“Depression and Obsession don’t mix” this statement plays as more than a lyric, XXXTentacion seems to embody this duality. While previous tracks lean toward ‘screamo Hip-Hop’ his debut album “17” plays as an Alternative Rock album with no resemblance to his breakout single ‘Look At Me’. As the 19 year old rapper states immediately at the beginning of the album that with this work you are “literally entering his mind” we must first look at the human, or perhaps conversely the music forces us to look at the human. Stereotyped as the ’emo kid’ of Hip-Hop, X ironically shatters the archetypal emo image. As Kurt Cobain, the iconic Grunge rocker of the 90s, embodied the teen angst and aggression of a generation of social outcasts of that day’s youth we saw Kurt as the loser, the nerd and the bullied kid. As the kid physically and emotionally tormented and withdrawn Cobain’s anger seemed obvious. X at both seems to be the bully and the bullied all at once, a quick YouTube search will reveal a kid who has been, before the fame, winning more fistfights on camera than any teenage ‘loser’ ever dreamed of. X’s only L on camera actually comes from a blindside sucker punch. How could a young kid making money on tour (prior to the success of ‘Look At Me’), knocking people out, getting girls, and having access to a level of ‘fame’ most withdrawn kids only wish for be emo? He defies his own identity, a product of the internet generation he, like many musical act’s musical tastes (with access to any genre and any time period), combines polarizing cultures and ideologies.
“Look At Me” is fueled with angst and violent hyperbole but don’t let that sonic sleight-of-hand distract you X’s depression stems from deep roots. The opening track on “17” “Jocelyn Flores” is dedicated to a girl in his life he was involved with who took her own life. Subject matter isn’t the only avenue in which X differentiates himself from his Hip-Hop peers, production on “17” doesn’t reach for the popular producers. There are no club bangers, no lit tracks, no Metro Booming beats, and the only feature is Ohio rapper Trippie Redd. X’s rebellious attitude fits right into his art, he seems to pay no mind to Industry standards. Guitar tracks, some completely acoustic, boom bap drums and dark piano chords are the only sounds the listener will get on this album, and it comes off as pure genius. No 808’s or Hi Hat 32nd note patterns, X keeps his art completely unique and true to self. With the vocals removed some tracks could easily be rider music or, ironically, a forced Drake love song filled with crooning or rehashed Pop rudiments and staples over top experimental production. ‘Everyone Dies In Their Nightmares’ is smooth, excluding the actual content which again is testimony to X’s internal dichotomy, he manages to implement a flow on top of this track that reminds the listener he is still a top tier Hip-Hop artist somewhere in his psyche.
‘Revenge’ plays as half back road blues and half slowed down demonic Pop-Punk. X, consciously or unconsciously, embraces the Punk Rock soundscape keeping “17”‘s entire running time at 22min, songs are rarely even 2 minutes and none ever touch the 3 minute mark. For the debut of such a troubled and controversial artist he manages to release a truly unique and artistic LP that will surprise many and also convert many listeners who were put off by the polarizing sound and delivery of tracks like “#ImSippingTeaInYoHood’. ’17’ shows tremendous maturity and growth and also a fearlessness to evolve without hesitation.