Review Summary: Pain will always be my best friend
Sophomore Records are always good moments for artists to expand their sound. To improve on their songs and work on criticism that is sent their way. In some ways, ‘Question Mark’ (technically it’s a question mark but that’s impossible to show on this site) Is an improvement on X’s previous album ‘17’. The album’s length is doubled and things feel distinctly more polished and thought out than the sketchy bare bones lo-finess that satiated its older brother. Things definitely feel more finished here, leading to a less rushed feeling. Does that make ‘Question Mark’ a good album in the long run though"
‘Question Mark’ feels more like a continuation on ‘17’ than its own individual release. It has all the same elements, right down to the spoken word instructions that open the record. Tracks are still fleetingly short and alarmingly dark as they were before, only now there’s more of them. 18 to be exact. ‘Question’’s 37 minute runtime runs in stark contrast to ‘17’’s 21 minutes. You’d think that X would use the extra time to lengthen some songs and put out a strong set of songs that stand well as actual songs instead of fragments. That’s not the case naturally, and the intimate lo-fi bluntness Of ‘17’ has worn off. Instead of feeling like an honest and “human” album, ‘Question Mark’ simply feels frustrating.
Lyrically, X continues his aggressive blood letting that drenched his previous work. The familiar and comforting honesty that made him so popular in the first place is all over this record, yet on some occasions, X takes a detour. On the lead single ‘SAD!’, X drops the alarming and pretty disgusting line where he threatens suicide if his lover leaves (in the chorus no less) and ‘Floor 555’ is a violent and sexual return to his bass boosted lo fi early days. Yet, the lyrics mainly stick to a formula of being sad, being in love and being angry, sometimes all three. It starts to get stale pretty quick.
On the occasion something breaks through, it’s good. Great even. The weird warped lullaby ‘Moonlight’ and the dreary guitar ballad ‘the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love")’ show off X’s technical vocal prowess. The screamo gut punches of ‘PAIN = BESTFRIEND’ (which features Travis Barker of all people) and ‘SCHIZOPHRENIA’ are a fresh and welcomed aggressive change of pace but they’re balanced out by needles trite like the ear grating chipmunk voiced ‘$$$’ and the achingly dull ‘Changes’. There’s moments of genuine excellence here but the sheer amount of filler that lays on this record completely drowns the good moments.
Is ‘Question Mark’ good" Well not really no. While X definitely was heading in the right direction with his work, beefing up the record’s length and experimenting more genres, his death put a pin in that and his next record ‘Skins’ was a complete return to barely finished rough sketches and ideas instead of fully functioning tracks. There are a couple of solid moments here (hell even funny ones, especially on the Latin pop ***about ‘I don’t even speak Spanish lol’) but X hadn’t expanded his style enough here and it stills feels like a work in progress, if not a slightly more polished one than ‘17’. A weak ending to one of hip-hop’s more promising artists.
The remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love")
PAIN = BESTFRIEND
I don’t even speak Spanish lol