ALBUM REVIEW: XXXTENTACION impresses on gloomy debut album 17

Note: In light of the recent allegations against XXXTENTACION published Friday morning on Pitchfork, the Underground Flux would like to make clear that we do not condone any type of violence. This article simply reflects XXXTENTACION’s album and attempts to separate his music from the person.

When XXXTENTACION first talked about his debut album 17 in March, he labeled it as an “alternative, R&B sound.” To group this 11 track, 22 minute album into R&B or hip hop (the other genre X mostly deviates to) is a wild miscalculation. If anything, 17 is most stylistically similar to rock, something which shouldn’t be a surprise considering X’s inspirations—Three Days Grace, Asking Alexandria, and Nirvana.

17, my collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real life situations I’ve lived” XXXTENTACION says in his opening monologue on “The Explanation.”

The South Florida artist takes his listeners through a whirlwind of emotions, mostly those pertaining to suffering, despair, and regret. X’s hit song “Look At Me!” could not be further apart from the message conveyed in 17.

“Jocelyn Flores,” the first track on the record, reveals XXXTENTACION’s state of mind when he discovered the death of his close friend Jocelyn Flores. Jocelyn committed suicide in a hotel room while she was visiting X.

Picture this, in bed, get a phone call
Girl that you fucked with killed herself
Wanna fuckin’ end it, pessimistic

Cover art for '17.'

However, not all the songs on 17 are on the same page.

“Depression & Obsession” shows off X as a multifaceted artist. You can just imagine him sitting on his bed, lightly strumming a guitar as he muses over the girl he’s obsessed with. Ditto for “Revenge.” On the other hand, “Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares” takes a faster tempo with the enigmatic Shiloh Dynasty sampled. Shiloh’s soft vocables and X’s grim message create an interesting dichotomy.

X’s melancholia doesn’t always target others. It shifts from other people to himself on “Save Me”. He’s obsessed with others, but does anyone feel the same way about him?

The answer is yes.

XXXTENTACION’s cult-like fans have continued following him despite his controversial track record, ranging from an unsavory Instagram video where he “hangs” himself to promote an upcoming music video to, more importantly, charges of aggravated battery of his then-girlfriend Geneva Ayala.

“Revenge,” 17‘s only single, talks about “[digging] two graves,” presumably one for himself and the other for Geneva. “Orlando,” referring to his initial arrest in O-Town, has X spilling his heart out about a girl that he once loved only to end up heartbroken.

The Plantation-born sensation is unabashedly unapologetic on “Ayala,” 17‘s final track. As seen by the outro’s title, there is no subtlety employed here. Geneva is first on X’s list of regrets, as it’s likely that he blames her for his current state of mind.

For better or worse, XXXTENTACION is at his rawest here. He wears his heart on his sleeve to produce a brutally honest (from his perspective) and revealing debut album. With his trial scheduled for October 5, X faces up to 30 years in prison. While other artists have released projects from prison in the past, it’s unlikely that the self-described multi-genre artist would be able to keep up his current momentum behind the bars.

Unlike most of X’s previous projects, 17 truly feels like a finished product. The next step for him is being able to show that he can make other music besides angsty, depressed songs, but still put in the same effort that went into 17.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐¾ / 5

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