In an increasingly rapid consumption time the release schedule and absorption of music and content seems to have constricted and yet conversely expanded. Once upon a time a follow up to a debut album would seem sudden if it appeared a full year later, now with the onslaught of content and media a sophomore release a little over a half a year later does not feel rushed. Whether a natural repercussion of this era or a desire to produce due to his looming court case polarizing rapper Xxxtentacion returns with another daring album “?”. Flexing his pop sensibilities and branching further from the alternative rock sound of his debut “17”, which was a sharp turn from his earlier screamo-un-mixed angst filled trap rap, X delivers a confusingly concise album.
An awkward introduction of him explaining the meaning, style, and purpose of the project strangely before the listener gets to even hear it kicks off the album, immediately after we have a barrage of emo tracks, emotion that is embedded in this generation but seemingly new to the genre. “SAD!” is a catchy tune and the lead single which has radio potential sonically but remains true to X’s characteristically self-reflective and introspective lyrics. “Floor 555” is a return to the lo-fi un-mixed screamo days, “Infinity (888)” featuring boom-bap Pro-Era heavy hitter Joey Badass is a pleasant surprise and has X flexing his traditional Hip-Hop chops on his second collaboration with Joey.
The second half of the album has X trying out more commercial sounds and even attempting to get some club bangers in his catalog. “going down!” & “i don’t even speak spanish lol” feat Rio Santana, Judah, and Carlos Andrez are new territory for X and both though tongue-in-cheek surprisingly come off well. “?” plays somewhat as X’s “Thriller” a blatant attempt at trying to make as many hits in as many different genres as possible in an effort to increase the potential of the commercial success of the project, a well played risk as “?” has reached the number 1 mark on the Billboard top 100 albums. In an era where “selling out” has diffused and the underground and mainstream’s dividing line has been blurred X pulls off a surprisingly unique album very obviously in-tune with the current zeitgeist, a testament to his self awareness and detailed observation of society and self.