This week rapper XXXTentacion’s death has caused a stir.People who are respected by millions are belittling the man’s abusive behaviours and crimes in favour of his musical talent.
I’m not saying that anyone deserves to die, that is nobody’s place to decide; I am questioning, however, whether it is okay to praise the entire life of someone who allegedly almost beat his pregnant girlfriend to death on multiple occasions. Kanye West tweeted “thank you for existing”, and even nation’s sweetheart Louis Theroux praised his artistic talents despite “personal demons”. Is it just me, or do “personal demons” stop being so personal when they harm the lives and existences of other human beings?
The Mirror dubbed XXXTentacion as having a “rocky past”, a “troubled existence”, as he was expelled from school for the brutal assault of a classmate, was charged for armed robbery, violently attacked a cell mate for fear he was gay, heavily abused his girlfriend – including violently stamping on her head, and violently sexually abused her, according to court documents.Can we really sit here and talk about all of that, as “troubled”? I don’t know about you, but when I read the word troubled, I think Tracy Beaker, not abusive rapist.
What I find exceptionally difficult to swallow, is that after Spotify made the huge statement of removing his music from their playlists, in outright support of the MeToo movement, they have posthumously re-added him. It’s as though death cleanses you of all sins, as though his being shot means we can forget what he did to his victims, and we can go back to celebrating his art, and thus, his existence.
I for one cannot celebrate the existence of such a criminal, and I think there is huge danger in people like Louis Theroux publically wishing a man he never met rests in peace.Theroux’s voice has a great deal of weight in our society.Is Theroux excusing everything he did because of his talents? And if he is, can everyone? To take a more dramatic example, if Ian Brady had had exceptional poetic talents, could we excuse what he did? Did we still commemorate Jimmy Saville’s death after everything came out? Look at Chris Brown – he still has a career after his public domestic abuse against Rihanna.
But there’s the issue, there has always been a kind of distance that allows this. People still listen to and commend Kanye West’s music after he declared that slavery was a choice. Alice in Wonderland is still seen as a masterpiece, even after the speculative BBC documentary ‘The Secret World of Lewis Carroll’ investigated accusations of the acclaimed author being a paedophile. Eminem writes a song about murdering the mother of his daughter, and it’s art.
Are all geniuses actually bad people? Or should we stop glorifying those who are? Can you actually separate the art from the artist – and should you? In my opinion, though you can acknowledge and appreciate a person’s art, you should not condone their evils because of the beauty of their art. Just because someone is dead, does not mean you can overlook their crimes and the pain they caused, in favour of beauty they created.