Controversial hip-hop hitmaker XXXTentacion was shot and killed on Monday in Florida, Broward Sheriff’s Office confirmed. He was 20 years old.
“Jahseh Onfroy — known worldwide as XXXTentacion — tragically passed away from a gunshot wound in Deerfield, Florida,” his rep said in a statement. “In deference to his family, friends, and loved ones and in light of further investigation, we ask that their privacy be respected at this time. XXXTentacion touched the lives of millions around the globe and will forever reside in the hearts of countless fans who listened to his music, attended his concerts, and felt the glow of his uncontainable, undeniable, and unique spirit.”
TMZ first reported news of the rapper’s death. Onfroy, was reportedly leaving a motorcycle dealer in his car when a gunman opened fire, according to TMZ. Video footage circulating on the Internet appeared to show Onfroy lying in his car motionless following the shooting. TMZ reports that the police received a dispatch call describing a pair of suspects who drove away after the shooting.
According to a statement from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, officers investigated “a developing incident regarding a Shooting located at: 3671 N. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach. Regional Communications received a call of a shooting at the above location at 3:57 p.m. An adult male victim was transported to an area hospital.” The Broward County Sheriff’s Office subsequently tweeted that “the adult male that was taken to the hospital has been pronounced dead” at approximately 5:30 p.m.
“BSO homicide detectives said the 20-year-old victim was leaving RIVA Motorsports in Deerfield Beach shortly before 4pm when he was approached by two armed suspects,” the Broward sheriff department said added in a statement. “At least one of the suspects fired a gun striking Onfroy. Both of the suspects fled in a dark-color SUV. Investigators say it appears to be a possible robbery.”
A representative for the rapper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
XXXTentacion’s rise began at the end of 2015, when the then 17-year-old rapper uploaded “Look At Me!” to SoundCloud. The song – an aggressively abrasive track that lasts just over two minutes – would become his calling card. It sounded like nothing else in hip-hop – the beat was pure noise and XXX’s vocals are more screamed than rapped – and catapulted him to success over the course of the next year. XXXTentacion quickly became the face of SoundCloud Rap, a nascent, if ill-defined, genre of music that sprang out of South Florida via a loosely affiliated collection of young artists that prized raw emotionality and bluntly functional songwriting over anything else. In “Look At Me!,” the scene had its first hit, and in Onfroy, its first star.
Onfroy’s rise was inextricably tied to his rap sheet. The rapper burst onto the scene with a series of charges to his name, and at least part of his appeal was tied to the frankness with which he discussed committing serious offenses, ranging from armed robbery – a charge stemming from a 2015 incident which predated “Look At Me!” – to resisting arrest. He spoke extensively about his violent time in juvenile detention on the No Jumper podcast, and his perceived authenticity was central to the young rapper’s appeal as his profile rose.
Eventually, his charges would become more disturbing. By October 2016, Onfroy would be charged with beating his ex-girlfriend to the point where “the victim could not see.” Other allegations of abuse would eventually surface, first published in investigations from Pitchfork and, later, in the Miami New Times.
The allegations against XXXTentacion caused Spotify to briefly remove him from the platform’s flagship rap playlist, RapCaviar, along with R. Kelly in May as part of a new “public hate content and hateful conduct policy.” The service later reversed the policy, and “Sad!” is on RapCaviar as of press time.
But the charges did little to derail XXX’s rise. Throughout 2016, “Look At Me!” continued to gain popularity, and his other releases showed a versatile artist conversant in the noisy rap he helped popularize as well as grunge-tinged rock and confessional emo-influenced songs. As the buzz around SoundCloud Rap coalesced, Onfrey was embroiled in legal troubles, but often found ways back into the spotlight via controversy-baiting posts on social media.
By 2017, the long-percolating track finally had its mainstream breakout. “Look At Me!” got its official release over a year after it first hit the Internet and became a Top 40 hit. Since then, Onfrey scored four more Top 40 hits, including “Sad!,” which peaked at Number Seven on the Hot 100. In March, his album ? debuted at number one on the Billboard albums chart, selling 106,000 streaming equivalent units its opening week.
Although XXXTentacion was on house arrest earlier this year, a judge allowed him out of the situation to accommodate his touring schedule.
XXXTentacion’s peers took to social media to remember the rapper. Kanye West tweeted a photo of XXXTentacion along with the caption, “rest in peace. I never told you how much you inspired me when you were here. Thank you for existing.”
J. Cole also paid tribute to the “Look at Me!” rapper on Twitter. “This got me fucked up,” Cole wrote. “… [He had] enormous talent and limitless potential and a strong desire to be a better person. God bless his family, friends and fans.”