At this time last year, breakaway SoundCloud rapper XXXTentacion was enjoying a rise to fame at the age of 19. After sleeper hit “Look At Me!” made its viral trip around the internet the Florida rapper found himself in the spotlight amongst the company of other artists in high-level caliber such as Lil Uzi Vert, The Migos and Kodak Black. X was featured in XXL’s Freshman Class 2017 alongside Playboi Carti, KYLE, MadeinTYO, Ugly God and others. Being vetted by XXL is an honor known in the hip-hop world as a benchmark to fame and success as an artist in the genre.
However, not all of X’s newfound attention was desirable for the rapper. His debut was that of dark and violent undertones. Following his debut album 17 – X’s ‘bad guy’ persona turned on him after details of a disturbing domestic violence allegation surfaced.
With a quick turnaround, X is working on rehabilitating his image and his overall outlook on life – a lesson not so quickly learned by others who share the spotlight such as the aforementioned, fellow Florida rapper Kodak Black.
Amid distracting controversy X’s sophomore project, ?, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Released on March 16, ? is the first of three albums promised by the rapper this year.
Those who are not familiar with any of X’s former projects may be a bit taken back upon the first play through of the album. X goes against the status-quo of hip-hop mixing post-hardcore and emo elements along with the beat. Think of a mix between today’s hip-hop with the screamo genre that dominated the late 2000’s.
That said, in this album, the Florida rapper stayed within the confines of his comfort zone (which many other hip-hop artists would consider the opposite of). The introductory track “instructions” comes in the style of a public service announcement explicitly requesting that listeners only take on the project with an open mind. X claims that the album can be listened to anywhere, but preferably in the listener’s bedroom or car – suggesting that within the album lies deeper meaning.
Singles “SAD!” and “changes”, released two weeks prior to the album drop – along with “Moonlight”, which seem which seem to be most popular tracks on ?, are rooted with the traditional hip-hop vibe. This may contribute to these tracks being the most successful songs on the album – in a mainstream sense.
Other tracks on the album show the unique style of the 20-year old. The first song on the album, “ALONE, PART 3”, begins with acoustic guitar arpeggios – a soft tone that reoccurs throughout the 18-track project. Other songs such as “Pain = BESTFRIEND” and “Floor 555” are rooted in hard rock. Simply put, X screams into the mic, on a beat, producing a sound that could have came straight out of a Bring Me The Horizon album.
X’s style in ? is obviously working for him – nabbing the No. 1 spot. ? shows strides of maturity in the young artist. However, the album may not be for everyone, or even the average listener at that. X’s sound – rooted in hip-hop, emo and post-hardcore rock often falls upon niche ears.
This, along with his troubled history, may hold the artist back from reaching the ‘rap god’ caliber of other artists such as Drake, Future, Kanye West and others. X does not give any impression that he is chasing that sort of goal. Coming from the new SoundCloud generation of hip-hop the artist is growing, learning and producing hits. All in all, ? is an album worth checking out. Listeners may wind up discover an entirely new genre of music to enjoy.
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