Love him or hate him, X’s status and one of the game’s most versatile artists to date shouldn’t be debated. In the short span of his career, he’s played with post hardcore, trap, boombap, and alternative indie all at once, encapsulating the emotions of depression with his last offering 17 in multiple styles. His new project “?” (Question, question mark, unknown, idfk) is more stylistic variation, but with a more lighthearted energy. While 17 expressed every ounce of sadness and made you truly feel it, “?” takes a more varied approached, covering a range of topics and styles that are widely different yet somehow still work together.
From the jump X wants to make it apparent that you shouldn’t go into the album expecting one thing, using the opening track Introductions to tell the listener to open their mind to the alternative style. No two tracks are the same or would even make sense in context if this was an album from anyone else, but that’s kind of what makes it interesting. Like, who else would you expect songs like Infinity (888), a classic New York sounding boombap track featuring Joey Badass, and I don’t even speak spanish LOL, a latin pop hit, from at the same time? What I like about X is that he doesn’t seem afraid to explore different territories that other artists labelled under a specific genre like rap maybe wouldn’t, and does it authentically, having it feel more natural than awkward. Floor 555 is probably the closest he’s gotten to his original aggressive lo-fi low-quality sound since he blew up, while Pain = BESTFRIEND is an angry post hardcore track reminiscent of bands like Touché Amore, and Schizophrenia sounds a lot like Let The Bodies Hit The Floor.
The songwriting itself is haphazard throughout the album, but for the most part it’s all pretty good. Moonlight is sonically pleasing and catchy to listen to, but lacks in the substance department lyrically, and while $$$ is my favorite song on the project, it’s most because Matt OX’s hook is SO. DAMN. GOOD. X’s verse is ok, there’s nothing that really catches you like the hook does. (I really hope we get new Matt OX music soon, gahdamn that boy ate). Infinity shows off and unlikely combination that works very well together. Both Joey and X have great chemistry and super strong verses, Joey pulling out the heavy punchlines while X shows off multiple flows and insane syllable work, and this makes me think that the collab project they teased a couple weeks ago would be a lot better than I originally gave it credit for. My least favorite song on the album is probably smash, just because I didn’t really find it interesting to listen to, and I’m not a huge fan of PnB Rock cuz I consider him like a Dollar Tree version of Fetty Wap. I personally feel like the Indie stuff is where x shines, songs like Love Yourself interlude and Changes really hitting you where it hurts in terms of invoking emotion. He’s very good at writing and orchestrating songs that make you feel something, which is part of why 17 was so good, you could really feel what he was trying to convey. X has proven himself to be diverse in that he writing coincides with how he wants the song to feel. He can write a pop hit, a lyrical track, or some heavy shit whenever he really wants to.
In summary, the project is cool. There’s something for a very wide range of people to enjoy, which is different than what a lot of other people are doing right now. It’s a very diverse project that has sounds that maybe some who just knows his hip hop work may not be used to, but if you are open, or are versed in multiple genres like me, you’ll have a strong appreciation for what X is trying to do with it. He’s really pushing his versatility as appeal. Why only push one sound when you enjoy and are influenced by so much more? Listen to it below if you haven’t already.