Rapper XXXTentacion, dead at 20: will (and should) he only be remembered as an abuser?

Xxxtantacion at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2017
Xxxtantacion at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2017

Channel24 reports that rapper XXXTentacion was shot and killed in his car outside a motorsports store on Monday afternoon by two armed suspects. Investigators have no motive at this time and no arrests have been made. 

READ MORE: Celebrating our biggest icons – why it’s okay to mourn the loss of people we don’t know

Not long after his death was announced celebrities (and the unfamous alike) started sharing their condolences on Twitter:

But there were also those who were unhappy about the tributes pouring for a man who had been accused of domestic abuse.

In a lengthy feature written in May on Miami New Times, Tarpley Hitt explored the life and times of XXXTentacion and  spoke about him being known for his radical sound, but also being controversial for the alleged violence against his former girlfriend and the beating up of a gay inmate when he was in juvenile detention. 

You can read more about the charges brought against him here and the description of the alleged violence against his former girlfriend. 

In a 2016 interview with hip-hop podcast No Jumper he talks about sharing a room with a gay inmate who he repeatedly calls “a f*ggot” and describes how he beat him.

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Tweeters are citing these two alleged incidents as reasons to not be sad that the rapper is now gone. But does the fact that he allegedly abused his ex-girlfriend and beat up a gay man for simply looking at him mean that he’s not a person worthy of mourning? 

Does this mean that his crimes are all that defines him? Or are we allowed to compartmentalise and separate the artist from the crime and acknowledge that he had some influence with his music and touched some people’s lives? 

After all, there are still people who listen to Chris Brown and watch Bill Cosby's comedy even though they've both done terrible things.

I’m torn on this since I personally know abusive men who have died who left behind beautiful legacies, but were still abusive men. They did good things and had families and helped people, but their story was tainted by the bad things they had done towards their partners. 

So is the answer to acknowledge both of these sides of abusive people? Do we say RIP and feel sorry that their life was cut short as maybe they could have improved their ways and shown remorse or been rehabilitated, while simultaneously acknowledging that they weren’t always a great person?

Or is it too hard for us to see the good, the potential, when everywhere we look we only see the bad?  

Perhaps social media also has it's part to play in how we react to things and what we feel we can and can't say. Many people jumped on the bandwagon and tweeted their opinions about XXXTentacion's life without real fear of facing any consequences for what they were saying because that's sort of the freedom that social media gives you. You can put anything out there and people can agree or disagree with it as much as they like, but you're not having a face to face conflict with them so you can hit the block button anytime you like and no longer engage in that conversation. 

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Platforms like Twitter and Facebook give us all voices and we can use those voices to say if we thought XXXTentacion was a bad person who deserved what he got, or feel sorry that a 20-year-old man is now gone without having had much of a shot at life. 

Personally, I'm going to see both sides of this, because they don't have to be mutually exclusive. I'm going to see that a young man was literally shot down in the prime of his life and I'm also going to see that young man was troubled and has been accused of doing some horrible things. I choose to see that he was human and human beings sometimes make horrible mistakes, but it doesn't mean that we cannot be sorry that he never had the chance to make up for all the bad things he might have done. 

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