On the album Brown raps about the decline of Detroit and the dilemma caused by its abandoned houses and buildings.
XXX was released as a free download by Brooklyn, New York-based record label Fool's Gold Records. Brown cited XXX as his attempt at "experimenting and seeing how far [he] could push listeners" with his music. Brown explains that XXX is an effort at a serious concept album with a storyline, citing track 13 "DNA" as the start of Side B: "The cover looked like a vinyl to me, so I was going with that whole vibe". He explained that "the first side is all having fun" before the album takes a serious turn from "DNA" onward. While recording the album, Brown was listening to a lot of Joy Division. He has also stated he recorded XXX with the intent of having it critically acclaimed: "I made XXX with the aim of getting great reviews."
XXX received widespread acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 83, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 9 reviews. Vincent Thomas of AllMusic wrote, "XXX -- named for his gutter-filthy mouth and his 30th birthday -- is an accomplishment." Jack Law of Fact noted, "It’s Brown’s embracing of contradictions that makes him such a fascinating rapper, and XXX is given depth and longevity by a tension, or collision between hardcore rap’s reality fix and the avant-garde’s desire for creative and expressive freedom from reality."Pitchfork Media wrote positively, "His gleeful love of words not only elevates some pretty heavy subject matter; it also helps distinguish XXX as one of the most compelling indie rap releases in an already strong year." Will Robinson of Sputnikmusic also wrote "XXX is an absolutely essential hip-hop release in the age of Internet distribution and excess, and as the extreme of the lyrical tameness spectrum it’s necessary for anyone who claims to be at all knowledgeable about hip-hop."
Pitchfork Media placed the album at number 19 on its list of the "Top 50 albums of 2011", while Spin named it the top hip-hop album of 2011. In October 2013, Complex named XXX the eighth best hip hop album of the last five years.