xxx-?

XXXTentacion makes me scratch my head. Something about him is both fringe and cringe. If you’ve ever seen a picture of the Florida recording artist, the fringe part is obvious. X has his own way of doing just about everything. I relate to that to some degree. However, he takes it to the extreme. When his debut album dropped last year, I refused to review it. Amidst domestic assault charges, I did not want to support his art. He is currently on house arrest pleading not guilty. Although I do not condone his alleged behavior, I wanted to comment on his music without judging his character. Unfortunately, X makes that difficult right from the start here. His sophomore album ? kicks off with yet another talking intro. This one is similar to his debut’s except now he’s calling himself a genius. Not a good look.

Additionally, there are more not-good looks on this album. Lead single “SAD!” has a fire-meets-ice feel, which is rare. Despite contrasting an energetic beat with despondent lyrics, the song’s focus is misguided. He threatens suicide if his lover decides to leave him. Personally, I cannot get down with that mentality. Nevertheless, I actually enjoy the track. It’s a dope song. I simply wish he dialed the hook back a bit. Also, at first, I felt like “Hope” was slightly distasteful. At the beginning of the track, X dedicates the song to Parkland shooting victims. Initially, it sounded like some other love song. Conversely, after many more listens, it’s a sweet gesture. I applaud him for his efforts. Say what you will, but XXXTentacion cares about the younger generation. He is not the greatest role model. Yet he took the time to lend a helping hand through his art.

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Honestly, I dig that. The soundscapes across ? are a complete mixed bag. This album is titled damn near perfectly. It’s almost as if Forrest Gump’s mama executive-produced this thing. With each song, XXXTentacion shows listeners his versatile skill set. Cohesion suffers due to this formula. However, the potential is here. “Moonlight” is my favorite. It’s a wavy contemporary trap record X finesses over. Haters beware, mumble rap is in full effect. Though it matches the song’s energy. It’s all about the wave, baby. Furthermore, flashes of excellence poke their head out in spurts on this follow-up. “infinity (888)” features Brooklyn emcee Joey Bada$$, who is a personal favorite of mine. These two rock together. In spite of their conflicting cosmetic styles, P. Soul’s production puts them in sync. Notwithstanding, I cannot talk about this album without mentioning the most mind-boggling song I have heard all year.

Rather than commit half-ass to a mixed-bag narrative X double-dips. In the album’s back third one song stands out from the rest. It is intriguingly titled “I don’t even speak spanish lol”. This song makes no sense. X’s left-field Latin dance craving comes out of nowhere. Ladies and gentlemen, this shit is fire. If you listen to anything this week, give “I don’t even speak spanish lol” a chance. It is infectious to the core. However wonderful “I don’t speak spanish lol” is, I cannot ignore this album’s lack of realization. Too many of these songs do not reach the three-minute mark. When they do, most of the time the ideas are there but the execution is not. All in all, though, I was pleasantly surprised at how this album turned out. It is nothing extraordinary yet it manages to leave a lasting impression.

 

Album Review: XXXTentacion - ?
Artistic ProgressionStylistic VersatilityHeartfelt Lyricism
Fleeting RuntimeIncomplete FeelLack of Cohesion
5MIXED
Production5.4
Songwriting3.3
Vocal Performance6.4