[REVIEW] XXXTENTACION Explores Emo Rap

XXXTENTACION, or X, is slowly finding his way into a niche that is liken to how Emo was pre-2005. Emo music was a growing market back in the day, and was more of a cultural blip as the trend quickly wore off after 2005. Or maybe that’s when I stopped paying attention to it, but it definitely died after 2010. It was prevalent with its music, which addressed teenage angst in artists like Bright Eyes, Muse, Panic and the Disco, Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy- oh god I’m starting to remember it all. Emo was also culturally relevant in clothing style where Hot Topic was the shit back then. Too bad they closed down, because if they opened up now business will start booming, lemme explain.

There is a resurgence of Emo within Hip Hop, and X’s new album has confirmed my beliefs on this. Now this is different than New Age Rap which is the modern day equivalent of punk rock. Like how punk rock became a relational alternative to rock and roll, New Age Rap is the bastard child of Hip Hop. The other child is Emo, but instead of black eyeliner and bangs, it’s face tattoos and colored dreads.

We see many examples of emo rap recently in songs by New Age Rappers. It combines conventional hip hop beats of 808s, percussions, with a sad atmospheric vibe. More specifically the beats are usually edited using Gross Beat effects which slow down the music while simultaneously applying reverberations, but retains the same tempo. It’s almost R&b-ish, but the actual tempo is faster. We take this and combine it with offbeat loud singing- almost whiny- with pessimistic lyrics about relationships, drugs and mental health as a part of the artist themselves. The result is emo rap the likes of Lil Peep- who unfortunately died due to drug overdose- Lil Xan, Lil Uzi Vert, and now officially XXXTENTACION.

I’d like to note that I believe Lil Peep would have been the prime example of new age emo rap if he were to be alive, and explored his sound further. His music is not only a figurative “punk rock” example of the parallels I drew earlier, but also a literal mix of punk rock and hip hop. Like a trap blink 182.

The best (popular) example is XO Tour Life — Lil Uzi Vert.

X has taken this sound and experimented around it in his last two albums.

“17” Album Breakdown

X went hard into experimenting a new sound for his album “17". It showcased more of his musical side where he sang more and rapped over slow bpm sad tunes. There’s two notable styles in “17”

Depression & Obsession, Ayala (outro), Save Me, literally use guitar chords with X singing. No rapping. Orlando, Dead Inside (Interlude) are straight up piano ballads. Not something that’s expected.

In Jocelyn Flores, Everybody Dies In their Nightmares, Fuck Love, Carry On, X raps about suicide and emotions freely over chill atmospheric beats.

Score

3/5 These songs are sparse and short, reaching an average of 2 minutes each. There is a feeling that X is intentionally restraining his voice due to the fact that he is experimenting with new shit. X tries new sounds that are very musical, however they mostly fall flat and short. Had he fleshed out the new experimental sound, the score would have been a 4.

“?” Album Breakdown

X is less restrained in his singing style for this album, and that’s actually what makes it more emo than the last album. He is more comfortable with his new style and combines it with a bit of his old stuff. These can be broken into two sections again:

ALONE PART 3, NUMB, Pain = Bestfriends, changes, before I close my eyes, we have X singing over piano and guitar chords, but his singing is more louder and raw compared to his last album. He sounds more confident with himself.

Moonlight, SAD!, $$$, going down, SMASH!, Hope, remedy for a broken heart, inifinity (888) is smooth rapping over chill atmospheric beats, with his singing occasionally going off beat- intentionally. We see this style being prevalent with New Age rappers such as Kodak Black, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, etc. Except X combines it with a sadder tone.

Floor 555, schizophrenia, we see X going back to his old style. Being loud, and singing over a, but the song is intentionally lowered to be soft. i dont even speak spanish lol is an experimental piece mixing his singing with a low cut reggaeton beat.

Score

4/5 X is much more comfortable with his direction, and even mixes in his old style with the new. Despite the songs still being short, this album is much more balanced compared to last. He’s got a good ear for melodies.

Give it a listen:


For those who are emotionally invested into hating X, I’d like to note that I’m reviewing his music, not him.


RIP X June 18, 2018