The news that controversial rapper XXXTentacion (pronounced X-X-X-ten-tay-shi-on) was shot and killed, aged 20, on Monday has ricocheted through the hip-hop world.
For those outside of that sphere, it has proved a rude introduction to a musician whose short life was frequently punctuated by violence, mental illness, drug use and jail time. At the time of his death, he was facing 15 criminal charges including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.
XXXTentacion was preoccupied with his own mortality; his ex-girlfriend claimed that he frequently came close to suicide in her presence, and the video for his hit song Look At Me portrayed the rapper hanging from a noose. Just months ago, he stated in an Instagram post uploaded earlier this year: "Worst thing comes to worst, I f------ die a tragic death or some s--- – and I’m not able to see out my dreams".
X, as he was commonly known, was born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy and achieved chart success without a record label - although in March he signed a deal with Capitol Records for a rumoured $6 million. Acclaimed by Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, Onfroy was a rapper whose death has been commiserated by Kanye West, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, superstar producer Diplo and broadcaster Louis Theroux. He had also made enough of an impact to start a feud with Grammy-winning Canadian rapper Drake.
While Onfroy was in prison between 2016 and 2017, his career started to achieve major recognition, in part due to the delayed success of his breakthrough single Look At Me. It was at this time, the late rapper said in a radio interview recorded upon his jail release, he heard that Drake had been impressed by an interview Onfroy had done and would contact Onfroy's manager "within the next few days".
Drake's manager never called. But then, "that same week", he performed a new song while on stage in Amsterdam, called KMT. Fans immediately heard similarities between its flow and that of Onfroy's Look At Me. Music website Pigeons and Planes compared the two side-by-side.
It didn't do Onfroy's song any harm: within two weeks, on Valentine's Day, Look At Me reached Number 24 in the US Billboard Chart. But the rapper was furious nonetheless, and attacked Drake on Twitter, making sexually lewd comments about Drake's mother, telling him "money don't buy respect" and challenging his rival to a rap-battle.
Onfroy's temper wavered: in an interview conducted in jail with XXL Mag he calmly explained that "Drake could have reached out to me personally and spoken to me and it definitely would have been more respectable. But he dropped that preview and it sounded a bit like Look At Me and he could be a huge, huge help in this situation to get me out of jail, because I’m facing life. So that’s just how I feel."
Drake, who has been accused of plagiarising the work of Fetty Wap, Migos and The Weeknd during his career, addressed the Look At Me claims in an interview with DJ Semtex.
He largely claims ignorance, suggesting he had never tried to contact Onfroy while he was incarcerated: "I’m trying to read and figure out who they’re talking about," Drake told the British DJ . "I find out who they’re talking about … and I listen to it and I’m like okay, I see where people could draw this comparison off of the first two lines, whether it be cadence or the rhyme pattern or whatever."
Drake maintains his innocence: "It’s crazy that people think that after all this time, after all I’ve been through, that I’m the type of person […] to go and take that and make it my own. I’m not stupid, I’m not a s--- person like that."
But Onfroy was unconvinced. In another interview, he apologised for his outburst – especially with regards to Drake's mother – but maintained that Drake "tried to sacrifice me".
"I want to apologise to Drake for coming for his mom," Onfroy told online broadcaster DJ Akademiks.
"I'm not going to argue, it is what it is, the cadence is the exact same, and if I'm just an emotional bitch-ass, then it is what it is, we agree to disagree like men," Onfroy said. "I apologise for theatening you and talking about you crazy and I apologise, as a man to a man, I apologise, genuinely."