[As XXXTentacion’s “Skins” arrives, the battle over his legacy rages on.]
On his earlier albums, XXXTentacion was working by the molting of genres in actual time — hip-hop, emo, R&B, indie rock. He borrowed from them broadly and merged them intuitively, a part of a technology of younger performers dismantling the frameworks they had been handed. He had a present for channeling disaffection; the feel of his recordings was disarmingly uncooked, which led to vast, rabid embrace.
There’s a few of that right here, however solely in fragmentary kind. Lonely emo guitar leads off “Staring on the Sky,” and the hook, reminiscent of it’s, has XXXTentacion singing, “I used to be staring on the sky/Singing poisonous lullabies” with pop-punk cheek. “What Are You So Afraid Of” seems like a sketch of an Iron & Wine music. On the finish of “One Minute,” the one music that includes a visitor — Kanye West — XXXTentacion howls in disorienting metalcore type. West does extra rapping on this observe than XXXTentacion does on the entire album, capturing the paranoia of a 12 months wherein he has been pilloried for his politics and for embracing collaborators with problematic data: “Now your title is tainted, by the claims they portray/The defendant is responsible, nobody blames the plaintiff.”
In a handful of moments, XXXTentacion’s capability for tapping into anxiousness and emotional thunderstorms makes for one thing compelling, like on “Practice Meals,” an prolonged allegory about demise, or maybe a reckoning with having been abused: “Making an attempt to scream for hope, only a shoulder that you could lean on/However ain’t no person coming/So that you scream on and scream on and scream on.” It’s harrowing, and in addition delivered casually, which renders it much more disturbing.
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If he’s addressing the felony allegations he confronted throughout his life right here, it’s only in indirect methods: On “Guardian Angel,” he raps, “I apologize, ’trigger I couldn’t see the ache in your rattling eyes.”
However since XXXTentacion’s demise, the Miami-Dade County state legal professional’s workplace has launched a graphic recording of him seemingly admitting to crimes in a 27-minute tape made across the time of his 2016 arrest. That audio is way stronger than something on “Skins,” and when you’ve heard it, it’s onerous to listen to a lot else.