After months of generating negative headlines, one after another, the troubled youth known as XXXTentacion has finally released his debut album, “17.”
The 2017 XXL Freshman’s project arrives at a time when X’s negative image has almost completely eclipsed his music. Domestic violence accusations, insensitive tweets and Rob $tone have caused many to outright despise X. In fact, it appears the events of the past few months have caused X to grow a strong disdain for himself, as well.
On “17,” XXXTentacion succumbs to his inner demons as he frustratedly shares the dark thoughts that plague his mind.
The album begins with the track “Explanation,” in which X warns listeners that they will be exposed to his unfiltered thoughts and feelings. The warning proves to be very necessary, as X proceeds to open up on the track “Jocelyn Flores” about both losing one of his close friends to suicide and having suicidal thoughts of his own. The album only gets darker as X raps and sings about his self-loathing, failed relationships and betrayal.
Although the content is morbid, the music is oddly entrancing.
Before the release of the album, XXXTentacion wrote that this project was for the “lost ones” and that fans who listened to him to get hype should avoid tuning in.
I do not identify as a “lost one”; however, the honesty and vulnerability X displays on songs such as “Save Me” and “Carry On” make it easier to interpret his feelings as my own. This is the selling point of the album for me. Connecting with the audience is essential, and great artists know how to establish a link between themselves and their audience even if the listeners do not share the exact same story.
The production is minimalistic, but it accompanies X’s lyrics quite well. While X provides details of his crippling heartbreak on “Depression & Obsession” and “Revenge,” a guitar creates a somber mood that accentuates X’s sadness.
In similar fashion, a piano riff is the only thing that keeps X from being completely alone with his thoughts on the song “Orlando.” My favorite part of the production has to be the Shiloh Dynasty sample on “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares.” On this track, X raps about wanting to give into his suicidal urges, while the sample softly whispers, “Don’t go, don’t go to sleep.” The sample offers the only sliver of hope that exists on the album as it encourages X to resist eternal sleep.
The album also showcases X’s versatility as he switches back and forth between rapping and singing throughout the album. I never feel like he does too much of either. His rap verses are always concise yet effective. While his singing is not the greatest, it allows the listener to feel the full scope of his distress. Finding that perfect balance between the two is an art that eludes many artists, so I am impressed by the feat.
The best vocal performance on the album, however, comes from the up-and-coming artist Trippie Redd. He is the only featured artist on the album and makes the most of his 15 minutes of fame. Redd completely outshines X on their song in which the two sing about love lost over the most upbeat instrumental on the album. X is good on the song, but Redd is just better.
The album is annoyingly short. After 22 minutes, the album comes to an abrupt end that has no resolution. However, this lack of closure adds to the beauty and tragic nature of the album in that it mirrors the suicide note of an individual who never found the answers he or she needed.
“17” is not the album you play when trusted with the aux cord, nor is it the album that you play for someone to express how much you care about him or her. “17” is an emotional roller coaster that only spirals downward while exploring the darker parts of X’s psyche. The album is a great debut with an admirable goal: to aid those who are depressed. However, none of that may matter because of the dark shadow X has cast on his own career. In the end, no amount of talent in the world can save people from themselves.