XxxTentacion: a rapper's story

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, June 22, 2018

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At age 20, XxxTentacion lived a life typical of many rappers. He had hit songs, girls flocking him and his share of brushes with the law.

The diminutive artiste's life ended tragically on June 18 when he was murdered at an auto dealership in Deerfield Beach. Broward County Police report that he was shot by one of two men while in a black BMW. XxxTentacion was pronounced dead at hospital.

The police arrested 22-year-old Dedrick D Williams for the murder Wednesday night. He was slapped with several charges including first degree murder, a probation violation for theft of a car and driving without a valid licence.

The rapper's death ended two years of drama that overshadowed what his mentor John “Jon FX” Crawford described as a promising career.

“He wasn't your typical rapper; he always wanted to do things differently. There was a lot of room for growth with X,” Crawford, a Jamaican based in South Florida,, told The Jamaica Observer's weekly Splash.

XxxTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, was born in Plantation, South Florida to Jamaican parents. He spent time in the company of around Jamaican music producers since his early teens and collaborated with hardcore reggae/dancehall acts, including Sizzla and Vybz Kartel.

But his greatest success came in rap. He had a massive hit song in 2017 with Look At Me! which peaked at number 34 on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 Singles Chart. The song is from 17, his debut album, which was certified gold.

In March, his follow-up album was released. Titled ?, it debuted at number one on the Billboard Album Chart and triggered talk that he was the next big thing in rap.

Crawford worked with his protégé on ?, which is currently number 24 on the Billboard Album Chart. He co-produced and co-wrote the song, I Don't Even Speak Spanish LOL, as well as recording Alone and Smash, two other tracks from the set.

Crawford said he first met XxxTentacion six years ago at Trainline Records, owned by Gilbert “Gilly” Walters, another Jamaican producer based in South Florida. They began working together in 2016 when the rapper teamed with Sizzla on the song, I'm Yours.

“He was really a misunderstood kid. People had this image of him as a bad boy but he was really nothing like that…he loved to skateboard and play paintball,” Crawford recalled. “He came from a really good family but got into hip hop which can be rough.”

Like many rappers, XxxTentacion ran afoul of the law. In 2017, he was arrested by police on charges that included false imprisonment and aggravated battery, stemming from an October 2016 confrontation with his pregnant girlfriend.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released from jail in March last year.

Crawford, who is principal of FX Music Group, said XxxTentacion had trouble with women he was involved with. He was also wary of the music business, especially shady “middle men” who negotiated deals between artistes and record companies.

On the lighter side, he loved Jamaican culture and cuisine.

Rappers who die young, such as Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, usually leave messy estates that take years to be resolved by families, record companies and lawyers.

Crawford does not think that will be the case with XxxTentacion.

“His mother monitored his finances; they were not foolish spenders and had good accountants. I think they are in good hands,” he said.

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