South Florida rapper XXXTentacion continues to put out hits. The controversial 20-year-old lyricist first announced plans for his 18-track sophomore album, ?, via his Instagram live story on Monday.
The 2017 XXL Freshman originally said he was quitting music after the backlash that came following his studio debut, 17, but he later changed his mind releasing a yuletide-themed SoundCloud exclusive, his five-song A Ghetto Christmas Carol EP.
His new album features producer and longtime collaborator John Cunningham, in addition to guest appearances by Joey Bada$$, Travis Barker, PnB Rock, Carlos Andrez, Rio Santana, and Judah. Although it runs a short 37-minutes, the album packs a musical punch despite a handful of interludes that feature XXXTentacion’s more vulnerable, yet pitchy falsettos.
It opens with “Introduction (instructions)” a short disclaimer from XXXTentacion telling listeners, particularly critics, to listen with an open mind. However, it’s debatable whether this is simply a display of an artist’s innermost thoughts or whether he is only setting himself up for disaster from the start by showing a lack of confidence in his own music.
“Alone 3” kicks things off with the low strum of an acoustic guitar as he begins to sing on this unexpected and rather emotional introspective track. XXXTentacion doesn’t actually start to rap until “Moonlight,” an electronic trap that gets to be a bit repetitive at times. That doesn’t mean it’s not a banger.
The lead single, “SAD!,” was released back at the beginning of March and went on to become his highest charting in the country, peaking at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Everything starts to make sense with the track, “Remedy for a Broken Heart (Why Am I So in Love?),” which finally blends together the acoustic sound with a more modern trap element.
“Floor 555” is so aggressive it gives off Necro vibes at the start and just keeps building to the point where we are essentially listening to a whole new fusion of metal and hip-hop. “Pain = BEST FRIEND” is worth skipping as well. If listeners wanted to hear whiny acoustic rock they would buy an Ed Sheeran record.
That’s not to say that the album is without it’s more noteworthy moments. Tracks such as, “Going Down!” produced by TM88 of the 808Mafia and “$$$” the uptempo trap anthem featuring Matt Ox are definitely worthwhile. And the second single, “changes” is a nice harmonic vocal track with more contemporary, The Weeknd type vibe. It too went on to chart at No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its first week.
“Hope” was actually the first song released from the album. The artist first posted it on his SoundCloud in February, in dedication to the survivors of the Parkland High School shooting. The song was released following a benefit show in Broward County, the proceeds of which, he stated, went to the families of the shooting.
The album kind of feels crudely pasted together and is far from as impressive as his debut studio album, 17. Still… it has its moments and fans will certainly go wild for it.
RATING: 3 / 5