(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Revenge (2017), 6.5/10 (mini)
17 (2017), 6.5/10 (mini)
? (2018), 7/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Jahseh Onfroy, aka XXXTentacion, a juvenile delinquent from Florida, became a rap sensation despite the scarce talent demonstrated in his recordings. His myth began with Vice City (2014), a suicidal rant with a catchy childish female counterpoint and a mantra-like choir over a skeletal beat, and was amplified by the many leaked versions of the EP Heartbreak Hotel (2015), which contains at least the distorted piano-based carillon of Teeth and the somnolent ghostly Eyes. The mixtape Revenge (2017) somehow appealed to those who enjoyed vulgarity and nihilism. It contains a variety of modes of expression: the twisted tender confession I Don't Wanna Do This Anymore (which samples Nova's "Whitley Part 1) next to the sinister horror atmosphere of Valentine, which couples distorted singing and voodoo beat (and samples Broken Social Scene's Sweetest Kill), the oneiric post-metal of King next to the punk-ish virulence and alien vibration of Yung Bratz, the breathless rap over jazzy piano of Slipknot next to the explosive industrial hip-hop of RIP Roach (which samples SpaceGhostPurrp's The Fog). Unfortunately, the song that made him famous was the least musical of all, the lame Look at Me (included in the mixtape but originally released in 2015).

The collections 17 (2017) and ? (2018), generated a lot of hype although the artistic level was virtually non-existent. In 2015 he was arrested for a robbery, and in 2016 he was arrested after beating his pregnant girlfriend. He became a mass phenomenon despite having no record contract with a label (hence no marketing), very little support from the media (that mostly despised his persona) and very little airplay. By the end of 2019 he had accumulated almost four billion streams

The mini-album 17 contains ten brief songs, none longer than three minutes. After the very emotional speech of The Explanation, his versatility is demonstrated by Jocelyn Flores, that begins as a slow-motion echo from the vocal groups of the 1940s and suddenly morphs into a languid soul ballad before turning into a typical rap rant. The soul in pain of Depression & Obsession, instead, sounds like a melancholy singer-songwriter, one of the many descendants of Nick Drake. Similarly the piano-based Dead Inside is vintage jazzy singer-songwriter fare. Revenge is an antiquated doo-woop style rigmarole, while Save Me imitates an oneiric Pink Floyd-ian anthem. His more traditional rap songs are soulful (Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares with counterpoint of melodic humming) and hypnotic (Fuck Love).

? opens with an arrogant Introduction in which he asks the listener to be open to his alternative sound, which proved that he had no idea of what music was being made by alternative musicians. Ironically, the music that comes next is anything but original. However, this is certainly a varied collection with smart arrangements, from the catchy and dramatic singer-songwriter performances of Alone Part 3 and Pain = Bestfriend to the quasi-orchestral pop ballad of Numb via the limping synth-pop ditty Moonlight and the autotuned trap-soul ballad $$$, ending with the orchestral elegy of Before I Close My Eyes. The nocturnal jazz-rap Infinity (888) samples sampled Stan Getz and Bill Evans's The Peacocks. He weds frenzied rap and desperate crooning in The Remedy For A Broken Heart over neoclassical guitar strumming. The pseudo-industrial hip-hop of Floor 555 sounds like a lightweight version of Foetus or Nine Inch Nails (unfortunately Schizophrenia, that harkens back to the metal-industrial style of the 1990s, is left unfinished after a little over a minute). I Don't Even Speak Spanish Lol fuses reggae, pop and hip-hop whose melody has the same appeal of Madonna's Isla Bonita. As a singer/rapper, he has coined a unique way of weeping, perhaps best displayed in the understated, piano-based, mantra-like Changes. His most popular song from this album was the pretty tedious but catchy Sad. Not many were so capable of mixing extroverted and introverted moments, especially in the depressed emo-rap genre.

XXXTentacion was shot dead in 2018 at the age of 20. Not a big loss for music. Probably a big loss for the media because his antics certainly created controversy and opportunity for articles.

(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )