Release Date: 3/16/18
Let’s just get this out of the way: the fact that there are instructions at the beginning of this album is unbearably cringe-worthy. Indicating that what you are about to experience is supposed to be so incredibly deep that it needs to be explained to you so you can mentally prepare for it is audacious, a little insulting, and terribly misguided. Just let the music speak for itself guy. The dude is very talented, but let’s give credit where it’s actually due. My advice is to start the album from track two.
Despite the introduction, there is a decent amount of good here. ? features considerably higher production values than previous releases. Compared with 17, the album features a lot more variety as well – closer to the amount of variety found on Revenge. X also has carved out the distinction whereby most of his most popular songs are among his best. “SAD”’s melodic hook “I’m sad to know ya, I’m sad to know ya” is a gigantic ear worm. There are also several moments where X proves he can really rap – reference “the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love)” and “infinity (888),” where he straight up raps and even sounds like Big L, complete with authentically ’90’s-style hype introductions (although the most ridiculous hyping I’ve ever heard, where Joey Bada$$ clearly demonstrates his complete lack of understanding on how disease works). He also has great chemistry with Joey Bada$$ on this track.
? essentially plays like a rundown of all the sounds he’s been known for thus far: “Pain = BESTFRIEND” being ostensibly a mid-2000’s emo song, even featuring some screaming; “going down” has X doing those nutty high-pitched ad libs and rapping he’s done many times on tracks with Ski Mask The Slump God; then there’s the hard, incredibly angry and heavy SoundCloud trap of “Floor 555” that X originally made his name doing; there’s the moving “NUMB,” which is one of the best examples of X’s better-produced morose sound he’s proffered as of 17; “changes” is a good example of X’s unique brand of piano-and-strings Alternative R&B; “schizophrenia,” is a super high-energy rock-based one minute, twenty seconds of incredible intensity, and is one of X’s career highlights.
I suppose it’s nice XXXTentacion finally put out an album that’s actually a normal LP length, and that there are more examples of full songs and not just minute-long ideas abruptly cut-off, but there are several complete throwaway tracks on here: “SMASH!”, “before I close my eyes,” the incredibly annoying vocal refrain by Matt Ox on “$$$”, the obvious pandering of “I don’t even speak spanish lol”… Ultimately, the album’s good content would be about the length of 17 anyway.
Overall, there is a lot to be liked here and I’m left leaving this album feeling both confident he will release many great tracks in the future, as well as less confident in his ability to put out entire consistent projects.
Highlights: “Moonlight,” “SAD,” “infinity (888),” “NUMB”, “schizophrenia”