Ski Mask the Slump God was born to be a star. It only takes one viewing 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 the otherworldly aura that radiates f the young man brandishing a Chucky doll. Last year, the Broward County rapper took f 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 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 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 ficial 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 Syllables himself, Busta Rhymes, make an appearance? What about his ex-best friend, XXXtentacion? Fans were strung along over the span several months with only snippets to satiate their appetite. And to make matters worse, two the three Timbaland collaborations ("Worldwide" & "With Vengeance" featuring Offset) were eventually unceremoniously leaked and subsequently overlooked. By the first 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 the leak, Ski’s management was doing damage control and within two weeks we finally received the “ficial” 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 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 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 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, fhandedly rebuking the birdbrained scandal H&M was involved in earlier this year, while schooling us on the intricacies internal rhyme schemes - Rap Genius should be breaking down these two versus instead 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 ten 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 ten betrays his own affable nature by way his technical skill. Ski likes to rap about evil shit mythological proportions - like drowning foes in the river 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 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 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 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! - all people should dropping hit or miss 3-track EPs in 2018, but sometimes it’s just the luck 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 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 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.
Side-note: I thought “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE” was supposed to feature YSL’s Gunna as well? This might call for a remix.