A Questionable Album: XXXTentacion “?” Album Review


Album cover of “?”, with a question mark in the middle symbolizing the confusion and theme of the album.

Alexander Estes, Staff Writer

XXXTentacion, also known as just “X,” has always been a very peculiar artist in the music industry. His music ranges from hip-hop, rock, R&B, pop, or even straight-up metal. Not only is his music pretty diverse and peculiar, but his persona is as well. From a half-blonde half-black-haired teenager with anger issues to a silver-haired 19 year old with no eyebrows and now to a mature 20 year old with blue hair, X has been changing and growing tremendously over the last year. His personality and the way he’s starting to live has clearly been changing in light of his recent charges, including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and multiple counts of witness tampering, by improving himself as a person, and giving back to his community in many, many ways. Along with this personality, his music has also been changing and evolving into many forms, which is exactly what this album is, a mix of his personalities and musical styles.

The title of this album, “?”, is a perfect name for it as it explains the album itself in the title. The album is a huge mix of genres and style X has come to incorporate in his name, making it very confusing. He claimed this album was not meant to have a general theme or message to it, and he even doesn’t know what it is, making the name of it “?.” Back in September he announced a short four-track EP, “Ugly,” which was then scrapped to “Skins,” which is what we can now assume is “?.” Clearly, he was very back and forth on what sort of album we wanted to have therefore making it unknown.

So when I mean a mix of styles and his personality in this, I really mean it. X goes from pure hip-hop, alternative rock, and pop-ish tracks quite often on this album. Most of the album in fact is not hip-hop; on iTunes, it is even labeled as a “Pop” album. In a result of this mix of genres in the album, it becomes very messy and incohesive, but that doesn’t mean that it was incredibly enjoyable.

A majority of the album is a bunch of melancholic indie rock songs, similar to those of his debut album “17,” all in which are very catchy. A highlight of this genre is the song “Before I Close My Eyes” which has a beautiful melody to it, and the song “NUMB.” Both of these songs are very repetitive but still makes for a very catchy song that always sneaks inside of your head randomly.

For fans of hip-hop and/or X’s older style, songs like “Floor 555” and “Infinity (888)” will serve justice. “Floor 555” is the type of aggressive, in-your-face music that he had earlier in his career. It includes pretty memorable lyrics and gives off a extremely vulgar vibe along with a distorted, bassy production, making it a good song to turn up to. The other song “Infinity (888),” is a classic hip-hop song featuring Joey Badass (stylized as Bada$$) that is definitely the most rap-filled track on this album. Both Joey and X exchange one verse each and ride the flow of the beat very smoothly. This, along with the soulful saxophone in the background delivers a fantastic song, bringing hope to a potential Joey Bada$$ and XXXTentacion collaborative tape in the future.

There are three songs that are very interesting and have pretty amazing production: “SAD!,” “Moonlight,” and “Hope.” All of them share a similar style that has a pretty fast string of snare drums and some sort of outer space sound, which can’t be explained anymore unless you listen to all three of these tracks. “SAD!” was the first single released for this album and actually charted quite well on the Billboard Hot 100 — and at one point this week — beat “God’s Plan” by Drake on Apple Music and became the #1 album on iTunes for a few days.

Earlier when I mentioned genre mixing and the diversity in this album, there is sometimes such sudden changes that make you double-check to see if you are still listening to the album. The track “i don’t even speak spanish lol [sic]” (yes, that’s the name of the song) is a Latin dancehall song that sounds like nothing he has ever done before, somewhat like his take on the hit song of last year “Despacito.” This song features Rio Santana, Judah, and Carlos Andrez. This 100 percent has the potential to be a hit song; on the first listen, that is evident. Another of his weird songs is called “schizophrenia,” which starts with X whispering his lyrics and slowly builds up to a fast-paced rock ‘n’ roll sort of rhythm with a bass guitar and drums. At the end it just repeats him screaming “don’t give up” multiple times then suddenly ends.

Apart from these grouped tracks in certain genres, there are also many other tracks that don’t really shine as much or are just plain bad. Examples of these are “$$$” featuring Matt Ox and “SMASH” featuring PnB Rock; while they aren’t exactly terrible, they are just generic with an airhead autotune, and in “SMASH,” where PnB Rock gives us a very sloppy, boring verse. Apart from these two boring songs, songs like “Hope” and “the remedy for a broken heart” are not bad but are pretty forgettable in the aspect of it being just stale.

This album was a very confusing album to listen to but was definitely a big improvement to his last album “17” quality-wise. In my opinion, I wouldn’t really call this an album but more of a mixtape because of how incohesive it is since it doesn’t have a general theme to it. It’s all over the place. Overall, it was a fun listen, giving us tons of emotion and different feels to it, so whatever mood you’re in or what kind of genre you like there is at least one song you would like on it. I would give this “album” a 6/10 for the reason of it having some creative tracks sprinkled throughout but leaving us with a few half-baked songs that are sometimes just forgettable. You can listen to “?” on Apple Music, Spotify, and Youtube but it unfortunately is not available on SoundCloud.