On “The Explanation,” the opening track from XXXtentacion’s debut album “17,” the South Florida rapper starts with: “17/My collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real life situations I’ve lived.” Although not technically a song, it’s a synopsis of the 11-track, 22-minute album. If you were expecting the hardcore style XXXtentacion usually showcases in songs like “YuNg BrAtZ” or “Look At Me!,” do not listen to this album as it’s not what you’re looking for, at all. This album was purposely made to venture into a deeper, more up close and personal style that hasn’t been shown on many occasions since his release from jail.
The first song on the album, “Jocelyn Flores,” is a true story about a woman that X flew out to Florida to model for him. While in her hotel room, she committed suicide. X got the phone call, and decided to write this song about her in memoriam. The distorted sample Shiloh Dynasty’s “I Knew You So Well,” acoustic guitar strumming, X’s flow and the mumbled low singing are just a few reasons as to why it’s so good. You can feel his pain in this piece. The replay value on this one song, is insane.
The tone of “Depression and Obsession” makes you feel like you’re at a campfire with a few others, watching the flames flicker aimlessly. The lyrics can be interpreted as a shoutout to XXXtentacion’s rocky relationship with Geneva Ayala, his ex-girlfriend who he allegedly assaulted in 2016. The song is definitely strong, but the masculinity of X’s voice could have been matched with a lighter, feminine voice, adding more character to the song, and making it feel more complete. He talks about Geneva again on “Carry On” where he raps: “I’m cut open, my fingers and all my stab wounds/And if she could, she’d prolly dance/On my grave, inside my head/I see your face, I f**king hate, that I love you still.” This song reminds you of “I spoke to the devil in Miami, he said everything would be fine,” based on the theme of hopelessness, lust for more, and coming closer in touch with oneself.
XXXtentacion samples Shiloh Dynasty again and gets straight to point on “Everybody Dies in their Nightmares” where the hook warns, “Don’t go, don’t go to sleep, don’t go, stay up and don’t go.” Here, X uses a machine-gun speed flow to rap about feeling trapped in your surroundings, not being able to love without feeling pain, and your dreams not helping you escape, while trying not to succumb to the callings of death even though it’s always lingering. The track is strong, but could’ve benefited from a feature, maybe having a different perspective to the madness. The viral hit “Garette’s Revenge” also appears on the album, though at this point it’s mostly known as the song he got knocked out to while performing it at a show this summer in San Diego, Calif.
“Save Me” and “Dead Inside (Interlude)” are the only songs that don’t work for me. “Save Me” comes off as more of a wailing cry for help, which was probably the goal. XXXtentacion previewed “Dead Inside” on two different occasions on his Instagram, both times with him singing the song with live vocals – once in a lower pitch, and the other in higher. However, on the album, it feels like he lazily threw it onto the track list, rather than actually taking his time to edit and turn it into something better.
Trippie Redd’s appearance on “F**k Love” is the only feature on the album. Trippie shines on his part, showcasing his versatility and demonstrates why he is getting so many sign-offs by prominent rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, X, and even Ugly God. The only problem with the track is that it feels like it’s missing half of the song, which is a continuous trend throughout the album and a good portion of X’s catalog.
With “17,” XXXtentacion fully displays his versatility and how relatable he is as an artist, showing listeners he is going through the same pain. The album is beautiful, heartbreaking, emotional, and true. But, the songs on “17” are too short and all feel like they need a closing part. I need more than just a chorus, then a few short bars, then repetition of the chorus at the end of the song. It’s also important to note that none of the songs last longer than three minutes. Other than the powerful “Jocelyn Flores,” “Carry On” is the only song that feels complete. X said he put his all into “17,” but it still feels like something is missing.
Mack, 15, is a sophomore North Atlanta High School. He is a fan of all music genres, however finds himself most inspired by Kurt Cobain.
Save the date! Share your voice – Dec. 9.
This semester we invite you to join VOX teens in a community dialogue about immigration. Create art. Slam poetry. Meet each other. Follow along this semester’s investigation voxatl.org/category/vox-investigates/.