1. Track List (69)

The Dead Live Again In XXXTentacion’s Magnificent Posthumous Record SKINS

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 5 mins read

If you’ve got a pair of working ears, you’ve likely heard Trap music invade pretty much every genre & even media outlet in the last 6 or so years, its signature triplet rhythms & ticking hi-hats burrowing their way into your brain like a disease. While many mainstream sources managed to quickly bastardize the genre, the ‘underground’ scene continued to flourish on SoundCloud, giving birth to a whole generation of…rappers? with their own distinct sound, giving today’s jaded youth a voice that truly represented them – regardless of how intelligible it was – with performers like XXXTentacion at the front of the pack leading the charge – Sadly, he was gunned-down in June of 2018, but just as his music had an incredible influence on the scene in life, his tracks continue to impress even in death with the release of SKINS, the first of potentially several posthumous record releases from the deceased artist.

Crafting A Sounds Wholly Unique In A Sea Of Imitators

Central to the SoundCloud-er style is an effort to challenge modern conventions, creating a sonic aesthetic specific to Generation Z; It’s not always successful, with many adopting a strangely infantile timbre with incessant mumbling & often idiotic narrative subjects, but XXXTentacion always seemed to deliver consistently thought-provoking material, if a bit weird on the surface – With SKINS, he seriously ups his game, developing the signature SoundCloud vibe into a somewhat poetic expression of Hip Hop & Alternative R&B ideals; Songs like “BAD!” weave hauntingly morose tales of insecurity whilst others like “whoa (mind in awe)” deliver soothing soundscapes with internationally-inspired sonic profiles of glockenspiel-style instruments & ethereal vocal expressions, becoming more cinematic & emotive than virtually everyone he shared the scene with.

Record > Review > Cut > Repeat

Tonal creativity isn’t the only defining aspect of XXXTentacion’s work, though, as another one of his design parameters gets explored in impressive degree on SKINS – XXXTentacion had long held an obsession with refining his tracks to the nth degree, hoping to create shorter & shorter compositions which boil his thoughts down to their bare essence, trimming the fat wherever possible. Much like a Grindcore band, he takes just 1 minute 31 seconds to capture your attention on “Introduction,” with his shortest track being the lightning-quick & incredibly-intimate acoustic guitar ballad “difference (interlude),” clocking in at just 1 minute 17 seconds; Each of these songs – among others – only sees XXXTentacion speaking when he absolutely has to, capturing his ideas in generally 4 unique lines or less, making each track that much more impactful when you engage with them, like a haiku or a slam-poem you enjoy analyzing more than actually listening to.

The Truest Definition Of Emo Rap

The majority of SoundCloud-style Hip Hop usually falls under the umbrella of Emo Rap, identified as such for its whiny vocal tones, self-loathing narratives & adolescent worldviews, seeing as the genre is largely populated by those under the age of 18 – XXXTentacion actually earns the Emo Rap moniker on SKINS, drawing instrumental & vocal elements from the Emo Rock realm with his inclusion of acoustic guitars & dreamy ethereal synths all over the album, but more importantly he goes Emo-adjacent on bangers like “One Minute” that features Hard Rock guitar riffs & the fantastic “STARING AT THE SKY” that not only opens up in a self-doubting tone but quickly transitions into an incredibly abrasive Hardcore-inspired breakdown, complete with droning distortion, thrashing percussion & guttural, blood-curdling screams – There’s literally no one who sounds even close to the level of Emo on SKINS, not even Lil Peep.

Heavy Criticism Plagues Critical Reception, But The Fans Say Otherwise

Unfortunately, sonic creativity & the fusion of disparate genres isn’t for everyone: Critics across the board – both commercial & civilian – found much to complain about with SKINS, claiming XXXTentacion’s posthumous album felt incomplete & uninspired thanks to its shortened tracks, anachronistic Emo Rock aesthetics & seemingly disconnected overarching themes, but both hardcore believers & fans who’ve never been interested in his music before – especially those with Rock-leaning interests – maintain that the album as a whole is a perfectly solid selection of inventive arrangements that defy convention, elevating the Trap & SoundCloud experiences to new levels – The two sides will surely never make an agreement, but if you give it a chance, SKINS has the potential to connect you to previously unexplored areas of the music industry & at the end of the day, that’s the best outcome any album could ever hope for.

Chameleon Of Sound, XXXtentacion Also Brings His Inner Truth With The Iconic Album 17

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 8 mins read

Just when I started to really peep how much rapper XXXtentacion represented the future of the new generation of Hip Hop, the life of this prolific 20 year old artist was cut short in a robbery. He made a huge impact on his fans, and even outsiders looking in such as myself. I had never sat down to listen to a whole album such as 17, but I had heard his singles plenty of times, and noticed the explosive, Punk energy of his particular brand of Trap – and in this South Florida rap scene, one could argue that nobody was more iconic than XXX and Kodak Black – yet in the spirit of true Hip Hop, I love the fact that these two great Artists sound nothing like each other – a rarity in this copycat Soundcloud Rapper industry. X’s personal style is influenced by Punk, R&B, Nu-Metal, and obviously Hip Hop, but actual rapper influences are hard to pin down exactly. In contrast, one could at least say that Kodak Black is influenced by a combination of Lil Wayne and heavy regional vernacular. These two icons did influence lots of other rappers though, possible tens and hundreds of them – though XXXtentacion I feel is the one who had the most diverse voice and beats – and those who followed in his footsteps subsequently adopt his guitar R&B and often cinematic arrangements. On the subject of the clear musical prowess heard in his music, this is due to him being a self taught guitarist and pianist, plus his ability to sing quite competently through a combination of Alternative Rock emotion fused with Soul. But it is not just technique that XXXtentacion is known for – his songs and lyrics are designed to represent his actual being, as he himself invites the audience to enter his mind on intro track “The Explanation”, all but instructing millions of young fans to listen only if they agree to accept him and swear loyalty, creating a ‘Cult of the Depressed’ whose leader talks in a husky yet innocent sounding voice.

A Scream Rap Pioneer, But So Much More Than That

Listening to an early release like 2015’s “Save Me”, it is literally impossible to not get hyped to XXXtentacion’s violent and mesmerizing sound. I don’t think anyone really peeps this because the group is so old school, but ONYX in the 90s was as equally exhilarating to listen to. While Yung Lean, Bones, Lil Uzi Vert, and Lil Peep were certainly contributing to the burgeoning Emo Rap scene, I’m not sure if anyone scream-rapped with more authority and message sending power than X – as he would begin to prove especially with a song like “RIP Roach” on his deliriously diverse album REVENGE. Here could be found all the different eclectic styles – not just Scream Raps, and I think XXXtentacion is ultimately a pioneer like Kid Cudi was a few years before, interested in pushing what Hip Hop can really be. 17 would take this boundary pushing creed and go even further, and upon listening to its full contents, this album is decidedly R&B flavored, and certainly revolutionary in the same way Frank Ocean’s Blonde was for R&B. After the intro “The Explanation”, a bittersweet Slow Jam about a friend’s suicide bumps in a mesmerizing way on “Jocelyn Flores.” Over lo fi Soul riffs and acoustic echo, X raps “I'm in pain, wanna put ten shots in my brain / I've been tripping 'bout some things, can't change / suicidal, same time I'm tame / picture this, in bed, get a phone call / girl that you fucked with killed herself / that was this summer and nobody helped / and ever since then, man, I hate myself / wanna fucking end it.” It is striking that his struggle was hers, until she of course ended her life, and the whole song serves as a think piece, whether it is XXXtentacion’s personal debate, or a suicidal listener’s wrestlings with whether to end their life or not. The track is a window into that world, and it’s purpose is to certainly empathize with such troubled folks, presenting no easy solutions. Track 2’s consequences are explained by track 3’s recorded anguish, on “Depression & Obsession”, a straight up Alt Rock song set to sad guitar notes and lamentable vocals; “make out hill, where we met / we let our lips do all the talking and now I'm nothing / depression and obsession don't mix well.” The lyrics seem to explore how love leads to obsession if you are a depressed individual to start with, as nowhere in the content is there a break-up offense mentioned, but we definitely get the sense that XXXtentacion is in his feelings and whether or not he says he hates this girl he loves, he concedes “Hell, I think I'm just obsessed with you.” All of this is the mark of a talent who is multi-faceted, not just a rapper with a particular flow dish out.

From Alternative To R&B, XXXtentacion’s Music Is Brief But Beautiful

“Revenge” features such a mesmerizing overdub of X’s harmonies and brings to mind the slacker sound of the nineties Alternative songs that would actually bump too, such as, for example, Beck’s “Loser.” Exhibiting similarly moody chords, “Save Me” could have absolutely been viewed as a cry for help from a suicidal man who has already opened the album with a song about suicide, and his cynical words float on echoing guitar notes whilst forecasting his own untimely demise; “tell me when the fuck is it all gon' end / voices in my head telling me I'm gonna end up dead.” All the while on the album 17, what is striking is that much is expressed in the shortest possible amount of time, with the longest song 2:43 seconds but on average, under 2 minutes. Yes, this is the trend with SoundCloud era rappers, and it makes total sense as attention spans, and desired consumption time, has become drastically briefer. Who knows what a long X song would really be like, yet in this format, the quintessential stanzas and melody lines leave no space for fat. Speaking of brief but beautiful, on “Dead Inside”, XXXtentacion blends his barebones but compelling croon with yet more challenging and haunting chords, communicating to us the heart wrenching feeling of being cheated on, and being unable to get the images of infidelity out of one’s head, whether real or imagined. These lyrics are repeated in an R&B mode, on low quality audio that clocks in at 1:26, yet it’s emotion carries through, and I am struck with the understanding that this rapper very well could have commanded such a sizable cult, because for the fact that even his interludes are made to be listened to – even in a ‘Hip Hop’ setting, allowing for an emotional experience to be felt while cruising the gritty streets if you are hustler, or for truth to transcend the falsehoods of Trap and resonate with a suburban white kid listening in his Midwest bedroom, teaching him that thugs have vulnerable feelings just like him. With 17, XXXtentacion brings such worlds together like few other young Hip Hop artists. R&B prevails on “Orlando”, while Alternative reigns on “Ayala”, with both songs referring somewhat to low points in his life, “Orlando” being about where he was arrested in 2016, and “Ayala” being about his ex girlfriend who has been immortalized by allegedly cheating on him during his jail sentence – the same young woman whom would become the subject of his later domestic abuse charge. A troubled and conflicted man indeed.

Oh Yeah, XXXtentacion Also Raps On This Record, Like A Chameleon Of Sound

The beat is breezy classic J Cole type vibe on “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares”, as X rapid flows with precision, delivering more depressing suicidal thoughts; “tired of feelin' like I'm trapped in my damn mind / tired of feelin' like I'm wrapped in a damn lie / tired of feelin' like my life is a damn game / nigga really wanna die in the night time.” I imagine that, when confronted with two gunmen demanding his Gucci bag stuffed with 50k, he fought back, instinctively, sure, but perhaps he truly had a permanent death wish running in the back of his mind, and it is in this indifference to one’s well being which possibly motivated him to fight rather than hand the money over and cower. Following a more Trap melody line is the melodic rap song “F**k Love”, a great example of the style of the sub genre, featuring Trippie Redd’s similar Alt Rock leanings during the vocal chorus. Then it’s back to a classic NY vibe with “Carry On”, where XXXtentaction once again displays his unbelievable lyricism and flow, proving that he has always been an artist who defies classification precisely because he is a chameleon of sound.

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12. Artist Info

About

Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy (January 23, 1998 – June 18, 2018), known professionally as XXXTentacion (/ˌɛksˌɛksˌɛksˌtɛntəsˈjɒn/), was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter.
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Born

    1998-01-23

Active

    2013–2018

Label

  • Bad Vibes Forever
  • Caroline
  • Empire
  • Capitol