About ten minutes into his show at Club Cinema in Pompano Beach, XXXTentacion, standing on a balcony above the crowd, threatened to jump.
He wore nothing but purple-camouflage-patterned shorts by the Japanese street-wear brand A Bathing Ape. Barefoot and shirtless, ripped abs in full view, he walked along the steel support girder like a balance beam. His eyes were beady, his smile devilish, and his hair was done up into two horn-like braids, one dyed blond, making him look like a demonic court jester. It's an apt description considering the way he had materialized on the upper level: He asked concertgoers if they wanted to see something crazy, disappeared behind the crowd of around 50 random people onstage, and while the audience searched for him, he said, “Turn around.” And like black magic, there he was.
“I got a question: How many of you know '#ImSippinTeaInYoHood?'" he asked the crowd, roaring with approval. “So listen, we gon’ play this shit, and I’ma try to commit suicide, OK?”
The death-defying act is something the rapper does, gleefully, at least once every show. I had seen video of it. I entered the venue expecting such crazy antics. Yet as he hung from that black metal barrier, my skin tightened. My eyes widened. And when the beat finally dropped and he leapt into the waiting arms below, I cried out in shock.
About an hour later, he pulled the same stunt again.
XXXTentacion, real name Jahseh Onfroy, was already mildly infamous before embarking on his Revenge Tour. He had already been jailed for assaulting a woman, and not long after his release, he sniped at Drake for allegedly biting his flow by using the lyrical rhythm from Onfroy’s surprise hit, “Look at Me!” on the Canadian rapper's track “KMT.” But the tour, which had its final stop in Broward, where Onfroy was born and raised, is what turned XXXTentacion into a rock star.
After every show, wild videos and stories of hooliganism have lit up the hip-hop internet. Commenters have expressed increasing amazement and horror with every well-publicized incident. Onfroy himself seems to like, and even revel in, the chaos he sows. There was, for instance, the time a fan in Milwaukee threw onstage something even more unmentionable than a bra or a pair of panties: a large pink phallic sex toy. “Oh, shit,” he says in a video taken at the show. He hoists it above his head like a trophy and screams, “Dildo! DILDOOOO!” The crowd goes nuts.
The violence began in earnest at the Houston, Texas show: As the beat for the aggressive track “Suicide Pit” began, Palm Beach rapper Wifisfuneral jumped off the stage to surf the crowd, only to be pulled to the floor and beaten by a crew of thugs. In Salt Lake City, Onfroy himself ended up punching an attendee in the face while mingling with fans.
The tour took its ugliest turn, however, in San Diego. In a more serene moment, as Onfroy sang along to an acoustic ballad, a man ran onstage and rammed his fist into the performer’s face, blowing him to the floor. Video of the punch from multiple angles was shared widely and turned into memes by the dozen. Security guards swarmed the man, the house lights went up, and local news reported a man had been stabbed in the brawl onstage.
During the Broward show, Onfroy introduced the tune as “that song that fuck nigga punched me to.”
XXXTentacion tries not to fall.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill
But nothing so extreme happened at Club Cinema. There was only the usual insanity: chicken fights, crowd surfing, and mosh pits, all of which Onfroy gladly participated in, even coordinated. He seemed obsessed with playing games with his audience, creating moments of intensity in his shows. Multiple times, he asked the crowd to crouch on the floor and jump up at the moment the beat dropped. Again and again, he encouraged women to flash their breasts (“showing titties is a good way to get onstage,” he said).
All of the shenanigans gave the show its punkish character but left it feeling scattershot and at times aggravating. The DJ never played a full song, always cutting the beat off midway through. Onfroy, in search of his Kodak Black moments, spent much of the set cajoling the crowd to be "fucking quiet." Technically, it wasn’t a “good” show. But much of that is simply because it was a rap show, where ego is king and the audience simply wants to be ordered to wild-out. Barely controlled chaos was the name of the game, and one could not ask for a better, more willing ringmaster than XXXTentacion.
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There could have been better security, however. At one point during the show, audience members in front of the stage were greeted with a face full of pepper spray from staffers pushing them back. And this wasn’t a crowd of hardened street toughs. The attendees were mostly teenagers, young men and women of all colors decked out in Supreme, Off-White, and Yeezy shoes. They came to have fun, which they did in spite of overzealous opps.
Disorganization aside, XXXTentacion put on a thrilling, visceral evening for himself and his hometown. At certain points, he was joined onstage by other local talent — Craig Xen and Robb Banks could be seen in attendance — as well as his mom and brother. Ski Mask the Slump God — X’s sidekick and a worthy rapper in his own right — appeared on the phone. It was a ridiculous, perversely joyful evening, and I am certain I will never see anything like it again, because there is no performer who will go to such lengths to please fans.
“I don’t have a stunt double,” he declared as he climbed up on the balcony a second time. “I’m just fucking crazy.”