Review Summary: it's fun to play with water, just don't get wet
I tend to associate Ski Mask the Slump God with XXX simply because of their past collaborations, and due to recent events, I’ve begun to see him as sort of the protagonist version of his former friend. Despite being deeply seeded in the constantly churning genre of trap, Ski Mask’s mouth-gargled flow effortlessly translates into an inviting playfulness, something not seen within the monotone genre (plus his songs just go in
). The premise of Beware the Book of Eli
sees our masked hero fighting against the money-grubbing music business as Goulbourne (I can’t believe it’s his real name either) battles his own management team just to release this project for his adoring fans. How brave!
Well, now it’s out.
That went by fast
Indeed. Ski Mask doesn’t waste anyone’s time with this 20-minute record, and ELI
is only a sampler platter of Goulbourne’s sheer talent and production abilities. While the short length helps in some cases (‘Dapper Dan’ and its blaring bass benefitting the most from the under 2-minute song time), it ends up feeling much like an appetizer for the hungry fans. Although YouWIllRegret
is the album spotify-stans associate as his “first LP”, others know that it was simply a collection of his soundcloud hits, leaving little room to play with thematic expressions and compositional flow. Make no mistake, this marks Ski Mask’s first official complete project and it evidently feels like one. The beats are quirky and slightly off-kilter, yet the blaring distorted 808s take a step back (hah.) in favor of some sticky basslines reminiscent of 90s east coast rap. ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ fits the weirdness of its creator perfectly, constructed around an atonal violin sample that slides and cuts and eventually drops into one of the hardest beats on the entire record. Music theory fans will get a kick out of tracking the different tunings the sample devolves into while the lingering XXX fans will be left clueless. Snide remarks aside, this record does feel like it’s solving an identity crisis for someone that owes his own fame to a rage-fueled psychopathic abuser. Although lyrically the subject is rarely touched on, it reads like the character development part of the novel where the hero’s abilities are laid out, showcasing his personality through the heavy doses of ad-lib (the parentheticals of rap) banter.
Speaking of banter, Ski Mask does get quite the hand from some fellow rappers, namely Rich the Kid who features on the opening and closing tracks. While such a move might disprove the identity theory laid out previously, Ski Mask’s music has always felt inclusive, like you’re in on the sick, twisted but altogether hilarious joke. Henceforth, the help from Rich the Kid and co. is welcome, despite some terrible lines being thrown about (“I’ve got my thumb in her butthole…
”). Yet, it’s easy to look past the faults as the artists themselves recognize them even before the listener, making the ad-libs the best sprinkle of flavor added to this record. Ski Mask even gets strangely self-referential/deprecating by naming a track ‘Throwaway’ and singing a hook on it so melodically over the top that one starts to wonder if he actually decided to include an outtake in this trip of an album.
“That’s why it’s the best track though, low key,” my roommate argues.
And while I may disagree with it being the best
song here, my friend’s sentiments truly define the crux of this record. Ski Mask the Slump God is the goofy hero this world never deserved and Beware the Book of Eli
serves as a fun-filled introduction to the inevitable ensuing adventures. I’m just now waiting for the tension.