“I’ma fuck ya’ll little sisters in they throats. I swear to God anybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’ma domestically abuse your little sister.” So says XXXTentacion in an Instagram rant, responding to his domestic charge allegations. Despite pleading not guilty, his insincere response to such a serious charge suggests otherwise. This is not the first time the rapper, born Jahseh Onfrey, has dabbled with violence in his short 19 years. In an interview on the No Jumper Youtube channel, he casually describes how 1, he brutally beat and strangled a gay cellmate for staring at him and acting “sus” during his time at a detention centre in 2014.
Last year, Onfrey was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness tampering. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial, due to be held on the 5 October, has just been postponed – with no set rescheduled date.
In the year since Onfrey was charged, he has soared to the top of the charts; his album reaching number two in the US charts and number 12 in the UK charts.
“ ‘I’ma fuck ya’ll little sisters in they throats. I swear to God anybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’ma domestically abuse your little sister’ ”
It is sickening that in this time Onfrey’s music has only flourished. While Onfrey’s alleged victim speaks in detail about the routine violence she experienced, Onfrey is free to threaten her on national social media, with no repercussions from the media industry. He is lauded as the ‘‘Rapper we need to know about’”, with his songs raking up to 75 million views on YouTube.
There was very little coverage a few weeks ago of the alleged victim giving evidence in court, but more focus on Onfrey’s success with his new album. We place more focus on his music than we do on his history as an abuser. And sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. Society upholds men on their talents, despite the violence they’ve caused outside of the recording booth.
“Society upholds men on their talents, despite the violence they’ve caused outside of the recording booth”
It seems to me that we get lost in the melody of the Ignition Remix (that isn’t even an actual remix) and completely forget about R Kelly’s quickly annulled marriage to then 15 year old Aaliyah (he was 27). But who cares about paedophilia when you’re running your hands through an imaginary fro in the club? Who cares that a grown man took a young, exceptionally vulnerable teenager, new to the world of music, to get married? Who cares that R Kelly abused his position of trust, and tampered with a child’s innocence?
I guess his mediocre R&B songs allow people to look past the fact that Kelly was and still is a predator. He was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography back in 2008 and it was only this summer that news emerged of the singer’s ‘sex cult’. It seems to me that every year new stories emerge to add to the artist’s extensive, deplorable history. Despite this, his songs are still played at family weddings and at the end of mediocre student nights and no one seems to blink twice. These stories of Kelly have been normalised. It’s now perfectly acceptable to make light of him being a pervert without bearing in mind the victims whose lives he has ultimately ruined.
Kelly continues to make music with your faves including Justin Bieber, Jhene Aiko, and Chance the Rapper – indicative of how lightly the industry takes sexual abuse against women. While he features with young artists to stay relevant, comedian Dave Chappelle uses Kelly’s abuse as a punchline. The industry fails to challenge Kelly. On the Twittersphere you even have those claiming that the allegations are an attempt by the media to bring a black man down, instead of focussing on the real issue of sexual abuse. Kelly’s long standing history of abuse is often overlooked. A story will come out, we feign anger, and then that’s it until next time. We need to stop this history of acceptance towards abusive men in the public sphere. What will it take to finally cancel the likes of R Kelly and XXXtentacion?
“For as long as society continues to ignore that their favourite artist is abusive, new men in the industry like XXXtentacion will see their behaviour as acceptable”
And the list continues. From Chris Brown, to Woody Allen, to Mel Gibson, to Casey Affleck, men in the public sphere always get away with abusing women. They get little societal scolding because their “talent” supersedes judgement. While the men are praised in the public sphere, their victims are often accused of lying and exaggerating. We routinely ignore the voices of women, and especially black women, when they come forward to talk about sexual violence. When we do this in such a public light, what message are we giving to men? Essentially, it is this: all will be forgiven.
It is dangerous and it is terrifying. For as long as society continues to ignore that their favourite artist is abusive, new men in the industry like XXXtentacion will see their behaviour as acceptable, and men who listen to these tunes will see this behaviour as normal. We need to stop supporting our favourite artists who are abusers. We need to stop treating women’s lives as dispensable.