Despite the more mellow lyrics of modern hip hop, which replaced guns and knives with money, girls, and cars, some artists still strive to maintain the violent days of the genre. Not only have they done it in their music, but they have also lived it too. For some, it was just an identity, a music persona to set themselves apart in a genre that had become increasingly more materialistic. To others, it was still a representation of their reality. For XXXtentacion, it was both.
Looking into the life of the famous late rapper, Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, popularly known as XXXtentacion, of a truth, he lived his days. The rapper had a glowing rise in fame, driven by the depression and alienation themes of his music – until the violent part of his life caught up with him.
XXXtentacion Started His Career As A Way Out Of A Life Of Crime
Like almost every violent hip-hop star, XXXtentacion had a tough childhood. Ricardo did not grow up with his father, and he spent the majority of his youth being raised by his grandmother because of his mother’s financial condition. His destructive tendencies began to manifest right from his childhood when he attempted to stab a man who was attacking his mother. As a result of this, he was placed in a youth program.
Ricardo attended four schools, three of which expelled him for various violent behaviours. He was introduced to music at Sheridan House Family Ministries before they kicked him out too. At Sheridan, he learned the piano, guitar and listened to nu-metal, rap, and hard rock.
In high school, he suffered from insecurity and depression, and because he wasn’t athletic, he did not have the community of fellow sportsmen to distract him from his worst tendencies. This resulted in a string of criminal acts, including gun possession, that landed him in juvenile detention.
It was while he was in detention that he met another artist, Stokeley Clevon Goulbourne, aka Ski Mask the Slump God. They became friends and initially planned on continuing their criminal ways after leaving detention.
However, a moment of reflection convinced XXXtentacion that music was a better way to express his feelings. He had the conviction after a conversation with his girlfriend at the time, Geneva Ayala. Thus, rather than buy robbery gear, he invested in a Blue Snowball microphone and started recording music.
He Achieved National Fame As A SoundCloud Artist
His entry into professional music started in 2013 when he released his first song, News/Flock in June 2013 while he was in Juvenile Detention. After his release, he recorded and released Vice City on the popular independent music platform, SoundCloud.
He released his first project, an extended play (EP) titled The Fall in November 2014. His journey as a newly-minted rapper continued with a collaborative album with Ski Mask, the Slump God, titled, Members Only Vol. 1. They named the album after their rap group, Members Only.
He released another EP in 2016 titled Willy Wonka Was a Child Murderer. With the release of the second EP, Ricardo’s music popularity grew and he eventually abandoned his day job as a call centre operator to focus on his growing career.
Despite the fact that he went into music as part of efforts to give up a life of crime, Ricardo struggled with going completely clean and becoming an upstanding citizen. He got arrested for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in July 2016.
After the posting of a hefty bail, Onfroy continued with his plans to release his debut album, Bad Vibes Forever. The album failed to drop on its release date (October 31, 2016) due to another arrest of XXXtentacion for witness tampering and aggravated battery of his pregnant girlfriend.
While he was in prison, XXXtentacion released another single, Look at Me. The song became his first introduction to a mainstream audience after it peaked at #34 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song benefited from accusations against the famed rapper, Drake, for ‘stealing’ the young rapper’s flow.
With XXXtentacion’s name on the lips of mainstream rap listeners, his popularity grew. He became the subject of competing offers from major music labels, before committing to Empire Distribution. Free from jail, he began working on a couple of albums, which would later cement his shortlived legacy.
XXXtentacion Sold Over 45 Million Records In His Shortlived Career
A planned nationwide tour in April 2017 ended abruptly after a series of violent incidents at concert venues. XXXtentacion’s violent streak, committed by him or against him quickly became a defining part of his reputation. His popularity grew and reflected in the commercial success of his music.
His debut solo mixtape, Revenge, peaked at #44 on the US Billboard 200, initially, before his death put it back on the chart up to #28. Onfroy’s debut album, 17, peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over two million copies. The album charted in more than 25 music markets, across Europe, North America and Oceania.
His second album, ?, was released on March 12, 2018. It became his first number one album in the US, as well as in countries like Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand and Norway. The album charted in over 24 music forums. Like his first album, ?, sold more than two million copies, with at least one million in the US alone.
Two additional albums have been released since he died, Skins and Bad Vibes Forever, both of which were commercially successful. Skins became his second number one album and sold more than 500,000 copies.
Other successes of XXtentacion’s brief career include an eponymous YouTube channel with more than 25.3 million subscribers and 6.4 billion views.
His discography has over 45 million sold records from four studio albums, seven EPs, 24 singles and seven mixtapes. His single, Sad, has sold more than ten million copies alone while singles like Changes and Moonlight have sold over two and five million copies respectively.
Depression Was A Driving Influence On His Music Style
Right from childhood and teens, XXXtentacion suffered from depression. Thus, when he took an interest in music, he used it as a means to express his suffering and connect with others. Hip-hop is traditionally not regarded as the genre for this form of expression. So, he incorporated other genres into his music.
From emo, punk rock, indie rock to nu-metal and lo-fi, he combined elements of various genres to create a new style of hip-hop, one that blazed the trail and created a new set of audience. Aside from genres, he was also influenced by other music acts like Coldplay, Eminem, Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Tech N9ne and Hoobastank.
XXXtentacion’s music featured a vocal style that emitted emotional vulnerability, as well as aggression. His ability to alternate between a diverse state of mind in his music was a feature of the complexity that defined his style.
Although he never got to reap the reward for expanding hip-hop’s audience base, his music style has inspired and influenced other acts like Lil Pump and Trippie Reid who are already making a name for themselves as mainstream acts.
Onfroy’s Endless Run-ins With The Law
Right from childhood, XXXtentacion was a regular fixture in the US Justice system. His first significant arrest was at the age of 16 when he spent a year at a youth detention centre for gun possession charges. Two years afterwards, the police arrested him for home invasion, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
At the time, Onfroy had started his music career but still struggled with leaving the life of crime behind. He got arrested along with three other people for stealing two Apple gadgets, $20 and a Sony PlayStation Portable. They arrested him in Orlando before an eventual transfer to Orange County.
The police released him after a $10,000 bail was posted in his name. However, the threat of a looming conviction did not keep him away from another act of crime. In October 2016, he was arrested again for false imprisonment, aggravated battery and witness tampering. A pregnant woman, his girlfriend at the time, was the alleged victim of the aggravated battery.
After a series of incidents that repeatedly postponed his trial, XXXtentacion pleaded not guilty to his charges from his first crime and got placed on house arrest on December 20, 2017. His house arrest ended three months after – on March 21, 2018. His domestic violence charges, however, were dismissed, after the woman involved confessed the ‘violence’ was in jest. The case got dismissed after his death.
Multiple Feuds And The Violent Lifestyle That Ended His Life
Even as he found success in music, XXXtentacion found it hard to shed off the violence and aggression of his teenage years. He was involved in several feuds with music and non-music personalities. Later on, he had disputes with his Ski Mask the Slump God, the friend he made while he was in juvenile detention.
He also had verbal altercations with Drake, Offset, Rob Stone and 600Breezy. His feud with Rob Stone resulted in a physical fight at a concert in June 2017, which led to the stabbing of a member of the audience.
However, none of the foregoing resulted in his death until June 18, 2018, when four men, Dedrick Williams, Robert Allen, Trayvon Newsome and Michael Boatwright, orchestrated a robbery that killed him. He was fatally shot after leaving RIVA Motorsports, a high-end motorcycle dealer in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
XXXtentacion was shot multiple times in the neck and pronounced dead at 5:30 pm on the same day. News of his death resulted in a riot between the police and his fans after 1000 people showed up at his memorial. Onfroy was buried on June 27, at Gardens of Boca Raton Memorial Park, in Boca Raton, Florida.
As for his attackers, they were charged with first-degree murder and have been denied bail. They are still awaiting conviction.