Sin City The Mixtape is a testament to Ski Mask’s skill, proving his music is only getting deeper.
Sin City The Mixtape picks up right where Ski Mask the Slump God left off in 2018, a momentous year for the Fort Lauderdale rapper that saw him debuting his first album (Stokeley) and Beware the Book of Eli; probably his finest mixtape to date and one of that year’s most essential projects. This impressive streak seemed primed to continue with a proposed (and at least partially recorded) album-length Juice Wrld collaboration entitled Evil Twins, but the project and Ski Mask’s general release plans were put on hold following the shocking, tragic loss of Juice in the closing days of 2019. With the untimely passing of friend and fellow Members Only affiliate XXXTentacion also in the not so distant past, Ski Mask took a necessary hiatus from putting out music, dropping a couple singles and features, but otherwise maintaining a relatively low profile. Though a significant pivot away from the quick pace at which he (and the rest of the modern rap industry) delivers new music, his time away has been brief in the grand scheme of things, with Sin City The Mixtape, a testament to the artist’s continued skill and ingenuity, and a glimpse at ideas still taking shape.
In keeping with his previous mixtapes, Sin City runs a pretty lean span of time – 17 and a ½ minutes to be precise – positioning it as Ski Mask’s fleetest project to date. Some were inevitably (though somewhat selfishly) disappointed with the brevity of this “comeback” tape, but this is, after all, the output of an artist who can work a limited canvas spectacularly (Beware the Book of Eli’s 21 minutes should have been proof enough), each song on Sin City its own stand-out, reasserting Ski Mask’s particular tics and talents. The tape’s title makes its overt nod to Frank Miller’s comic series of the same name, but in true Slump God fashion, that property’s gritty, outsized noir aesthetic only really accounts for a portion of the vision on display, a vision also encompassing glitching, industrial production nodding towards the iconic The Matrix soundtrack, and the usual video game/anime touchstones (promo images have Ski Mask sporting the Millennium Puzzle from Yu-GI-Oh!). The tone of Sin City is dark and gonzo, but controlled thanks to a superlative production team with longstanding Slump God associations. Most notably so, its in-demand producer Ronny J, whose collaborations with Ski Mask go back to debut mixtape Drown In Designer. His contributions to this tape give shape to its first half, providing the screeching, abrupt “Intro”, third track “ADMIT IT” and pseudo-thesis statement “The Matrix”, a vile deluge of violent threats, references to children television (Danny Phantom, Ben 10) and winking horniness (“Animatedly fucked the world, but no Hentai”). One of Ski Mask’s great skill as a rapper is his ability to skip between such material with a nimbleness that allows him to sound credibly enraged (making frequent use of shouty, hardcore vocals) and charmingly goofy at once. He dashes off punchlines, boasts, and antagonisms at an impressive clip that renders the vilest sentiment amusing as it is often couched among sillier fare, not necessarily noticed till closer hearing (Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot are often cited as influences, and are well-represented in his showy, quick-fire delivery). Sin City The Mixtape offers up plenty of moments for Ski Mask to flex this gift, while also wisely imagining new contexts for it, particularly, in homage to the late XXXTentacion, with “Lost in Time” and “Mental Magneto”. Both songs utilize an emo guitar-driven John Cunningham production as X often would, though purposefully clashing with a reworked version of Ski Mask’s flow here. “Lost in Time” comes close to being a rare, purely earnest track from the artist, speaking to feelings of loss and cynicism, while “Mental Magneto” keeps more towards his usual Nirvana-esque guitar leanings, producing a gritty, melancholic synthesis. Whether this is suggestive of where Ski Mask the Slump God plans on taking his music down the road can’t be said for certain (though Cunningham did tease more collaboration between the two on Twitter), but it provides a certain sense that his music is only getting deeper and more expansive.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 4.