The Lowdown: The recent shooting death of Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, known to most as XXXTentacion, still seems like something from a movie — something that can be turned off and things would go back to normal. Although a controversial figure, the impact of the 20-year-old Onfroy had already spread across generations of hip-hop listeners. The Floridan was an influential leader in the emo-rap subgenre, as he masterfully incorporated dark production with soul-striking lyrics. On his posthumous album, SKINS, the instruments do most of the expression, and, as usual, his lyrics continue to revolve around suicide, depression, and heartbreak — except this time it hits harder.
The Good: As mentioned above, the instrument sounds do most of the talking on SKINS. The chops on “Guardian angel”, piano chords on “Train Food”, percussion on “whoa (mind in awe)”, and strings on “STARING AT THE SKY” are in full control of the mood — one all the darker and more heartbreaking due to the rapper’s violent demise. For the most of SKINS, XXX sounds low-spirited and so do his words. On “Guardian angel”, he sings about heartbreak, the toll that it took on him, and how it shaped his expectations of love. As he screams, “Run from your pain,” in the bridge of “STARING AT THE SKY”, one can hear the frustration in his voice.
The Bad: SKINS can’t help but sound like a fragment of a whole and of its original intention, which denies listeners the full auditory experience — and maybe some of the closure — that they’d like. Also, there are a several similarities in samples and rhythm between this album and his two previous projects. A notable example of this is the sample of “Jocelyn Flores” used in “Guardian angel”. The single “BAD!” also sounds a lot like XXX’s song “SAD!”. It would have been the icing on the cake if SKINS came with totally fresh sounds, but in all fairness, Onfroy never got to see the project through.
The Verdict: Onfroy was known for his unconventional style and technique, such as melodious emo verses and heavy, guitar-backed instrumentals. The album does feature several sides of X’s unique rhythm, like the sweet melody that is “woah (mind in awe)” and the rock vibe that comes with tracks like “One-minute” and “STARING AT THE SKY”. When words are mixed with sounds, it’s easier to assess the music as a whole, but the instrumentation on SKINS far outweighs the lyrics, thus leaving a large portion of beautiful sounds and samples as the bar for rating. The album represents XXXTentacion’s goodbye to his many fans, friends, and family, and it is done in a short, sweet, and beautiful way.
Essential Tracks: “what are you so afraid of”, “STARING AT THE SKY”, and “woah (mind in awe)”