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Album Review: XXXtentacion ‘Skins’

Will he forever live in the mistakes of his teenage life?

Devin Townsend

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On December 7, 2018, XXXTENTACION’s posthumous album Skins was released. His third full-length studio album — and shortest one yet — it contains only ten songs running twenty minutes.

The tracks span a variety of styles from lo-fi hip-hop to rage-filled screaming. According to an interview that X’s friend and songwriter John Cunningham did with Genius, “The songs and the ideas and the vision of it all was done or very close to being done. The whole idea, the concept, the songs, was done.” The two of them started working on Skins after the release of X’s second album earlier in 2018.

Skins follows his previous two albums pattern of opening with a spoken word introduction addressing the listener. “Hello, you’ve come here in search of release, huh? Feeling the need to inspire your soul?”

X wants the listener to be able to escape their life by entering his mind. As many of his fans know, X had a troubled past with that included domestic violence allegations, depression and witness harassing. Those may explain the rage-filled, screamo songs featured on the album, as X tried to work through the emotions and events that filled his life. 

The first song on the album is “Guardian Angel” and features the reverse beat of “Jocelyn Flores,” one of the most popular songs from X’s debut album 17. Jocelyn Flores committed suicide in May of 2017 and X is reflects on how he felt when he first heard of her death: “Never lonely when you flowin’ through my mind, girl/ I apologize, ’cause I couldn’t see the pain in your damn eyes.” X never realized how much Jocelyn meant to him and the permanent damage her passing would cause him.

One of the more upbeat songs on the album is “whoa (mind in awe)” in which X focuses on his mother and family. When he’s moaning “whoa” it’s easy to sing along to it and nod your head. Similarly, “I don’t let go,” is an upbeat vibe where he is addressing his fans about how he can’t let go of himself because he has others to live for. “Sometimes I don’t let go, I shine, I shine/ outta these walls.” This is the most playful song on the album, as he uses catchy ad libs like “oh, I” at the end of the first verse.

The one and only feature of Skins comes from Kanye West on “One Minute.” It feels like a Kanye song with an X feature, as West takes up the majority of the track. Linkin Park fans will probably enjoy listening to this song, since the guitar riff is intense. Kanye surprisingly fits into this style. X comes in with rage and aggression as he screams over and over “One minute, one minute, gone/ one minute, and the next one’s mine.” It’s one of the more intense songs on the album and is a unique collaboration.

In a heavily debated lyric, Kanye discusses either X’s domestic assault charges or the idea of false rape claims against celebrities and athletes. “Now your name is tainted/ by the claims they paintin’/ the defendant is guilty/ no one blames the plaintiff/ gotta say it in Layman’s terms/ while you wait on arraignments.” According to Genius, Kanye is commenting on how false rape accusations can damage a man’s reputation.  

Although this album wasn’t completely finished before X’s death, his raw of lyrics and truthfulness about his life is evident throughout. Does Skins redeem X from his troubled past or will he forever live in the mistakes of his teenage life?

Due to his previous allegations, X’s actions overshadow his actions of trying to be a better person. Maybe if his life wasn’t cut short, he would’ve been able to make up for himself and work towards a more settled life. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Devin Townsend is a James Madison University student and student journalist born and raised in northern Virginia. Currently he’s studying for a degree in journalism and working for the school newspaper, The Breeze, in the culture section. This section covers music, movies, food and events happening in the Harrisonburg community. Currently, Devin is working to finish his degree, in his free time he enjoys playing club lacrosse at JMU, rooting for the L.A Chargers and hiking in the Shenandoah National Park.

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