“You are literally entering my mind. And if you are not willing to accept my emotion and hear my words fully, do not listen.”
XXXTentacion delivers those words at the outset of his debut album 17. Beyond all the abhorrent violence, social media beef and other graphic drama, XXXTentacion has fans because of his music, and XXX mostly delivers for them. Though he’s known by casual fans for his frenetic “Look At Me Now,” 17 is a decidedly pensive, subdued expose, rife with laments about his fractured internal dialogue, bad luck with relationships, and guitars that radiate his pain at every pluck.
The acoustic guitar play and earnest vocals on songs like “Jocelyn Flores” feel almost diametrically opposed to the towering tough guy act he’s been known to play in public during conflicts with Drake and Rob Stone. Titles like “Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares,” “Dead Inside,” and “Save Me,” further set the tone as much as the striking album cover, which shows him bare, hiding from the world amidst written affirmations all too familiar to those dealing with depression, such as “you must be numb” and “[pain] will never end.”
Sonically, the 10-track album is a genre-bender that leans way more toward alternative rock than “Look At Me Now” implied his debut album ever would. If the sonics of Lil Uzi’s recent output is sunny, Hot Topic rock via a hip-hop lens, 17 makes a bid to be a canonical marker for a more sullen, existentially conflicted sound. Don’t get me wrong, Uzi is certainly going through it on songs like “XO Tour Life” but compositions like 17’s guitar-driven “Save Me” and the melancholy sample on “Carry On” underscore XXXtentacion’s lyrics and make for truly palpable moments whereas people primarily turn up to Uzi and Future’s pain.