Some musicians approach albums as merely random collections of their newest songs, with no real connective relationship between them.
Other artists prioritize macro-cohesion in their albums, while still focusing on including songs that work on their own. In other words, each song can easily be listened to separately, and they can be enjoyed in much the same way regardless of the context…yet when taken together, the sum they add up to is greater than the standalone parts.
Then there are those select few iconoclasts who create albums that only work as albums; the songs are best understood and most appreciated by listening to them in relation to each other.
XXXTENTACION fits into this last group, and in this regard, ? — yes, that’s the name of the album —trumps the rest of his quickly-burgeoning and ever-more-fascinating oeuvre. As the title suggests, it’s an unclassifiably-diverse album; each song experiments with a different sound from across the musical spectrum.
And I do mean each dabbles in a SINGULAR sound. Though some revel in the sort of radical beat shift mastered by the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Logic, most of the tracks remain consistently-distinct throughout their duration. Though this tendency could lead to excessive simplicity in the wrong hands, XXXTENTACION is smart enough to keep each composition short. The wild beat starts, he raps or sings over it for less than three minutes, then before you can even process the odd noises you’re hearing, he’s onto the next dramatically-different production, thus the reason ? looks like a conventionally-lengthed album at 18 songs but only runs 37 minutes.
This specific structure is key to allowing XXTENTACION to demonstrate his seemingly-unlimited range, which keeps expanding with every release. ? cements him as today’s most versatile rapper, a moniker I hesitate to use because he does so much more than just rap. Whatever you want to call him, he’s speedily crafting a career for himself worth following to every musical nook and cranny. If you hop aboard his bandwagon now, chances are he’ll take you to soundscapes you’ve never heard before.