XXXTentacion Fails to Impress on Debut
“I do not value your money, I value your acceptance and loyalty,” claims XXXTentacion in the intro to his debut album 17. After listening to the album in completion, it becomes clear that the Miami-based songwriter is owed neither.
XXXTentacion, stage name of 19 year-old Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, was first recognized in 2014, when his lo-fi, aggressive tracks that blended hip-hop with punk hit Soundcloud, including viral hit “Look at Me!” Since then, Onfroy has quickly become one of the most famous and controversial figures in hip-hop, with 17 debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts, a shocking feat given the album’s subject matter, as well as Onfroy’s ongoing legal troubles, including allegations of domestic violence.
Fortunately for those who have trouble separating art from the artist, 17’s laughably melodramatic lyrics and mostly uninteresting production, combined with X’s grating singing voice, will spare you any moral quandaries. On 17, Onfroy largely eschews his earlier style, and instead relies on acoustic guitar and reverb-heavy piano for background music. Unfortunately, the result of this is an album that largely sounds like a forgotten relic of the Myspace era. Lead single “Revenge” exemplifies this, with Onfroy half-mumbling and half-singing over a haphazardly strummed guitar riff, with lyrics that offer about as much substance as a 12 year-old’s diary. The most egregious example of Onfroy’s songwriting come from “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares”, that features Onfroy repeating the refrain “Tired of feelin’ like I’m trapped in my damn mind / Tired of feelin’ like I’m wrapped in a damn lie,” so many times that it seems like he has trouble convincing himself of his own mental state. The repetition of lyrics makes already corny-sounding lines that much worse. Hearing Onfroy moan “In my grave I’ll rot” just once is cringe-inducing enough, but when he says it nine times, one might legitimately mistake the album for self-parody.
In fairness, the album contains some redeeming qualities, even if none of them come from Onfroy himself. Potsu, a rising star within the Soundcloud Rap community, assists on production for three of the album’s tracks, and each one manages to stay afloat in large part thanks to his contributions. “Jocelyn Flores” in particular, remains a highlight of the album due to it’s smooth production as well as a vocal delivery that has a tangible intensity that the rest of the album lacks, even if it suffers from the same lyrical shortcomings as the rest of 17. These tracks are far in between however, and do little to remedy the album’s consistent absence of quality that makes it feel bloated and overlong, which is astounding given that the album itself barely eclipses the 20-minute mark.
Whether or not one loved or hated Onfroy’s early Soundcloud tracks, there was no question of their originality. 17 removes all originality from his music, instead setting a new low bar for rap-rock crossovers (something that seemed impossible after Kid Cudi’s disastrous attempt two years ago). With his impending trial, Onfroy could very well leave public life for good. One can only hope that his music goes with him.