill her, the reported victim said, “Well, when we lived in Orlando, it was literally like every day.”

XXX denied all charges and plead not guilty. In a phone interview, XXX asserted that she was assaulted by someone else and claimed to have evidence that she was not pregnant. He added, ‘‘So when I get out I’ll be fucking all yo little sisters in the throat hole". He later wrote on Twitter, ‘‘Everybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’m finna domestically abuse y’all sisters' pussy from the back… If you want your pussy domestically abused, hit my line."

Earlier this year, an old video recirculated online appearing to show the rapper hitting a woman, who later said that she had been "terrified for my life". But Onfroy retaliated by filing a fraud and defamation lawsuit against the woman in question, forcing her to release a statement saying that the pair had been ‘joking around’ in the original video.

Yet despite all of these charges, there has been an outpouring of tributes on social media in honour of XXX...

While Louis Theroux tweeted acknowledging XXX’s “personal demons”, he continued to pay tribute to the rapper.

But is it fair to reduce the charges against XXX to “personal demons”? What about his alleged victims?

Is the way forward to honour the artist, while also paying respect to his victims?

Others saw XXX as a victim himself. Some pointed to the fact that Onfroy himself suffered abuse during his childhood.

XXX was raised in Northern Lauderdale by his mother. His dad was in prison and while XXX clearly adored his mother, he has alleged that there were instances of mental abuse and XXX was often passed off to others to be looked after.

XXX would brawl throughout school, causing him to be thrown out of Margaret Middle School as well as his own home by his mother. His young life was littered by stints in correctional juvenile detention centres. In a video released on Twitter, XXX describes the sentiment behind his ‘Numb’ facial tattoo, arguing that he felt numb because "I was going through a time in my life where I felt like I couldn’t feel shit”.

Journalist Justin Block recently tweeted:

Should we look at the bigger picture and turn to the society in which a young man was raised to be violent?

The debate brings to light the important issue of the role of media and particularly social media platforms in crime investigations. Video footage allegedly taken moments after XXX was shot was released on social media, stirring up a frenzy. While many reshared the video, others were horrified.

What do you think? Should we honour XXX Tentacion, or not?

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