XXXTentacion: Skins - Ominous and Fragmentary

>> Florida-based rapper XXXTentacion was known for his avant-garde genre-bending releases, but the posthumous album 'Skins' lacks the artistic intensity and originality present on his previous musical efforts.

The Good:

Released six months after the rapper’s tragic death in June, XXXTentacion’s posthumously released album holds an inexplicably eerie tone established by the use of drone-like piano progressions and chilling acoustic instrumentals. Addressing a diverse set of controversial issues from discussing the difficulties of growing up in poverty in “woah (mind in awe),” to handling the pain and anger of heartbreak in the track “guardian angel,” X refuses to shy away from representing the brutal reality of his world in the lyrical content of the record. By incorporating minimalistic tracks on the album such as “train food,” the rapper strips away separation from his listeners by pulling back the reverb and using samples from the cityscape to tell the story of a man’s encounter with his own mortality. Closing this emotionally complex song with the verse, “Now your time finally up /Ask yourself the final question, is you going down or up? Recollectin' all the moments that you never gave a fuck / Now it's here, death has now arrived, time's finally up,” the listener can’t help but draw an uncanny parallel between the fictional character in the song and the devastating fate of the rapper himself. While 'Skins' has a more lo-fi production value than his previous albums, songs such as “Bad!” and “I don’t let go” provide his OG-fans with relaxed and danceable content reminiscent of the rapper’s Soundcloud roots.

The Bad:

Regardless of 'Skins'’ brevity, the album fails to provide the listener with the raw energy and organized chaos of X’s previous albums such as '?' and '17'. Featuring a scant amount of lyrical content, 'Skins' feels closer to a demo than a refined release, sounding desperately pieced together and void of the expected variety that came with X’s former records. Incorporating an excessive use of overly simplistic and repetitive instrumentals in songs including the closing track “what are you so afraid of?” many of the stylistic tactics implemented on the album seem to be compensating for a lack of solid material. Known for his ability to jump through a range of genres, X’s attempt to evoke the sounds of early 2000s screamo artists in the track “STARING AT THE SKY,” misses the mark and interrupts the flow of an otherwise ambient release. Including only one song which reaches over three minutes, the metal-influenced track “One Minute,” features a set of childishly contrived verses from Kanye West which act plainly in defense of X amidst allegations of domestic violence: “Now your name is tainted / by the claims they paintin’/ The defendant is guilty, / no one blames the plaintiff.”

The Review:

While 'Skins' attempts to recreate and morph elements from XXXTentacion’s previous musical efforts--and even finds success in doing so on tracks such as “train food” and “woah (mind in awe)”--the rapper’s role on the album feels disengaged and absent leaving the material to come off as unfinished. Clocking in at under twenty minutes, the brief and unorganized structure of 'Skins' feels closer to an incomplete afterthought than a conclusive final message. 2.8/5 <<

Listen to 'Skins' HERE!

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