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XXXTENTACION – ? //Virgin EMI// (Released 20th July)

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£20.99 – LP

Rapper XXXTENTACION (born Jahseh Onfroy) mounted his career with a stream of self-released singles and mixtapes before catapulting into the mainstream in 2017 with 17. The South Florida native’s volatile approach made him one of the leading figures in so-called SoundCloud rap, combining the hollowed-out sound of trap with the vulnerability of emo and folk, exploring depression and self-loathing with a frankness almost unheard of in rap (or any other genre, for that matter). At his most captivating Onfroy swings between numbness and violence, between feeling everything and feeling nothing at all; an uneasy dichotomy that resonated especially with younger fans desperate for an emotional outlet.

Recorded while on house arrest and released just months before its 20-year-old maker was shot dead in South Florida, ? captures one of the bleakest visions in contemporary rap. The album is an upsetting, if strangely cathartic, listen, toggling between tender (“Alone, Part 3,” “Before I Close My Eyes”) and violent (“Going Down!,” “Floor 555”), hollowed-out trap and bedroom folk, turning suicidal thoughts into the material of singalong choruses (“SAD!”). A deeply controversial figure (he had been awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman at the time of his death), XXXTENTACION collapsed the distance between art and life, with tragic consequences.

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