On Skins, XXXtentacion changes his like a reptile, cycling through and shedding styles like an indecisive musical python. As he crawls from straightforward slinky rap to lightweight pop to ill-advised, plastic grunge, though, it’s hard to tell who is in the driver’s seat, XXXtentacion, or his label handlers and collaborators. With just ten tracks, Skins illustrates the trouble with posthumous projects succinctly: Is this the album that the artist would have made, or just a cynical cash-in?
Shortly after XXXtentacion’s shooting death in June, The New York Times published an article detailing the late rapper’s most recent record deal, estimated to be worth $10 million dollars according to the newspaper’s sources. The founder of Empire, the independent distributor that signed XXXtentacion, was quoted saying that the young rapper had completed “a significant amount of material” for Skins before his death.
The album itself seemingly belies that statement, but its first-week numbers will likely justify the record’s existence for Empire, as well as the value of the deal they extended the young XXXtentacion in spite of his ongoing trial for domestic abuse. At the time of his death, he had been on trial for allegedly battering his then-pregnant girlfriend. Although the case was dropped in light of his death, recordings were later released that all but confirmed the charges against him — in his own words, no less. Of course, that wouldn’t matter to Empire or to XXX’s impressionable young fans. For them, he’d already passed into being a tragic hero, fallen all too soon.