XXXTentacion’s Autopsy Sparks Debate About Artistic Legacies
On June 18, 2018, rapper XXXTentacion was shot and killed outside a motorcycle dealership in Florida. The 20-year-old artist had been on the rise, with millions of followers on social media and a burgeoning music career. However, his legacy has been marred by controversy, including allegations of domestic violence and a criminal record that includes charges of robbery and assault. In October 2019, his autopsy report was released, sparking renewed debate about his artistic legacy and the role that a troubled past should play in how we remember and celebrate public figures.
The autopsy report revealed that XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, suffered a gunshot wound to the neck that caused massive internal bleeding. The report also noted several tattoos on his body, including one of a tree with the words “Bad Vibes Forever” written underneath. The release of the report led many fans to re-evaluate their relationship with the artist’s music. Some argued that the autopsy report was irrelevant to his artistic legacy, while others questioned whether they could continue to support an artist who had been accused of violent crimes.
One of the most vocal critics of XXXTentacion’s artistic legacy has been rapper and activist Talib Kweli. In an interview with the New York Times, Kweli argued that Onfroy’s criminal record and history of violence made it impossible for him to be considered a positive role model. “You can’t separate the art from the artist,” Kweli said. “If the art is predicated on violent misogyny, then that’s not something we should be celebrating or promoting.”
Others have taken a more nuanced approach to the question of artistic legacies. In an interview with Rolling Stone, music critic Christopher R. Weingarten argued that there are important distinctions to be made between an artist’s personal life and their work. “You can appreciate someone’s music and still be critical of their actions,” Weingarten said. “It’s important to acknowledge the full complexity of their legacy.”
This complexity is evident in XXXTentacion’s music, which often dealt with themes of depression, anxiety, and self-harm. His most popular songs, including “Sad!” and “Moonlight”, have become anthems for a generation of young fans who relate to his intense emotions and sense of isolation. But critics argue that these songs are overshadowed by his history of violence and abuse.
The debate over XXXTentacion’s artistic legacy is part of a larger conversation about the way we remember public figures who have been accused of wrongdoing. In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny of the legacies of famous men with histories of abuse or assault, including Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and R. Kelly. The #MeToo movement has brought these issues to the forefront, exposing the ways in which powerful men have used their status to intimidate and abuse women.
The question of whether we can separate the art from the artist is a difficult one. On the one hand, it’s tempting to view the work of talented artists as somehow separate from their personal lives. After all, art has the power to transcend individual failings, inspiring and uplifting people in ways that can’t always be explained. But on the other hand, it’s important to consider the impact that an artist’s behavior can have on their audience. When we celebrate artists who have abused or harmed others, we risk sending a message that this behavior is acceptable or even admirable.
Ultimately, the debate over XXXTentacion’s artistic legacy is a complex and ongoing one. It’s impossible to say definitively whether his music will continue to be celebrated or whether his history of violence will ultimately overshadow his artistic achievements. But what is clear is that this debate is an important one, raising questions about the role that art and artists play in our culture, and the responsibility we have to hold public figures accountable for their actions.