Ski Mask the Slump God was born to be a star. It only takes one viewing of the Cole Bennett directed music video for “Catch Me Outside” – which recalls Chance the Rapper’s own early escapades during the Acid Rap days – to get a sense of the otherworldly aura that radiates off the young man brandishing a Chucky doll. Last year, the Broward County rapper took off with a viral hit that repurposed Timbaland & Missy Elliot’s “She’s a Bitch” into a rollicking psychedelic ode to his mucus (his slimes, as it were). Overnight, the young artist came face to face with his idols; not long after the video went viral, he was receiving cosigns from Missy Elliot herself and was seen locked in the studio with Timbo. What they – and others, regardless of their affiliation to the old or new school – saw in Ski was a genuine love for wordplay. Kooky couplets, infuriatingly straight faced tongue twisters and hilarious anecdotes run amuck on any given song of his and “Catch Me Outside” delivered all that, and more, in a digestible blue pill.
BEWARE THE BOOK OF ELI – the 22 year old’s second official mixtape – was to be his introduction to the world. Unfortunately, the fanfare eventually died out as the pending project was subjected to numerous marketing pitfalls. Was it his debut album or his second mixtape? Would it to be executive produced by Timbo? How about the features? Would Ski’s foremost influence – the great King of Syllables himself, Busta Rhymes, make an appearance? What about his ex-best friend, XXXtentacion? Fans were strung along over the span of several months with only snippets to satiate their appetite. And to make matters worse, two of the three Timbaland collaborations (“Worldwide” & “With Vengeance” featuring Offset) were eventually unceremoniously leaked and subsequently overlooked. By the first of this past month, Ski’s frustrations had understandably reached a fever pitch. So, in a move as old as streaming itself, Ski up and leaked the entire project in its intended form onto SoundCloud. This version not only included the previously leaked Timbo collabs, but previously teased tracks such as “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE,” featuring a brand new verse from Atlanta’s foremost aquatic life expert, Sahbabii. Within minutes of the leak, Ski’s management was doing damage control and within two weeks we finally received the “official” mixtape in a stripped-down, 10-track form.
Honestly, it’s all pretty unfortunate. Ski is a more than capable rapper with a fantastic ear for the quirky. While his flows snake through the rattlings beats with the ease of a seasoned veteran, his ad-libs work doubletime to pepper empty pockets with comical shoutouts, left-field callbacks and esoteric allusions. What’s striking is the precision with which he conducts this masterful symphony. Syllables must bounce around the abyss of his mind with nary a care for context, the brilliance lies in his ability to channel those mile a minute thoughts into not only cogent but genuinely entertaining tangents. A typical Ski verse contains as much color as any given half-hour block on Animal Planet and probably more references to actual wildlife. He’s got on a snake belt buckle while he’s hunting down the KKK, sort of like a super woke Elmer Fudd. Afterwards, he’s inviting their mothers and aunties for some consensual shenanigans. His diamonds look like Krillin’s destructo disk and his shoes aren’t Morty – they’re Rick Owens. The centerpiece, “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE,” sees Ski and Sah connect on a spiritual level, offhandedly rebuking the birdbrained scandal H&M was involved in earlier this year, while schooling us on the intricacies of internal rhyme schemes – Rap Genius should be breaking down these two versus instead of another J. Cole song or whatever it is they usually do.
A self-proclaimed “asshole and cunt” – with diamonds wetter than a newborn baby dog’s tongue – Ski tries hard and often to be edgy, some would say to a fault. Yet, despite all the menace he can muster into a single “SAUSE” ad-lib, I believe he often betrays his own affable nature by way of his technical skill. Ski likes to rap about evil shit of mythological proportions – like drowning foes in the river of lost souls – much in the same way an Eminem is prone to making an entire album about being a pantyhose-wearing serial killer. It could be argued that both use their art to transform the self-perceived mundanity of their everyday pain – love, loss, addiction – into a more formidable beast. This not only allows them to weaponize their talent in a therapeutic manner, it provides the listener with an escape that they themselves came hopefully come to utilize as a means of healing and personal growth.
It’s easy to be let down in this post-Trump, post-Kanye, post-Post Malone age. The bar to engage us, to keep us occupied and distracted at the very least, is so low, yet still somehow out of reach for those assigned with that task. But then again, maybe we’re being too cynical; for example, there shouldn’t be any reason Young Thug – Jeffrey – SEX! – of all people should dropping hit or miss 3-track EPs in 2018, but sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. Maybe HiTunes will really come out in 2019. All this to say that sometimes we may have to cut our celebrities, at least, the non pussy-grabbing or racist ones, some slack. Sometimes it’s just a perfect storm of shit and they just have to submit and we just have to learn to find the beauty in the aftermath. With this mixtape, Ski did his best to turn a series of squabbles with his management into a Moment for the fans, only to be overshadowed by a “surprise” Playboi Carti release when it was all said and done. A perfect storm.
However, if Ski continues to sharpen his sword – if he continues to conjure scatterbrained genius like “RUN”, “DoIHaveTheSause?” or “CHILD’S PLAY” – he’s got nothing to worry about. All he has to do is catch another one and I’m sure he’ll force the world to listen as he proves his talents.