Reckless Adolescent to Cultural: The XXXTentacion Tale

Written by Tom Maher

Cover Image by Josh Sobel

Jahseh Onfroy, better known for his stage name, XXXTentacion, is arguably one of the most polarising figures in contemporary music history. A struggle to cope with vexing emotions, either through youthful immaturity, an unwillingness to seek help, or the plain, saddening unavailability of mental health resources, or some combination of the three, appears be a unifying factor in XXXTentacion fandom. A man whose past triggered an attempted character assassination by the media, and yet we stand here, in 2021, and his legacy continues to live on with numerous multi-platinum records and a cult-like following that has allowed XXXTentancion to figuratively write himself amongst the stars.

So, how did he do it? How did a kid suffering with severe anger issues, a drug-dealing father, copious charges pressed against him and transitory homelessness become the most notorious name in emo-rap? Jahseh Onfroy was born January 23, 1998, in Plantation, Florida, to parents, Dwayne Onfroy and Cleopatra Bernard. He was primarily raised by his grandmother due to personal problems in his mother’s life. In 2004, he had attempted to stab a man that was attacking his mother, in 2008 his father was jailed for nine years as a result of a drug operation, and years later he was then indicted with gun possession charges amongst others and, as a result, sentences to juvenile detention.

This is where the story begins. In juvenile detention he would meet Stokeley Goulbourne, or better know as, Ski Mask the Slump God. This is where they began to freestyle together and eventually, with the help of another friend, began recording and releasing music under the guise of XXXTentacion. After a plethora of Soundcloud releases, Jahseh Onfroy went to link up with producer, Rojas. He showed him a multitude of beats which X did not like, they tried one last beat which was originally intended for a rapper who had since been imprisoned. That beat would go on to become his first hit single, “Look at Me”. After another prison stint in 2016, he was released and “Look at Me” had garnered mainstream attention due to accusations of Drake using a similar flow on his song “KMT”.

Following this drama, he dropped his first studio album, “17”. This is considered the true beginning of X as a staple in the rap game. Only to be followed by “?”. Which was released shortly before his untimely passing on June 18th, 2018 in Florida. Originally, he was planning to host a charity event before being brutally murdered in an armoured robbery in Broward County. X would go on to achieve incredible posthumous success with his single “SAD” becoming the most streamed song in a single day and achieving 9x platinum with his album “?”.

X has always been clouded with controversy and dispute, but it is fair to say that he was beginning to channel the negative facets of his life to a platform for positive energy and enlightenment. He was extremely young, and, to this day, he receives a lot of negative attention. His life had many of the trappings of gangsta rappers who were shot at a young age in the 1990s: drugs, violence and persistent trouble with the law. But XXXTentacion was not exactly a hard man. He was insecure and drug-addicted, still living through his own traumatic childhood but this doesn’t give us the right to scapegoat him as a consequence of the lack of support for kids over the mental health crisis that has plagued the world in the last ten years. Jidenna words it better than anyone could: “For those who are so woke that their compassion is asleep, remember this...if Malcolm X was killed at the age of 20, he would have died an abuser, a thief, an addict, and a narrow-minded depressed & violent criminal,” Jidenna wrote. “So, I believe in change for the young.” X was immature and reckless, and it all inevitably caught up with him. He will remain a divisive figure, but his true fans understand his intentions and that is all that matters.