Headphones: XXXTentcion's Sophomore Bump Or Slump?
Since the release of his 2015 debut single “Look At Me!”, XXXTentacion has had a hard time staying out of the public image. With a number of legal issues and incidents at live shows, XXXTentacion or “X” has made his way into the spotlight both for his musical talents and his trouble with the law. Three years after his debut single that gained him a majority of his musical popularity, the Florida-native has dropped his second studio album “?” last month.
Based off of X’s previous work one might assume that “?” is a hip-hop/trap album. However, this album is much more than a trap album. X has found a way to blend together his unique Soundcloud rap sound with his background in punk rock. The album also has an R&B sound only made possible by X’s singing abilities.
“?” not only has the feel of an album from multiple genres, but also shows off the diverse range and uniqueness of XXXTentacion’s music. The album is filled with a diverse group of features like Joey Bada$$, Travis Barker, and Rio Santana. X takes the direction of the album in a number of different directions recruiting feature artists from several different genres.
The 8-track album is seven longer than X's previous album 17. The fourth song of the album, "SAD!" has been the only thus far to receive over 100 million listens on Spotify. The song was the first released single off X's sophomore album, released two weeks prior to the album itself. The song is a morose look at some of XXXTentacion's inner thoughts, and the internal struggles he goes through. The song's bouncy rhythm compliments the catchy chorus despite, the lyrics of the tracks lyrics being so gloomy.
The album's first feature track, "Infinity (888)", recruits New York rapper Joey Bada$$ to produce a more laid-back sound for the album. The tracks beat, centered around a slow bass-heavy drum beat, sounds like something produced by a member of Joey's crew Pro Era. It is relaxed, New York-style beat that opens up great opportunities for X and Joey to both spit great verses. Both artists offer up their respective verses and team up for a beautifully simple chorus dominated by the repeated line, "I don't feel the pain no more". While the production and lyrics are kept simple, the track gives listeners hope to another possible collaboration of X and Joey Bada$$ on future projects.
"Pain = BESTFRIEND", featuring Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker is the first example of the range that XXXTentacion is capable of reaching in his musical abilities. While the introduction of the song is built around a slow and more melodic guitar riff and a softer vocal track, X quickly turns the song into a punk-rock track. With the help of Travis Barker's insane drumming talent, X finishes the track screaming more than singing in a fashion similar to the late Chester Bennington of Lincoln Park. While not something you'd typically here from a Soundcloud rapper like X, his background and musical knowledge allow him to make music completely different from the genre he has been categorized in.
As XXXTentacion continues to explore different music genres on this album, R&B and trap are two that come naturally. Teaming up with R&B artist PnB Rock, "SMASH!" is a perfect combination of melodic soulful singing and head banging trap verses. The reason behind these verses being labeled as trap is solely based on their pace and rhythm. While neither or PnB Rock are categorized as trap artists, they are both able to field and crush a trap verse. Again, the way this song explores multiple and different genres is what makes the album as a whole so unique.
XXXTentacion's sophomore album not only crosses genres, but languages as well. On a track literally titled, "I don't even speak Spanish lol", X brings Brazilian singer Rio Santana as well as Judah and Carlos Andrez onto this song meant for South American dance clubs. The song is entirely built around its dance vibe and for the most part is sung in Spanish. What XXXTentacion has done with this is show that he makes music for a variety of different people, whether they speak English or not. The track is another stride in a different direction for the album as X adds dance and pop to the genres explored on the project.
What XXXTentacion has done on this album is something not usually seen today in mainstream music. He has produced music for fans of a number of different genres. With both the production of songs and featured artists, he explores hip-hop, trap, R&B, punk rock, dance, and pop music all within one album. While some of the solo tracks on the album fall somewhat flat when compared those with other artists, the album as a whole is a unique look into the musical talent that X possesses.
This album is not only a rare combination of tracks from different genres, but also shows us the direction that XXXTentacion plans to take his music. As someone who has spent much of the past few years, it is clear that with second studio album X is looking to make headlines once again for his music instead of his personal mistakes.
What is most exciting about the album, is the potential it has for future projects. With XXXTentacion obviously shifting his full focus back to music after years crashing with law, there is unlimited possibilities to the type and quality of music he will release down the line. X also showed with "?" his collaborative talents. He has shown that he can make music with top artists from a variety of genres, each collaboration unique from the others. The biggest problem facing X at the moment is whether or not he can stay consistent in the music he releases. By releasing quality music on a consistent basis and avoiding any public personal mistakes, XXXTentacion has the chance to challenge a majority of upcoming younger artists.