XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
March 16, 2018: XXXTentacion was arguably the most polarizing artist of the SoundCloud era. Five years ago, the South Florida rapper released his second album, ?, via Bad Vibes Forever/Caroline/Capitol Records, on this day in 2018.
By the time XXXTentacion dropped his sophomore album, he was a rising star in the rap game after the success of his 2017 debut effort, 17, which exploded into the mainstream. On the ? album, XXX showcased his versatility by rapping over different sounds from boom-bap to pop to punk-rock and even Latin music.
For example, on the Joey Bada$$-assisted “infinity (888),” XXXTentacion spits intricate punchlines over the P. Soul-produced boom-bap track. “Make my flow shape-shift, cold expression like a facelift/At the Publix with like eight grips if you talkin’ all that ape shit/I’m not talkin’ YMBAPE shit, but I’m bangin’ on my chest, bitch,” he raps.
On the bouncy “I Don’t Even Speak Spanish LOL,” XXX delivers a sing-songy flow over a Latin, Caribbean-infused groove by producer Z3N. And on “Numb,” the late rapper wallows in his tears over a charging electric guitar melody. He also flexed his musicality on the album’s three hit singles: the bombastic track “SAD!,” the piano-driven “Changes” and the psychedelic-trap banger “Moonlight.”
For his stellar work, X’s ? album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart during the week of March 31, 2018. On April 14, 2022, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the ? album quadruple platinum (4 million copies sold).
Sadly, three months after the album’s release, XXXTentacion was shot and killed, on June 18, 2018, inside his vehicle after shopping for a motorcycle at Riva Motorsports in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Three men involved in the incident are on trial for his murder.
Even though XXXTentacion has passed away, his music lives on through his dedicated fans.