XXXTENTACION 17 REVIEW: A PLEA OF DEPRESSION
Depression is a touchy subject, a taboo to some. However, in the current state of the world, depression seems to be growing amongst youth in America, and young artists are now beginning to reflect these feelings in their art. Florida rapper XXXTENTACION decides to voice his true dark thoughts sonically in his debut 17, an attempt to craft a diverse project captivating depression.
One thing XXX proves is that he is versatile. While most know him for his trap bangers like “Look At Me” and “imsippinteainyohood,” XXX brings elements of R&B, boombap rap, and even singer songwriter/indie rock. He also manages to glue the songs well to where the record has an overall tone that matches the mood set by the lyrics. Whether intentional or not, a lot of the sung vocals XXX performs, come off as very emo-esque, in the vein of Taking Back Sunday. While some songs pertain autotune, like “Revenge,” most of the singing on 17 sounds natural. A lot of the beats do feel copy and paste, but it seems appropriate in most instances of the album, specifically the more boombap type tracks like “Jocelyn Flores” and “Carry On.”
17‘s runtime is a rather short one. With the project being 22 minutes long, the album feels more like an EP. While some songs feel the appropriate length, others seem to not flourish, due to their short runtime. Tracks like “Save Me” and “Fuck Love” fizzle too fast before anything climatic occurs in them. Ironically, the longest song on the album, “Orlando,” is the only song that feels drug out due to repetitive piano chords and a subpar vocal performance. “Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares” also has a repetitive hook towards the end, where the track could have benefited more from a second verse. With such a short project, every moment counts leaving no room for filler.
A lot of tracks feel more like ideas than they do finished pieces. “Jocelyn Flores” and “Depression and Obsession” are some of the strongest moments on 17, but they barely formulate to full songs. The track “Dead Inside” is deemed an interlude; however, the entire album feels like a compilation of interludes. While length could have helped the project, one definitive downside hurts the project the most.
Ultimately, the album suffers the most from it’s amateurish lyrics. All the lyrics feel like they were written by a depressed 17 year old. And yes, XXXTENTACION is only 19, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to allow these half-baked lines get by. All the lyrics fail to captivate any deep meaning due to XXX’s word choice. At times, it unfortunately comes off as laughable with the amount of cursing or over-dramatization. “Revenge,” for example, has a poorly written outro, almost losing any seriousness the song had. Additionally, this track in particular sounds like a sea-shanty, which doesn’t help cultivate a serious tonality. While some of the acoustic cuts sound like Neutral Milk Hotel, the lyrics are behind a band like that. “Save Me” is so elementary to the point where it feels like an unused intro for a My Chemical Romance song, while “Fuck Love” feels like a trap version of an MCR tune, featuring Trippie Redd who comes off as a budget Lil Uzi Vert. If XXX took the time to captivate poetic devices like metaphors for his depression, the album could have been taken more seriously. The need to abruptly be over-dramatic can be fine, sparingly, but an entire project of it leaves a poor taste in fans mouths.
XXXTENTACION is definitely troubled, and depression needs to be discussed. This record unfortunately might fail to resonate with an older crowd. However, the impact of this record could be major for the next generation of hip-hop to come. This may very well be the next 808s and Heartbreak. The work on 17 can be compared to the work of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Linkin Park’s career was plagued with distaste for the band’s music and later became the face of memes. Yet Linkin Park managed to impact the youth, with a die-hard fanbase that connected with Chester’s lyrics, regardless of how childish they appeared on paper. Depression is serious, and the issues that come with music like Linkin Park and the music on 17 is society laughing at these artists for their direct approach to overly-emotional lyrics.
While this album is far from hip-hop, most of XXX’s fanbase is of that realm. Hip-hop does not need a Chester Bennington, hip-hop needs an Elliot Smith, another artist who unfortunately took his own life. Elliot was a poet with his words and tackled his sorrow with excellent songwriting leaving all of his work to critical acclaim. Elliot Smith managed to shed light on mental illness in a serious manor, and people of all ages connected with his music. Depression, especially in the world of hip-hop, needs that kind of approach to help take it serious. It’s appreciated greatly that XXXTENTACION was brave enough to tackle the issue of depression that beckons us, but his approach needs much revisiting.
Overall, 17 does not live up to the hype. It’s setback with poor lyrics and short tracks that do not satisfy. While conveying a cohesive sound is appreciated, XXXTENTACION must work on a mature body of art, while playing to his strengths to form a great album.
Have you heard 17? Click the image to listen below and let us know what you think!