On June 18, 2018, American artist XXXTentacion passed away. Amidst his controversy, XXXTentacion was one of the dominant figures emerging out the Florida SoundCloud rap scene. His scattered catalogue included a variety of musical styles, ranging from punk rap, trap and alternative rock to alternative R&B, emo rap and traditional hip hop.
In tribute, this is a list consisting of his thirty best songs, including SoundCloud loosies.
- “WingRiddenAngel” (Album: N/A)
- “Moonlight” (Album: ?)
- “Snow” (ft. Killstation) (Album: ItWasntEnough EP)
30. “RIP Roach” (ft. Ski Mask The Slump God)
In his earlier days, XXX focused heavily on punk rap songs centered around heavy, distorted bass. Although most of them sound alike, “RIP Roach” is the most ominous out the collection, featuring X’s signature aggressive delivery and a contrasting verse from frequent collaborator Ski Mask The Slum God.
29. “Yung Bratz”
“YuNg BrAtZ” follows identical structure to “RIP Roach” except builds on the structure with more personality and humour.
28. “Gnarly Bastard”
One of XXX’s most aggressive songs, “Gnarly Bastard” is a demonic combustion of punk rap minus the typical distortion found on most of X’s punk songs.
From his most recent album, “Numb” stands out thanks to its complete structure, lasting a full 3 minutes, a prominent guitar and a build-up towards the drums section.
26. “King of the Dead”
“King of the Dead” saw X treading experimental territory with subtle touches of EDM paired with a twinkling refrain that sounds like it’s straight out of a horror movie.
25. “Tightrope” (ft. Scott James)
Many of X’s tracks sample underground, alternative tunes. “Tightrope” is an example of the sampling being used effectively, with Scott James’ vocals being paired up with XXX’s to form a heartfelt duet.
Available to listen to on XXXTentacion’s SoundCloud, “King” is a short progressive rock cut that begins in a timid fashion then exploding into a raging cry for attention. The two parts contrast well, showcasing Tentacion’s vulnerability and fury all in the space 2 minutes.
23. “Save Me”
Depression is a central theme of XXXTentacion’s music, particularly on his debut album 17. “Save Me” is a standout track from the album where X is as blunt as possible – he needs help. “So save me, before I fall / So save me, I don’t wanna be alone” is the main cry he states over the sombre production. It’s one of the many songs in XXXTentacion’s discography that showcase him as a troubled individual.
22. “Infinity (888)” (ft. Joey Badass)
It was never explored as much as it should have, but X’s rapping over traditional, boom-bap beats always went off well. The 90s-styled beat has XXXTentacion and Joey Badass bringing their lyrical A-game, proving that X can rap when he chose to.
Out of all the distorted, bass-heavy punk rap in X’s scattered catalogue, “ImSippinTeaInYoHood” is the most abrasive and exciting of them all. The aggression is not overdone, yet the overcooked bass is enough to do the trick.
The acoustic “Revenge” carries some of X’s most poetic lines centring around the idea that revenge will lead to death. Just like many of his songs, “Revenge” foreshadows death in a way that is now more chilling than it initially was in insight.
19. “Look at Me!”
X’s breakout single summarises the ignorant side of him – a trap banger that is about as sexual as you can get. Sampling Rojas Mala’s “Changes“, “Look at Me!” may be the track that attracted all the so-called ‘hypebeasts’, but is still amusing nonetheless.
It is no surprise XXX’s highest-charting single is also his most melodic song. “Sad!” reflects on heartbreak, carried by its infectious chorus. Whether he is saying “I’m sad and low” or “I’m sad, I know” is debatable, though the song is better off with the lyrics being interchangeable – being aware of your own pain, and acknowledging it openly.
17. “Carry On”
Although X holds his own, the sampling of Shiloh Dynasty’s enchanting vocals is what drives “Carry On”. The pretty, lo-fi aesthetic is gentle to the ear and for a brief moment on the 17 album focuses on perseverance rather than facing the fate of death.
16. “Ayala (Outro)”
The final song on 17 is a worthy closer, featuring passionate singing vocals from Tentacion and memorable lines (“Made a list of my regrets, and you were the first love”). Even though the majority of 17 gets lost in similarity, the piano and thick guitar strums on “Ayala (Outro)” have their own place on the track.
15. “The Remedy for a Broken Heart (Why Am I So In Love?)”
The frequent use of guitar on a majority of X’s songs may be tedious, however “The Remedy for a Broken Heart” is distinguishable due to its speedy rap verse and hook. Halfway through, we hear some of XXXTentacion’s strongest vocals, entering a register he’s rarely been heard in.
Originally released in tributes to the victims of the Parkland, Floria school shooting, “Hope” is another rare moment where X is looking to the future (“So outside of my misery, I think I’ll find / A way of envisioning a better life / For the rest of us”).
13. “In the End”
“In the End” is an obscure entry in X’s discography. Like most of his loose tracks, it belongs to no project, but possesses a unique sense of beauty. The first minute is carried by a sombre piano and X’s mumbled background vocals, and then reaches its peak in the final 30 seconds (“In the end I won’t cry, I won’t falter”). Just as it reaches this climax, the song ends. “In the End” will go down as one of XXXTentacion’s unfinished gems.
12. “R U N”
“R U N” is another obscure loosie dating back to 2014 that deserved album placement. Dark skies and cold sweat is the imagery pictured through “R U N”. It is another song that ends abruptly, a structure that X has chosen to adopt for practically every release, but deserved a longer length.
Minimalism is exemplified on “Changes”. It is led by one piano note, followed by the introduction of minors strings, before submitting back to the piano note. PnB Rock’s vocals are as heartfelt as you can get as the same thought recurs through X’s head, noted by the excessive repetition. Sad songs do not always have to be minimal, but “Changes” is an example of minimalism used effectively that evokes genuine emotion when listening.
As mentioned, traditional rapping is a skill that XXXTentacion has never explored to its full extent. “Riot” is a rare moment of X putting his finest pen to the paper to deliver a socially-conscious verse about racism, gun violence and the American justice system.
9. “Looking for a Star”
The Diplo-produced “Looking for a Star” is the closest song to pop that X put out. Despite that – or rather thanks to that – it is one of his most unique songs. The tropical beat and high-pitched singing is contagious and includes enough experimentation across 2 minutes to keep the song interesting rather than submitting to the typical acoustic and piano instrumentation that X’s songs tend to use.
8. “Let’s Pretend We’re Numb”
“Let’s Pretend We’re Numb” is a fan favourite, often considered a ‘classic’ X track. “Let’s Pretend We’re Numb” is a fine example of the lo-fi SoundCloud composition that makes the genre captivating. It’s not difficult to see why; the sparkling production, echoing sampled vocals and XXXTentacion’s rapping all add up to a highly enjoyable minute-and-a-half.
7. “I Spoke to the Devil in Miami, He Said Everything Would Be Fine”
Album: ItWasntEnough EP
“I Spoke to the Devil” is so haunting that is practically unlistenable at times. Not many songs can be described as ‘scary’, but “I Spoke to the Devil in Miami” is an applicable candidate for accurately fitting that description. The droning piano is chilling, refusing to shed the property of an unsettling listen. A focused listen will generate goosebumps, and the song title and content is equally disturbing when paired up with the production.
6. “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares”
Just like “Carry On”, XXX’s sampling of Shiloh Dynasty creates a soothing experience with “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares”. X’s speedy delivery comes across as a set of rambling thoughts that he’s attempting to get out as quick as possible. It’s another fan favourite that resonates emotionally.
5. “Teeth (Interlude)”
Album: Heartbreak Hotel EP
“Teeth” generates goosebumps within the first few seconds. Sampling Teen Suicide’s “No, the Moon”, the 2-minute ‘interlude’ is the most melancholic song XXXTentacion put out. In the first minute, XXX increases the pitch in his vocals to sound like a female vocalist as he repeatedly says “He can’t fuck you like I can”, eventually fading out as X’s normal voice mumbles in confused thoughts about love. The simplicity in the piano and pitched vocals operates the numbing, depressing experience felt through “Teeth”, and is one of X’s strongest songs to resonate emotionally.
4. “Fuck Love” (ft. Trippie Redd)
X rarely collaborated with other artists, however “Fuck Love” is an example of two artists in sync with each other. The emo rap track is a sadboy anthem that is both melodic and emotional; Trippie Redd’s hook is one of the best hooks laid down on an X song, reaching its peak at the end when both artists vocalise together as they sing “Please don’t throw your love away”. X’s singing vocals on his verse are equally pleasant and melodic (“Lost it, riots / Gunfire inside my head”), packing in a ton of replay value in just 2 and a half minutes. When it came to X’s ability for melodic trap crooning, “Fuck Love” is about as good as it gets.
3. “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore”
The airy and ambient “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore” is X’s best attempt at a lo-fi love song. The echoing vocals in the beat are numbing to the ear, and incredibly relaxing. X’s laidback singing is equally poignant, demonstrating that X’s strengths in vocals were not to be undermined. “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore” reflects the type of beauty present in XXXTentacion’s music that’s easy to overlook. Over the minute-and-a-half, no missteps are taken – it is XXXTentacion at his very best.
2. “Jocelyn Flores”
Besides depression, heartbreak is another concept that haunted X’s mind. “Jocelyn Flores” could not be any more gorgeous than it already is, serving as a tribute to a friend of X’s of the same name who committed suicide. This piece of information paired up with Shiloh’s Dynasty’s haunting vocals, X’s verse of frustration and sedating production makes “Jocelyn Flores” a chilling listen with every play, inducing a wave of emotions that range from anger and confusion to pain and sorrow.
1. “Vice City”
Most of XXXTentacion’s best songs can be found on SoundCloud, which is littered with various tracks that never included on a project, nor received an official release on streaming services. One of the gems you will find is “Vice City“, the first song published on XXX’s SoundCloud. “Vice City” shows a musical side of X that’s only truly been showcased on “Infinity (888)” and “Riot” – lyrical rapping over a traditional hip hop beat. Emo rap, trap rap and alternative tracks aside, “Vice City” epitomises the capabilities of XXXTentacion that proves he can put together a string of lyrical verses over a typical 4-minute song structure, rather than sharing snippets of his mind.
“Vice City” is filled with poetic vocabulary, multisyllabic rhymes and double rhymes that accurately capture the confused mind of a 16-year old who is seeking answers (“If death is what it seems, why is it so vividly portrayed within my dreams?”)
Pitchers not receivers, it’s coming straight from the source, remorse
As this time becomes a factor
Minds full of greed, exposing your benefactors
Backwards, pace backwards, everybody is superficial
Only breaching the surface, surface upon the Earth
And flames engulf the Earth
And prized possessions, they incinerate
This is far beyond any director tried to demonstrate
See the record, here’s the record, take the record, set it straight
Perplexed, only receive slumber when that heaven gates
“Vice City” also holds the best beat XXXTentaction ever rapped over, led by the sample of Laura Mvula. The boom-bap drums gives the track that vintage hip hop feel, reaching its peak when the sample is reversed to stunning effect. Just like many of Tentacion’s best songs, the sample and production generates goosebumps and a mind-numbing listening experience.
“Vice City” feels complete, and is the strongest representation of the artistic talents of XXXTentacion.
Rest in Peace.