The death of yet another young musician on June 18, 2018 has sparked up conversations about various controversial global issues – gun crime, recklessness of hip hop feuds and the disrupted mental health of musicians to name a few. One of the most critical ones is the debate of whether or not artist’s music should be separated from the crimes they commit in their personal lives. Prior to his death at the mere age of twenty, XXX had been rather notoriously known for his violent past. His childhood consisted of numerous expulsions due to physical fights, nine months of his teenage years were spent in juvenile detention. His rise to hip hop stardom was tainted with his imprisonment for physical assaults and false imprisonment of his supposedly pregnant girlfriend, Geneva Ayala. Upon being released from jail, he was then charged for witness tampering as Ayala had supposedly withdrawn her charges against him due to pressure from XXX himself and his management team. For the four months after his death, it remained unclear if Ayala had been faking accusations for attention as she had done rather suspicious things such as deleting her GoFundMe page for her supposedly injured eye. Thus, XXX’s felony charges had been unresolved prior to his death due to lack of evidence and were dropped after his death.
However, on October 23, 2018, Pitchfork released an audio recording which includes XXX mentioning physically assaulting Ayala and saying that she “is scared for her life”. He also claims that he is “on [Miami] New Times for stabbing…eight [people] in Deerfield” Beach, Florida in January 2016. This is further stirring conversation in the music industry about whether artists involved in such crimes should be disqualified from promotions and award shows. Spotify had temporarily banned artists that had been involved with any forms of ‘Hateful Conduct’ from being promoted on their playlists which had included XXXTentacion and R. Kelly. However, this got cancelled due to disapproval from majority of the music industry. Now, artists such as Vic Mensa are voicing out their opinions against this by making public statements that they “vehemently reject the trend in hip-hop of championing abusers…[The fans] are taught that this mentality is ok by their abusive heroes and normalize this shit”. The public has begun questioning when the music industry will be catching onto the #MeToo movement that has negatively affected employment for violators in the film industry. The Grammys seem unphased as they continue to include XXXTentacion in their nominations and have previously had Chris Brown perform despite him having physically assaulted Rihanna. In the case of XXX, besides being perpetually involved in trouble, the other constant in his life was music. He taught himself piano and guitar during his childhood. What majority of media has left out in the coverage of his story, is his lack of a stable family through his childhood. His mother had him when she was no more than 18. She was bouncing around various jobs yet financially struggling and thus, he was shuffled between different family members, friends, babysitters, etc. In an interview with Miami New Times, XXX explains, “I used to beat kids at school just to get her to talk to me, yell at me.”
My purpose is not to justify XXX’s crimes, but instead to urge audiences to take a glimpse at his life from the perspective of psychology. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) found that children that have gone through ACE such as neglect and physical or sexual abuse are four times more likely to commit a crime. Instead of just talking about the problems a troubled individual has caused, we need to spend more resources into figuring out how such cases can be prevented in the future by addressing the need for better care for children facing ACE.
Before solidating any negative opinions about XXX, take a second to consider that manifesting hate for him will not do anything. Do not let his sins tarnish your impressionof the hip hop industry. Instead, take the lesson out of his shortcomings and downfalls and be part of the reason such cases are avoided in the future. Become the person that one day helps a minor suffering from any kind of ACE be moved to a better environment. Be the friend that gets someone like the 19-year-old Geneva Ayala out of the cycle of an abusive relationship. In the months prior to this death, XXX had been working on an album which includes collaborations with Rihanna and The Weeknd which his record label has announced will be released soon. In terms of his personal life, he himself had become a good influence by starting #TheHelpingHandChallenge to encourage his young fans to do more for the less fortunate. Similarly, let’s turn poison into medicine and find little ways in our daily lives to make this sad story become the anchor for the onset of positive changes.