Expected to chart at the Billboard 200’s number one spot, XXXTentacion’s second album has somehow managed to garner more applause than controversy – even with his history of assault and domestic violence, X’s appeal to the emo wave supersedes not only his questionable personal life, but his total lack of substance. Sure, this album might be far better than the Florida rapper’s debut, but in all honesty, that’s not really saying much. Songs feel half-finished and emotionally hollow, while the tracklist as a whole seems messy and rushed, a melange of both boring and incongruous ideas. He might be turning heads now, but will X really ever outshine his fifteen minutes of fame?
Whether he’s at his most sadcore or his most aggressive, it’s difficult to listen to this album and not think about the character behind each song – but controversies aside, there’s still little substance to XXXTentacion’s music that warrants any sort of praise. After two minutes of “instructions” that see the young rapper applaud his own “alternative sound” and encourage listeners to enter his self-proclaimed insane mind, audiences are faced with seventeen cuts that range from grunge homage to distorted noise-hop, and even latin pop rap on the endlessly obnoxious I don’t even speak spanish lol. There’s nothing versatile or alternative about what’s happening on this album – everything feels leeched from somewhere else, and poorly so at that.
Few of these tracks have the endurance to remain interesting for even their lousy one and a half minute lengths – dreary cuts like the minimal piano ballad changes or the predictable indie rock tune NUMB are saved from complete boredom by their brevity. Even if just barely, twelve year old rapper Matt Ox manages to outshines Tentacion on $$$, as does Joey Bada$$ on infinity (888), a cut that’s almost definitely an unwanted leftover from one of the Brooklyn rapper’s own albums. Between the pop trap anthems and acoustic ballads, X delves into post-hardcore on the Travis Barker assisted Pain = BESTFRIEND and even tepid metal stylings on schizophrenia, both of which come across as halfway decent moments, if not obviously borrowed.
If you can manage to separate the art and the artist behind it, there’s maybe a few salvagable moments on this thing – the dreamy and distorted Floor 555 is actually a pretty enthralling throwback to the rapper’s early days, while opener ALONE, PART 3 is easily the most interesting of this album’s acoustic bits. Likewise, the very glitchy and eccentric Moonlight turns out really satisfying – even if mainly for the beat. But for the most part, ? lives up to it’s name, totally confused and somewhat questionable. Don’t be fooled by Tentacion’s little artist’s note at the beginning – there’s no grandiose artistic statement to be heard.