We'll just get straight to it: This was a crazy year for South Florida rap. Out of nowhere, dozens of artists, all hailing from the 305, the 954, and even the 561, took the national rap game by storm. Some are worthy of greatness. Others will live in infamy. History will be the ultimate judge of our exploding scene, but for now, here's our take.
The Good: DJ Khaled (and Asahd)
Salutes to Khaled. Salutes to the man behind those hot, hot “Wild Thoughts.” Salutes to the hands that crafted Grateful. Salutes to the Snapchat god. Salutes to the man who knows how to meme better than anyone else in the game. But especially strong salutes to the young king, the tiny future mogul, Asahd, who, aside from being the youngest executive producer in hip-hop, brightens this world with his smile. #BLESSED #MAJORKEY #WETHEBEST
The Bad: Kodak Black
Late last year, Kodak Black was accused of raping a teenage girl. In January, as part of an extensive profile of the rapper, New Times wrote about the incident:
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The rapper allegedly removed her underwear and forced her to have sex with him. He bit her on the neck and right breast. Around 1:30 in the morning, she left the hotel with her friend and went home.
More than a year after the initial accusation, the Pompano Beach native, born Dieuson Octave, has never been more successful. His single “Tunnel Vision” peaked at number six on the Billboard Top 40, and his album Painting Pictures debuted third on the Billboard 200. His fans continue to flock to performances, such as a First Show Out at the Watsco Center, which he entered wearing a prison jumpsuit, a flashy rebuke of the accusations against him.
It doesn’t make sense. Why do we continue to support someone accused of such a heinous crime? In a time when U.S. politicians and entertainers have been taken down by harassment accusations, it’s worth asking why we tolerate sexual violence from some and not others.
The Good: Ski Mask the Slump God
There have been plenty of South Florida rappers, such as Lil Pump, who have come out of nowhere and shocked the world with their extreme success. Ski Mask the Slump God is different, however, because he actually has talent. His lightning-fast style has been compared to that of Busta Rhymes, considered one of the best technical rappers ever. Ski Mask has also wisely distanced himself from former friend XXXTentacion for threats against his family and other erratic behavior. With a new project set to arrive before the end of the year, Ski Mask should make his mark in 2018.
The Bad: Rick Ross
If there's a silver lining to this year, it’s that dozens of sexual predators in entertainment, politics, and business have been outed and brought down, from Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood to Russell Simmons in hip-hop. Rick Ross, who once publicly apologized for rapping about drugging and raping a woman, has not been accused, and he has quite the safety mechanism: He simply refuses to sign a female performer to his label.
“I never did it because I always thought, like, I would end up fucking a female rapper and fucking the business up,” he told The Breakfast Club radio show in July, before Weinstein was outed. "I'm so focused on my business. I just, I gotta be honest with you. You know, she looking good. I'm spending so much money on her photo shoots. I gotta fuck a couple times.”
In case you’re confused, the logic here is that Ross would end up trying to have sex with any woman he takes under his wing. This is, by the way, similar reasoning for why Mike Pence refuses to dine alone with a woman other than his wife. Apparently, both men consider themselves incapable of behaving like normal humans, treating women as equals, and keeping it in their pants. Cool.
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The Utterly Insane: XXXTentacion
Now we arrive at the most ridiculous, tawdry saga of the bunch, that of Jahseh Onfroy. Early this year, the bizarre-haired 19-year-old experienced seemingly overnight success when his angry, punkish SoundCloud tracks — in particular “Look at Me!” which has garnered more than 100 million plays on the site — went viral.
Onfroy quickly capitalized, taking to rap radio to accuse Drake of biting the “Look at Me!” flow on his song “KMT.” He embarked on a wild, carnivalesque national tour marked by dangerous stunts and random acts of violence. Opening acts were beaten down when they attempted to crowd-surf, and the rapper himself was socked in the face during a set in San Diego. At his Broward homecoming show, the rapper had chicken fights in the crowd with his tourmates and jumped from the venue’s balcony into the crowd, all to demonstrate his nerve and unpredictability. His star power peaked over the summer, when he was voted into the 2017 XXL Freshman Class and his debut album, 17, opened at number two on the Billboard 200.
But all this time, Onfroy was dogged by charges of horrific domestic violence. Just as “Look at Me!” was blowing up, he was sitting in jail on charges including witness tampering and aggravated battery of a pregnant woman. Initially, Onfroy was able to downplay the charges, denying them frequently in media and even declaring himself “falsely accused” on 17. His fans also frequently, vocally came to his defense. Yet for many, the charges became too real in September, when Pitchfork released the gruesome details of a deposition given by Onfroy’s victim. The woman revealed a “grim pattern of abuse” committed by Onfroy that included frequent beatings, threats against her life, and other bizarre torments. After further shenanigans, including a possible altercation with Migos, XXXTentacion landed back in jail. He faces 15 counts of harassment and witness tampering, for which he’ll be tried separately from the domestic violence charges. The wild ride has come to an end, and though he's set to be released from jail today, he'll remain on house arrest until his trial.