Jahseh was just a kid trying to find his way

XXXTentacion was a young rapper turning his life around.
Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Imagine dying in this very instant. All of your self-resolutions are left unfulfilled and your image and name is left at the hands of strangers playing detective through LCD screens. Do you think you’ve given this world all you had to offer? Probably not, and neither did Jahseh Onfroy.

The controversy surrounding separating the artist from their art, no matter how organic and raw that art may be, stirs Twitter wars and ignites comment sections with passionate arguments. Although 280 characters may be unsatisfying, social media timelines remain flooded with “unpopular opinion: Jahseh Onfroy editions” and wicked comments about someone whose story had just begun.

“‘I feel like we only got to see a glimpse of his artistry,” said rapper Big Sean in a June 2018 tweet after the murder of XXXTentacion. “I didn’t know him personally, but I respect how passionate he was about his music and message. Nobody deserves this kind of ending. damn! Rip."

The Broward County native was not only known for creating a breakthrough for the underground Soundcloud movement and posthumously topping the Billboard Top 100, but also his violent history. Although he was far from a saint, his art should still be analyzed for what it is: the channeled emotions of a kid just trying to better himself. A large portion of the non-celebrity Twitter community seems to believe X was a sinner, destined to burn in hell because what more growing and maturing could a 20-year-old do, right?

His lyrics, dripped in depression, and seasoned with isolation and PTSD, are overshadowed by his keyword — alleged – violent crimes. While all of these are unacceptable on their own, they are still allegations and do not warrant him being slain in broad daylight.

The rapper posted about what would be his final act of kindness on Instagram just one hour before being shot while sitting in his car. This same charity event ended up feeding 1,000 children at Charles R. Drew Elementary in Miami a week after his death, according to Billboard.

He was just beginning his path toward becoming a better person and using his influence and money to change his community. Those that share similar origin and walked the same streets as he were particularly affected by his death because, like any other tragic story of gun violence, it could happen to anyone and people have surely killed for less.

“It hit me really hard, maybe even harder than others. I still think about the potential the young man had as an artist and an individual who was trying to better himself,” said X supporter and student Timothy Webb Jr.

“What makes his death so hard for me and still unbelievable is that being from Broward I actually was there to experience the growth. I actually met Jahseh and Stokeley once and have seen them around my neighborhood a few times before the fame. They literally birthed the SoundCloud era for Florida artists and have paved the way ever since,” said Webb.

For fans like Webb and myself, his death was the equivalent to how many people feel about the recent death of Nipsey Hussle. So much potential was wiped from the earth because of the scarier monster in the room: gun violence.

Some media outlets chose to use his mugshot instead of an appropriate picture for their obituary news stories. Twitter warriors have attacked X and his fan base, from calling him and his music trash, to making fun of his son’s name, to literally joking about him burning in hell.

The harshness of internet trolls and opinionated naysayers hold no restraint, not even for a 20-year-old who, at heart, was still a kid finding his way through life and fighting for his mental health.

“Now, he’s gone. At the tender age of 20. I pass by the place he was shot at from time to time because it’s on the way to a friend’s house and it’s just so heartbreaking.

And it’s not that a great artist who had his own sound is gone that hurts it’s that a young soul was lost. He was younger than I am. Tomorrow really is not promised,” Webb said.

If we’re being objective, consider Cardi B’s recent admission to drugging and robbing men and R. Kelly’s horrid sexual predatory past coming to light via a documentary. There’s hypocrisy in choosing artists to hate and continuing to listen to any other immoral artists, but we’ll “Step in the Name of Love” until we’re blue in the face and unapologetically scream City Girls.

“We may not agree with our friends but they’re still our friends, right? Then we can do the same for the artist,” Webb said. “People are so quick to cancel, judge and bash, but yet they are behind closed doors bumping ‘Gold Digger.’”

Not everyone has to love X or his music. It’s just basic human respect to not continuously destroy someone who is dead and who wasn’t a “good person” because he didn’t have the time to get there. We all know friends who steal, line brothers who rape, uncles who know no boundaries, people who lie. Everyone on this planet has made mistakes, large and small, but if you were to die would the collection of your worst moments be what you want broadcasted to the world more so than your art or achievements? 

Jahseh Onfroy was a talented, versatile, multi-dimensional artist and human being. His true fans had the pleasure of seeing his many sides through his music.

He was more than “You put a gun on my mans, aye. I put a hole in your parents, aye,” for the lit nights but also “Memory surfaced through the grapevine ’bout my uncle playing with a slipknot, post-traumatic stress got me [explicit] up.”

His music spoke to those suffering from depression and touched on topics including insomnia, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideations and devastating heartbreak. He took his pain and channeled it into a form of art others could understand, and we should recognize that honesty in rap these days is no small feat.

If you don’t like his music, it probably wasn’t meant for you. Lucky for his fans, new music continued to be released after his death, which consisted of unreleased snippets that allow music enthusiasts more pieces to analyze and his fans more art to heal their wounds.

While his unquestionable labels as an abuser and misogynist are unfortunate, music industry leaders like J. Cole have expressed on multiple occasions the potential and hope they saw in him, and their desire to help guide him toward being a better person opposed to subscribing to “cancel culture.”

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and those with overly wicked ones about the late rapper should consider the feelings of those still mourning his death. A year is just not enough time to grieve an artist who resonated with so many people on subjects not openly discussed among our demographic.