XXXTentacion Tries to Capture Fleeting Moments on ‘?’

XXXTentacion explores new emotions and sounds on his most versatile project to-date.

Listening to an XXXTentacion project is a real test of mental stamina. Despite the brevity of his latest album ‘?’ (clocking in at a mere 37 minutes), the sheer amount of tortured energy he lets loose in his songs is dizzying. There’s simply no time for the listener to exhale, take a moment and decompress — and that is exactly how it seems XXX wants this particular body of work to be consumed.

Much like his last album, the polarizing ‘17,’ this new project takes listeners deep into the mind of XXX and is largely centred around his trademark topics of heartbreak, loneliness and depression. That said, the biggest shift from ‘17’ to ‘?’ is that XXX does explore different emotions that translate into new musical territory that borders on celebratory and upbeat at times. There are even moments in the latter part of the album where XXX sounds genuinely happy or is at least attempting to convey the illusion of happiness.
Interestingly enough, XXX expresses his concept for the album in the spoken-word introduction where he goes into specifics about how ‘?’ differs from ‘17.’ He talks about it being “far more uplifting than the last” but that it’s also something that is “very comforting, but discomforting at the same time.” The most important thing for XXX is that the listener opens their mind before listening so they can enter his world without preconceived notions about its sound and accept it as a piece of his psyche.

The album’s lead single ‘SAD!’ is definitely within the pocket of what fans have come to expect from XXX. He struggles with letting go of someone who has apparently left him and the result is a depressive state where there is talk of suicide to ease the pain of being alone without his loved one. His cards are on the table, but there seems to be nothing he can do to quell this empty feeling.

Tracks like “Moonlight” and “the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love)” are also tales of heartbreak that tackle themes of desire and jealousy. The passion comes through loud and clear, and the 20-year-old Florida artist doesn’t seem concerned with putting himself out there and being clowned for his emotional plights. He doesn’t pull back vocally either with genuine stress in his voice and that makes these short vignettes of his life all the more tragic and hopeless.

There are some gems on ‘?’ that show different sides of XXX that hasn’t been as fully formed and developed in the past as they are on this project. His collaboration with Joey Badass on “infinity (888)” is a definite highlight and features a more traditional jazzy hip-hop beat from Minnesota producer P. Soul that XXX and Joey both shine on.

In that same light, but on a different end of the spectrum, is the Latin-flavoured “I don’t even speak Spanish lol” that is by far the most bouncy and colourful piece of music on the album that sounds completely different from anything else on the project or in XXX’s entire catalogue for that matter.

The real long and short of ‘?’ is that moments in life are fleeting. Everything is temporary — pain, joy, love, whatever feeling it may be. It’s very difficult to nail down one particular sound that XXX is going for here, but perhaps that is beauty and madness behind his musical process. Sometimes he’s up, sometimes he’s down, but more times than not the result is songs that are unlike anything in the hip-hop market today — and that’s a very good thing.

Words by Patrick Cwiklinski – Stream XXX’s new album on Spotify now.

Update: XXXtentacion has passed away at 20.

Florida rapper XXXtentacion (real name Jahseh Onfroy January 23,1998 – June 18, 2018) has died, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. According to a report from ‘TMZ,’ the 20-year-old rapper was shot while out shopping for motorcycles in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He was rushed to the hospital shortly afterwards, where he was pronounced dead. XXXtentacion’s style of music is irreplaceable. He portrayed pain and sadness in a way that other artist couldn’t all while blended genre’s. RIP.

Hip Hop Editor