Review Summary: Here's a better question: why not？
XXXTentacion is objectively a bad person. I’d argue ？ is far from an objectively bad album and should not be dismissed as such. Maybe it’s because I have some shithead friends that love to blast that angsty trap as a half-joke, half-serious sort of thing (6ix9ine, Lil Pump, etc.). Maybe it’s also due to the fact that I was
a supporter of this artist before the accusations came to light, even going as far as seeing him live in concert. And honestly, it’s probably a bit of both; it makes sense that if you hear an album over and over again (and I mean a lot
, my roommates were obsessed) you’re going to begin to appreciate it more and more. I think familiarity is comforting, in a way, but due to the separation needed between the artist and the album in this case, the same must be done for myself and my personal experiences with him.
Objectively, XXX is surprisingly adequate at making pop/trap music in the vein of sadboi indie rock. While ‘Moonlight’ and ‘SAD!’ obviously follow the current production trends while simultaneously maintaining some surprisingly catchy hooks, it’s the lowkey track right after that provides proof this artist is consciously improving on his sound. In fact, ‘the remedy for a broken heart’ could’ve snugly fit on 17
as I’d say it’s an improvement in every way from the tired, downtrodden release (with maybe the exception of ‘Joycelyn Flores’). While he’s not the best singer in the game by any means, I find it extremely difficult to say he’s not talented, especially when hearing him croon “I / oh I / am falling for you
” in a near-perfect falsetto to close out the song. While the sudden shift in style towards the mainstream might be mistaken as an attempt to win back lost fans, it honestly seems as if XXX is genuinely exhibiting how he can keep up with the Rae Sremmurd’s of the trap game.
It’s clear however that XXX does not want to just be known for his recent endeavours in the guitar-heavy slow beats. In fact, soundcloud fans know his aspirations for musical experimentation and genre collisions have been going on ever since he got started. Yet, in a strange twist of fate he’s decided to commercially market these musical lab experiments with much slicker production and some “positive” messages in the lyric department. Some of these tracks end up flourishing, especially when he turns up the fire within the yelled bars in ‘Floor 555’. There’s something inherently chilling about the beat as well, almost as if the mood matches the personality a bit too well. XXX has never been afraid to hide who he is, and that’s why it’s easily the most convincingly real
song on here. Same deal with ‘Pain = BESTFRIEND’, a bi-polar outbreak of a song, switching from a plucked acoustic guitar to some barreling live drums (by Travis Barker, mind you) and X himself wailing, “don’t cry / it won’t end / pain will always be my bestfriend
”. While it’s difficult to excuse his actions due to his upbringing, it’d be unfair to say that the history of abuse and neglect in his family hasn’t contributed to the troubled and mentally ill rapper. Sadly, lots of his own complexion bleeds onto the page of ？, staining some of the tracks in the process. ‘Schizophrenia’ is a disturbing attempt to water down the mental illness to simply the “voices in your head
” while implying X himself has some form of it (which has never been confirmed, only implied in previous singles). The latter half of the album is quite disturbingly bad as a result, as X attempts to reignite the pop flair found on the former side with some cringe-worthy attempts like ‘changes’. A lot of these melodies fall flat, and the sudden shifts between styles don’t seem to exactly help the b-sides of ？. Plus, both of his “Spanish” songs are absolutely grating; a genre experimentation not worth looking much more into.
Honestly, it’s quite easy to understand why people would despise this album. It’s disjointed and scatter-brained, filled with some half-baked ideas and lyrics that range from somewhat sincere to downright deceitful. Yet, underneath the troubled exterior, there is undoubtedly some talent that has been put to good use throughout this album. I mean, why else would rappers like Joey Bada$$ agree to put their name on this thing？ Judging by Ski Mask’s turbulent friendship with X, it certainly isn’t due to his personality. So yes, Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy should be criminally prosecuted for his actions, but if you add a bit of separation while surrendering some stubbornness, you might actually end up liking bits of this thing. So yeah, why not？