Over the last two years, the musician XXXTentacion (real name Jahseh Onfroy) has experienced a tumultuous but relatively rapid rise to success, punctuated by serious legal issues and disturbing acts of violence. Recently, he signed a record deal rumored to be worth a whopping $6 million, and just last weekend a video emerged of XXX hitting a fan in the head with a microphone at the Rolling Loud Festival in Mountain View, California. He is also awaiting trial for a 2016 domestic-abuse case, in which he is charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. Taking in the full scope of these events is difficult and overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a timeline to try to make sense of the situation.
1998–2011: XXXTentacion grew up in Pompano Beach and Lauderhill in South Florida. He lived with his mother, who he said “had it hard,” and sometimes with his grandmother. “My mom was just in situations where she couldn’t take care of me,” he said in an interview on the No Jumper podcast. From a very young age, he got involved in violent situations. “I’ve been fighting since I was a kid,” he said. When he was 6, he tried to stab a man who was “messing” with his mother. He was also expelled from his first middle school for fighting.
In his early teenage years, he developed a passion for music. He was drawn to nu-metal and hard rock as well as rap, and tried to teach himself how to play the guitar and the piano. In middle school, he said his aunt and mother tried to encourage this interest by signing him up for chorus, but he eventually got kicked out of the program for punching a classmate.
2012–2014: XXXTentacion attends high school at Piper High School in Sunrise, Florida, before dropping out in the tenth grade. Around this time, he says, he recorded and released a song, but there is no record of it online.
Sometime in 2013–2014, XXXTtentacion spends around nine months to a year in a juvenile-detention center for a gun possession charge. During this time he meets fellow rapper Ski Mask the Slump God. After being released, the two go on to collaborate on several projects.
March 2014: XXXTentacion uploads his first song to SoundCloud. The track is called “Vice City.”
February 3, 2015: He releases another EP called Heartbreak Hotel on SoundCloud.
Late 2014: XXXTentacion independently releases two EPs called The Fall and Ice House online. He later deletes them from SoundCloud.
April 20, 2015: XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God release a joint EP called Members Only Vol. 1
October 23, 2015: XXXTentacion and Ski Mask release another EP, Members Only Vol. 2
November 16, 2015: XXXTentacion is charged for committing home invasion, robbery, and aggravated battery, according to court documents.
December 31, 2015: “Look at Me,” XXXTentacion’s first big single, appears on SoundCloud.
January 29: “Look at Me” gets an official release as a digital download. While its SoundCloud numbers continue to grow, the single doesn’t enter the Billboard charts for another ten-and-a-half months.
April 24: XXXTentacion does his first long-form interview on the hip-hop podcast No Jumper (which Jon Caramanica of the New York Times has described as “The Paris Review for the face-tattoo set”). He discusses his troubled past and time in juvenile detention. He includes a very graphic story about beating up a cellmate, whom he refers to as a “faggot,” describing every violent act in gruesome detail. After mentioning that he wiped the man’s blood on his face, Adam22, (full name Adam Grandmaison), the BMX rider and hip-hop podcast host, contributes an equally disturbing response — “Warpaint. That’s tight,” he says.
Mid-May: According to a testimony obtained by Pitchfork in September of this year, XXXTentacion and his (former) girlfriend (and alleged domestic-abuse victim) first met.
Late May: The first instance of domestic violence allegedly takes place. According to his ex-girlfriend’s testimony, XXXTentacion threatened to penetrate her vagina with a “barbecue cleaner” or a “barbecue fork.”
July: XXXTentacion and his then-girlfriend move to Orlando.
Mid-July (approximately): The second incident of alleged domestic violence occurs. XXXTentation allegedly kicked, punched, tackled, and “stomped on” his ex-girlfriend, because he heard her singing another artist’s song, the testimony in Pitchfork states. He also threatened to “cut out,” her tongue, the victim said.
August 9: XXXTentacion is arrested for his 2015 robbery and assault charges. He is held at Broward Regional Detention Center in Fort Lauderdale.
September 16: XXXTentacion agrees to house arrest, and is released from jail. Soon after, he allegedly assaults his ex-girlfriend again after she confesses to sleeping with another man. According to her testimony, he put a knife to her throat, strangled her “a little bit,” and threatened to hit her with a glass bottle.
Late September: XXXTentacion and his then-girlfriend move to Sweetwater, Florida. XXXTentacion is accused of strangling her on two occasions around this time, the testimony in Pitchfork states.
Early October: XXXTentaction’s ex-girlfriend finds out that she is pregnant with his child.
October 6–8: Over the course of two days, several instances of domestic violence allegedly take place. According to XXXTentacion’s ex-girlfriend’s testimony, he threatened to kill her and her unborn child before elbowing, punching, and kicking her. When she asked other residents of the pair’s apartment to take her to the hospital, XXXTentacion refused to let her leave. She recalls him saying that she needed to wait until her face (which was severely beaten) had healed. XXXTentacion and his housemates then drive her to another apartment, where they leave her in a bedroom and confiscate her phone. She is trapped there for two days until, on October 8, she manages to escape and contact the police.
October 8: XXXTencacion is arrested in Miami-Dade County, and charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. He pleads not guilty, but is detained by Broward County for violating his house arrest agreement. A trial for the domestic-abuse charges is set for May 1 (this trial later gets pushed back to October 5, and then December 11).
January 1: Adam22 announces that he is managing XXXTentacion. “xxx is out in a couple weeks and i’m managing him,” he tweets. Over the next few months, while XXXTentacion is in jail, Adam22 uses his own Twitter account to update fans on XXXTentacion’s status and well-being.
January 17: A$AP Rocky shares his support for XXXTentacion on Instagram live. “Free my n***a X, I can’t wait til you come home,” he says.
January 28: Drake previews “KMT” at a show in Amsterdam. Fans compare it to “Look at Me” on social media. Pigeons and Planes posts a snippet of the two songs side by side.
February 1: Danny Brown quotes lyrics from XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God’s “RIP Roach” on Twitter.
February 14: “Look at Me” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 95.
February 18: In an interview with DJ Semtex aired on OVO Sound radio, Drake denies copying “Look at Me.” “The other day, I dropped this song with Giggs and I’m seeing all this shit on my IG under some random picture of people being like, ‘Fuck you, you took this kid’s flow’ or whatever. I’m like, ‘What’s happening to me right now?’ So I’m trying to read and figure out who they’re talking about.”
March 26: XXXTentacion pleads no contest to the charges of armed home-invasion robbery and battery, and is released from jail on probation.
March 29: In an interview on Miami’s 103.5 The Beat, XXXTentacion accuses Drake of stealing his flow. “He is not a man. I think he’s a bitch, that’s a bitch move,” he tells the interviewer.
April 7: XXXTentacion hosts a “surprise” show in Miami, which turns into a riot. Police intervene, shut down the show, and escort XXXTentacion out of the building.
April 22: “Look at Me” peaks at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100.
May 12: XXXTentacion releases a song called “Looking for a Star,” which is produced by Diplo.
May 17: XXXTentacion releases his debut mixtape, Revenge, via Empire Distribution. It consists of eight songs which he had previously released on SoundCloud, and doesn’t garner much press coverage on its own. Reviews by XXL, VIBE, and Revolt, present it as a collection of highlights rather than a new body of work. It peaks at No. 44 on the Billboard 200.
June 7: XXXTentacion is knocked out onstage at a show in San Diego. In the brawl that ensues, someone gets stabbed. Fans blame rapper Rob Stone for the incident.
June 13: XXXTentacion appears on XXL’s 2017 Freshman Class cover as the “10th Spot” winner — the only spot on the list that is fan-selected. According to XXL, “His fans blew up our voting page, pushing him to the top slot by thousands of votes.” In light of his domestic-violence charges, the decision to feature him on the list is met with significant resistance from XXL readers and other music publications.
June 14: XXXTentacion punches a fan at a show in Salt Lake City.
June 26: XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God release their Members Only Vol. 3 EP.
Early August: “Look at Me” is certified platinum. In a now-deleted Instagram post, XXXTentacion posts a picture of the RIAA certification with a caption saying: “say what you want, but you will always be forced to accept that I’m out here living my ‘own’ life.”
August 25: 17, XXXTentacion’s first album is released via Empire Distribution. It debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. One blog, DJ Booth (which is part of the Complex Network), refuses to review the album and posts an official statement, saying, “We felt we could no longer stand on the sidelines, watching rap’s ugly embrace of sexual assault.” Meaghan Garvey writes about the album for Pitchfork, and gives it a mixed review, attempting to articulate its merits and understand XXXTentacion’s fan base, while also acknowledging his troubling personal history. “The reasons it is difficult to listen to can overshadow the need to listen to it,” she says.
Kendrick Lamar cosigns the album on Twitter. “Listen to this album if you feel anything,” he writes. “Raw thoughts.”
September 2: XXXTencacion’s free show in Tampa gets canceled due to an overcrowding risk (2,000 people showed up to a 750 capacity venue, XXL reported). The crowd riots and chases XXXTentacion’s car. Police intervene.
September 8: Pitchfork releases excerpts from XXXTentacion’s ex-girlfriend’s testimony.
September 17: The “Look at Me” video is released. It includes a shot of XXXTentacion hanging from a noose.
September 28: XXXTentation’s October 5 domestic-abuse trial gets postponed.
October 5: A new trial date is set for December 11.
October 19: XXXTentacion signs a deal with Caroline, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, Billboard reports. One source says that the deal is worth $6 million.
October 20: XXXTentacion announces, via Instagram story, that he will donate “over a 100 thousand dollars” to domestic-violence-prevention programs.
October 21: During a his performance at the Rolling Loud festival in the Bay Area, XXXTentacion gets into another fight with a fan. A video of the incident shows XXXTentacion hitting the crowd member in the head with his microphone. In a video released on Twitter later that night, XXXTentacion argues that he was punched first and acted in self-defense.
October 26: XXXTentacion posts a message on his Instagram story stating that he is no longer signed to Capitol Records. “Terminating my deal with ‘capitol records,’” he writes in one message, followed by another saying “If you can match my alleged previous contract, and add free international travel & free international stay I would be happy to be in business with you, I am currently a free agent, well, I always was.” Soon after, a rep from XXXTentacion’s camp denies the claim, saying that “XXXTentacion is signed to Caroline/Capitol Music Group.”
October 27: In another Instagram story, XXXTentacion says that he “will not be making or releasing any music.” “I am tired of being mentally abused for trying to help people, I’m tired of the hate, I’m done,” he writes.
October 29: XXXTentacion says, via Instagram story, that he will return to music if Ski Mask The Slump God agrees to be his friend again. “Tell Ski Mask to be my friend again and I will make music. Tell him to be my friend again,” he said in the (now deleted) post. A couple days later, in a video, responded, “I will always love that alien-looking n***a named XXX, but I have to distance myself because nobody would see me as an individual,” and “On top of that, that n***a crazy as hell.” Then, he wrote on an Instagram story: “This is a person who has before threaten[ed] my family, told me I was supposed to be sacrificed on some crazy shit,”
November 2: XXXTentacion posts a snippet of a new song on Instagram, with a caption reading: “said I was going to stop making ‘music’ but… I don’t consider this ‘music.’”
November 26: XXXTentacion announces that he plans to host an “anti-rape” event at this year’s Art Basel in Miami.
December 1: XXXtentacion and his lawyers submit a document, allegedly signed by his ex-girlfriend, to the DA’s office in hopes of getting his domestic-assault case dropped. Accoring to TMZ, the document states that XXXtentacion’s accuser is refusing to cooperate with prosecutors and wants to drop the case.
December 15: XXXTentacion is jailed ahead of his abuse trial, with seven new charges added, including different degrees of witness tampering and witness harassment. According to TMZ, prosecutors believe the rapper coerced his ex-girlfriend into signing the previously submitted documents that claimed she wanted the charges dropped. His bail is denied. He now reportedly faces “decades in prison, at minimum, if convicted.”
December 20: TMZ reports that XXXTentacion will be released from jail and serve house arrest for two months ahead of his trial. His attorney David Bogenschutz told the site that the judge will allow the rapper to visit a local recording studio to fulfill his contractual obligations during this time.
January 10: According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, several anonymous sources with knowledge of XXXTentacion’s signing to Capitol Records in October, suggested that many staffers at the label opposed the deal. However, two of the Times’ sources said that in a staff meeting, Capitol president Steve Barnett “told executives that Onfroy’s surging popularity would help the company have a bigger market share in hip-hop and acknowledged the controversy around the artist, encouraging those with concerns to voice them.”