Review Summary: Toxic lullabies
XXXtentacion’s death has left a bloody and fractured aftermath. Executed at the criminally young age of 20, the man is being portrayed as some sort of tragic martyr by his fans. An artist who never fully got the chance to prove himself artistically and innocent before his untimely death. While the same fans will vehemently deny the domestic abuse claims laid on him, they will also eat up anything given to them. Skins is the first of likely many of X’s posthumous releases and so far it’s the worst.
In interviews before his death, X spoke of making a “super short” album where the tracks are just a minute long. What possessed him to think this was a good idea given how a primary criticism of his work was the incredibly short and underdeveloped tracks is beyond me, but Skins as it stands is just that. Short. A brief 20 minutes as a matter of fact. While his music is notoriously scattershot and lo-fi, Skins is easily his most unfinished work. Some tracks barely feel like a faint sketch of a demo, never-mind finished pieces and equally many are lazily thrown together. The opening track ‘Guardian Angel’ uses the beat of one of X’s signature songs ‘Jocelyn Flores’ Except played in reverse. While X delivers a reasonably solid set of bars here, there’s an air of half assing going on here. If it was his intent to use a reversed beat or a management decision to get the album out the door faster, we may never know. X’s affinity for Emo folk reappears on tracks like ‘Woah (mind in awe)’ and ‘I Don’t Let Go’, Except here there are even less lyrics, with more faint mumbling placeholders taking the place of singing. This is also the case on lead single ‘BAD!’ which is so clearly unfinished and rushed, I can barely even classify it as a proper track.
There are times on Skins where X delves into screamo and metal, like On ‘Staring at The Sky’ which X begins with a rough pop punk voice set to a light acoustic guitar before erupting into a deafening metal roar which consumes the rest of the track. It’s interesting but the song’s minute and a half run time means everything ends too fast and nothing is really developed enough to make a lasting impact past the shock of the sudden explosion of noise. On ‘One Minute’, a scratchy looped nu metal guitar riff plays indefinitely throughout the song while guest rapper Kanye West lays down a pretty repugnant verse which amounts to basically victim blaming. X’s only appearance on the track is a guttural hook which morphs into a very clearly looped screamo yell. It’s not all terrible. The standout on the album is ‘Train Food’, a gloomy Piano led track, layered with a sound collage of train noises and crowds where X weaves a story of meeting Death himself which accumulates into a pretty chilling conclusion. It’s a brief moment of solid writing and performance on the album, lost in a sea of badly mixed and underdeveloped tracks.
We can’t really hold X to blame for Skins’ quality. That falls solely on management who have clearly rushed this album out the door to satisfy fan demand and to wrack in the dough. It’s a cheap, flimsy ending to one of hip hop’s most notorious and popular figures in the past few years. Yet I’m sure there’s more on the way. After all, money never sleeps.
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