TIFFIN — Just two days after the start of school, rapper/singer/songwriter and member of the XXL rap magazine’s “Freshman List,” XXXtentacion released his ground-breakingly artistic and indistinctly poetically gothic album, “17.”
So far, the new album is taking the nation by storm as well as the Clear Creek Amana student body.
The first track of the album most fittingly named “The Explanation” is a spoken word explanation of the message the album presents to listeners. XXX briefly expresses how the number 17 has shaped not only the album but himself, so much so that he has the number 17 tattooed on the right side of his head.
He describes the number 17 to be “My collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real life situations I’ve lived.”
XXXtentacion defines this album to be the entrance into his own twisted and troubled mind, the same mind he claims to have lost at the significant age of 17. He concludes his explanation with a plea for “acceptance and loyalty” and the intent to at least numb the listener’s pain — and depressive state.
The cover of the album projects the darkest part about the album, the sincerity in pain and heartbreak as well as the obsession with death. The cover pictures of lined notebook paper with bits and pieces of lyrics and messages written in chicken scratch handwriting. In addition to the scattered notes, XXX himself is pictured in three polaroids. One is a close-up of his forehead and brow bone with the number 17 tattooed on the right of his head. The middle image is a blurry and distant nude photo of XXX crossed legged sitting on the ground. This image really helps tie his written words and real feelings together by giving listeners an image of pure vulnerability. The photo is somewhat a metaphor perceiving the fact he is a victim to his own mind. And the third is a rendition of the middle photo, a blurred Polaroid of XXX sitting on the floor, mentality painting the picture for what listeners are in for.
Right off the bat, this album has a dark, grieving and yet almost nostalgic tone to it, which is unsurprising of XXX. Although his distinct tone and equally dark and delirious persona isn’t for everyone, you have to give him credit for helping pave the way for a new genre of music, a mix of metal and hip-hop. He, among a few other artists, has managed to manifest a new breed of hip-hop that is closing the gap between rock, rap and everything in between. Unlike most of his previous hits that are intended to hype you up like “Look at me” and “I love it when they run,” he uses the most of his raw power of the intense inner workings of his own mind and is able to project them into a rhythmic poetry that has a very distinct voice, which is what the album highlights.
Trying to choose a favorite track in the album definitely is a chore for most listeners. Although each track has its own originality, they also are equally as good as the next. Personally, my favorites include “Jocelyn Flores” and “Everyone Dies In Their Nightmares.”
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“Jordyn Flores” starts with a distant sounding melody then the beat and chorus come in for a harmonious few verses about being stuck in your mind. “Everyone Dies In Their Nightmares” has almost the same verbal tone but with more of an old school, hip-hop influence, similar to his song “Vice City,” which is not featured on this album. But similar to the rest of the songs on this track he describes his wish for death, for the pain to end. The shaky struggling tone in his voice on all of these tracks really helps you feel where XXXtentacion is coming from. You feel the vibe of the hurt in his voice instantly, before you even have time to process and decipher the lyrics, which is what really makes “17” stand out.
Throughout the 11-track album, XXX tends to play with an almost lighter melody with a lo-fi hip-hop beat in most of his pieces. You would think the two opposing genres would clash, but they don’t. They mix together with a harmonic and lyrical tone that also portrays a more predominant tone, an overall deep sadness.
All the tracks have very intelligently depressive lyrics that send almost the same message, that XXXtentacion himself is saddened by his own reality and sometimes all he wants to do is end it all and take away the overarching sense of pain and loneliness, and as he said himself, “By listening to this album you are literally, and I cannot stress this enough, literally, entering my mind.”