Mixed response to rapper's death

Rapper Diddy (right) paid tribute to XXXTentacion (left) with a photo on social media.
Rapper Diddy (right) paid tribute to XXXTentacion (left) with a photo on social media.PHOTO: DIDDY/ TWITTER

ATLANTA • Rap superstar Kanye West wrote: "I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here."

The tribute was posted after 20-year-old rapper XXXTentacion was shot dead in Florida on Monday in what appeared to be a robbery attempt.

Diddy, another well-known rapper, tweeted that the victim was "one of the most interesting people I've ever met", alongside a photo of the two laughing.

These were just two of the messages from A-listers honouring the musician whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy.

But a backlash came almost immediately on social media, with people criticising these stars for failing to condemn XXXTentacion when news broke of some of the brutal acts he was accused of.

The standoff between the two camps once again raises the question: Can you separate the art from the artist?

XXXTentacion, who rose quickly from underground fame on music platform SoundCloud to the uppermost rungs of the Billboard charts, was awaiting trial on charges including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, false imprisonment and witness tampering.

Last month, Spotify also singled him out as one of two artists affected by a newly implemented "hateful conduct" policy.

The other was R. Kelly, who has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct for decades.

Spotify removed both musicians' work from its editorial playlists, but drew industry-wide complaints that its policy amounted to a blunt form of censorship.

Within three weeks, the policy was rescinded but only for XXXTentacion.

After Monday's shooting, some celebrities have urged people to take a broader viewer in evaluating the rapper.

After producer Diplo posted a brief note on Twitter, simply saying "thanks for inspiring me", with a photo of him with XXXTentacion, many took him to task, saying sarcastically: "I'm sure his victims share your sentiment."

A few hours later, Diplo wrote: "He has his faults and we were willing to pay for his sins."

He added: "Should not disregard his domestic violence but lots of people riding the hate wave... they forget this was someone's child too and deserved a second chance."

In another widely circulated post, R&B singer Jidenna called the accusations against XXXTentacion "horrific", but argued that people can change.

Whether the rapper had repented was another subject of vociferous debate. Last year, he said he would donate money to a domestic abuse charity, then revealed that he had given it to children's causes instead.

But one issue was not in doubt.

XXXTentacion's music quickly jumped in popularity as news of the killing spread.

According to Nielsen, sales of his single Sad! rose by 1,140 per cent on Monday, compared with the day before, while album sales soared by 4,730 per cent in the same period.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline 'Mixed response to rapper's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe