Music industry: It’s time to stop idolizing abusers

By Staff Writer Kylie Cooper.

Gekyume Onfroy was born on January 26, 2019, just over seven months after his father, rapper XXXTentacion, was shot and killed in Florida.

XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, learned before his death that his girlfriend, Jenesis Sanchez, was pregnant. According to his family, he wished for his son to be named Gekyume, a word he created meaning “a different state” or “next universe of thought.”

The world was shocked of Onfroy’s June 2018 death, fans and musical figures like Lil Yachty holding ceremonies across the country before his formal memorial. Many fans believed his death was a hoax, concocting conspiracy theories that included Onfroy faking his death and Drake getting revenge.

“SAD!” from Onfroy’s album ​?​ broke the single-day record for most Spotify streams the day after his death. Thousands attended his public memorial in Sunrise, Florida at the BB&T Center, which holds a capacity of 20,000 people.
But why do so many people hold Onfroy up to god status?

It’s been widely publicized that Onfroy was awaiting trial for the alleged abuse of his ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, who was pregnant at the time of the abuse. His criminal record also included battery, witness tampering, and false imprisonment.

In October 2018, online music magazine ​Pitchfork​ released a recording of Onfroy confessing to the abuse of Ayala.

“That girl is scared for her life,” Onfroy concluded in the recording. “Which I understand.”

The ​New York Times​ spoke to fans at Onfroy’s memorial about his alleged crimes. One 20-year-old fan said the rapper still had such a dedicated following because of his ability to connect with fans through his struggles and depression.

Music has always been a way for people to feel understood and find solace. If people found comfort and healing through his music, that’s great. But his history cannot be ignored. A musician can produce enjoyable music, but that does not mean their personal lives can be swept under the mat.
Onfroy is only one of many hailed musicians who have made their impact on music amidst allegations of abuse and scandals. He joins the likes of David Bowie, who faced allegations of sexual assault and rape, and Michael Jackson, who was accused of child sexual abuse.
The list goes on with John Lennon, Tupac, Dr. Dre, and Elvis Presley—to add only a few. These men have clearly problematic pasts, but their fan bases have remained strong and loyal.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift faces criticism for having “too many” boyfriends and writing “too many” songs about love and heartbreak. Miley Cyrus gets blowback for being “too sexual” and Lady Gaga is a pariah for being “too weird.” How has it come to be that male artist abusers are celebrated, while women artists who are not abusers or criminals are quickly hated on?

We have a problem of condoning abuse. We have a problem of ignoring and silencing the victims of abuse. It is a problem often rooted in gender, and it is a problem that must be solved. As a society, we must reassess our mindset.

We have begun doing so, in part because of the #MeToo movement. R. Kelly is being held accountable by law for his numerous sexual assault accusations. The Recording Academy recently excluded Onfroy from the Grammys’ “in memoriam” segment because of his history. Past the music industry and into the greater entertainment, political, and everyday spheres, people are being held accountable for their actions more and more.
Gekyume Onfroy was born into a world where the truth behind public figures’ acts of assault and abuse are only just beginning to be the acknowledged over their talent. “The next universe of thought” starts now.

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