His Legacy Lives On: SKINS by XXXTentacion
February 13, 2019
In June of 2018 a rumor circulated that rapper XXXTentacion, aka Jahseh Onfroy, who had been killed by a robber at the age of 20, was still alive. When an artist this influential, versatile, and successful dies an untimely death (think of Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley) it’s perhaps not surprising that such conspiracy theories might arise. But XXXTentacion’s legacy was different, as he accumulated a very powerful fan base after releasing only two albums and being mainstream for barely a year before his death.
On Dec.10, 2018, his first posthumous album, SKINS, was released. Although the album is only 10 tracks and 19 minutes long, he managed to combine the sounds of punk, rock, emo, and hip hop all into one. These versatile sounds led to a new form of rap for younger youth, called “SoundCloud rap,” which has since inspired rappers like Lil pump, Smokepurpp, Ski Mask the Slump God, Fat Nick, and many more. This form of rap is controversial within the hip hop community, but no one can argue that these rappers have a special bond with their fan base. SKINS sold 129,000 units in its first week and reached number one on the Billboard 200.
Before XXXTentacion rose to fame, he had some legal issues that followed him into the limelight. He was accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend and beating up a gay man. There was a piece of audio of Onfroy that made it sound like he had incriminated himself by admitting to the accusations. However, the person who actually recorded the audio said that the version that was made public had been altered and edited, and that XXXTentacion never admitted to anything in the original audio.
Interestingly, the only track on the SKINS album to get a feature was One Minute, which got a feature from Kanye West. The song starts off slow and quiet, but quickly catches a heavy metal vibe with Onfroy screaming “one minute, one minute gone!” West uses his verse on the track to refute the claims against Onfroy, clearly believing that Onfroy was innocent of the accusations. West raps, “Now your name is tainted by claims they paintin’/ The defendant is guilty, no one blames the plaintiff.” True, some see this line as referring to the #MeToo movement. Either way, many feel that the feature is West’s way of defending Onfroy and other celebrities who get accused of crimes.
Another intriguing track on SKINS is Difference (Interlude) which is more romantic, with an acoustic beat and a melodic melody. Tracks like Whoa (Mind in Awe), Guardian Angel, BAD!, I Don’t Let Go, and What are You so Afraid of? continue the same melodic feel, allowing Onfroy to show off his singing talent. In contrast, tracks like Train Food, STARING IN THE SKY, and One Minute show off his lyrical rapping ability and punk rock style as he talks about love, death, fame, and dealing with depression.
Ultimately, SKINS is the work of a talented man who lost his life to senseless street violence. Some of SKINS is good, while some is poorly executed. But you can’t deny that XXXTentacion had a special talent and legacy that separates himself from other artists of his generation. Coming from poverty and a violent background to become a viral sensation with millions of followers, only to have his past catch up to him, XXXTentacion shows that anything is possible. XXXTentacion has had seven top 20 Billboard hits, 10 platinum singles, four gold singles, two platinum albums, was the winner of the 2018 best album Soul/ R&B, and was nominated for best new artist in 2018.
Not bad for someone who never made it to age 21.