After being nominated for the XXL 2017 Freshman Class, XXXTENTACION showed that he had moved beyond simply being a SoundCloud rapper. His abrasive, hilariously vulgar style, as exemplified in tracks like “Look at Me!” and “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore,” polarized critics and listeners, creating both anticipation and dread for his first full studio album, “17”.
“A collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real-life situations,” as X puts it on the album’s opening track, “The Explanation,” “17” delves into subject matter like heartbreak, depression, and suicide. Displaying such vulnerability is rare in hip-hop, so it is to the artist’s credit that he has done so here. X has shown willingness before to flirt with other genres, and has done the same on this album, making use of indie-rock guitar and vocals on songs like “Save Me,” “Revenge” (the song’s first and so far only single) and “Depression & Obsession.” Such artistic choices do well to capture the dark, deeply sorrowful mood X intended for this album.
Tracks like “Jocelyn Flores” and “Carry On” make use of R&B samples, creating somber, cold melodies. These, along with “F**k Love,” are the more traditional rap songs on the album, and are each among its best moments. Running throughout “17” is an intentional lack of polish, a common current in most of X’s work. Here it serves particularly well to add to the album’s melancholy tone, and to make the pain expressed in it seem real.
However, “17” is only around 22 minutes long spread out across 11 tracks. Not a single song crosses the three-minute mark, and a few of them—such as “Orlando”—do feel like rough cuts. X’s vocals fit perfectly with the album’s overall mood, but they mask what is, in some places, a lack of poetry. Of course, the rapper’s delivery and choice of beats are what have made him famous, rather than his lyricism, but for a project which takes itself seriously and broaches such profound subject matter, there should be more focus here.
The album is not a bad one, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Though its genre-bending instrumentation is characteristic of XXXTENTACION’s previous work, it may go too far here for many fans. Those who enjoy softer musical genres will likely appreciate this move, however. It is uncertain if X will continue into the serious areas explored on this first album, but if so, a more refined lyrical style might improve his future efforts.
The release date for “17” was August 25, 2017, and is available for purchase via iTunes and Amazon. It can also be streamed through Apple Music and Spotify.