We are Cameron Freeman and Quinn Robinson, and we listen to a lot of music. This column is here to share only the truth about which albums and EPs are worth your time. Each week, we pick one that’s caught our eye — regardless of genre or popularity — and run through our thoughts.
With a 19 minute runtime, XXXTENTACION’s posthumous “Skins” feels like an attempt to emulate G.O.O.D. Music’s summer run of seven-track albums, with none of the polish or success.
The legacy of Florida rapper XXXTENTACION, who is commonly referred to as “X,” has carried a mixture of emotions and perspectives. From his reported abuse of his ex-girlfriend to his lyrics, which brought attention to issues of mental health, to his multiple incarcerations, X was undoubtedly one of the modern rap scene’s most controversial figures. Nevertheless, his guitar-tinged lo-fi and distorted sounds have continued to help propel figures like Juice WRLD, Trippie Redd, and Lil Pump to the forefront of the industry. His clear influence and contentious reputation underline the release of “Skins,” which seems to latch directly on to his recent death for the sake of sales and press.
The ten-song album itself seems to continue the slow and crooning autotune-drenched vocal style X introduced on his previous album “?” in songs like “ALONE, PART 3” and “going down!.” Unfortunately, aside from tracks such as “I don’t let go” and “whoa (mind in awe),” where his singing is somewhat catchy and pleasant to listen to, his style largely comes off as whiny. This is evident primarily on “STARING AT THE SKY” and “BAD!,” the latter of which is, predictably, bad. Once again, X’s emo crooning is alternated with a staccato flow, delivered most often with palpable anger as the only vocal tone. He does, however, introduce metal-esque yelling and crunchy guitars on “One Minute” and “STARING AT THE SKY,” neither of which particularly come off as impressive or memorable.
The strongest elements of the album don’t come from X himself, but from his producers. The beats on “I don’t let go” and “Train Food” add an element of diversity to an otherwise simultaneously bland and edgy cut. The upbeat trap production on “I don’t let go” makes the song significantly more listenable and less emo than other songs on the album like “STARING AT THE SKY” and “One Minute.” The mix of incorporated train sounds and synths on “Train Food” also feels like a shift from the typical minimalist trap infused synth beats and guitar found on previous XXXTENTACION albums and tracks like “BAD!.”
The added metal influences and further use of autotuned singing on “Skins” do little to help propel the album to the same cultural significance of X’s previous albums, “?” and “17.” Despite quality production in certain cases and catchy melodies in others, the album mostly sounds like a group of second-rate tracks culled from sessions off of X’s previous efforts. Perhaps, though, given the music industry’s track record regarding the release of posthumous albums, that is exactly what the album is.
I don’t let go, Train Food
One Minute, STARING AT THE SKY