Ski clearly studied at the Chuck Jones School of Physics.
The South Florida rapper Ski Mask the Slump God opens his new tape by threatening to drown a rival in the “river of lost souls” and ends it by giving a shout-out to his “mucus.” Clocking in at 21 merciless minutes, Beware the Book of Eli is one of the year’s most fun and freewheeling rap releases, and though Ski is only 22 and drops plenty of ‘90s-baby references to prove it—he mentions two separate brands of kids’ yogurt on the tape, and the Book of Eli is apparently a Golden Book—he taps into something older and scarier than “SoundCloud rap.”
I’m not just talking about the tradition of surreal, psychedelic rap albums to which Beware the Book of Eli belongs—Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagonecologyst, E-40’s The Element of Surprise, Quasimoto’s The Unseen, Young Thug’s Jeffery. I’m talking demonology. The aesthetic here is consistently grim, but this isn’t knuckleheaded horrorcore or the aggro nu-metal worship of so many peers his age, including former associate XXXtentacion. No, Ski’s demonic relish brings to mind names like Loki, Puck and Peeves more than anything human and youthful.
Ski feels like the kind of presence that’s prone to dropping into a situation and fucking shit up. He’s “not like Al-Qaeda, more like a Viking.” He doesn’t wield a yopper but a keyblade, and he’ll use it on the nearest KKK member (his palpable loathing of white supremacists is an interesting theme on the tape). And he raps with the glee of a prankster who knows he’s about to get away with something. We can hear him lick his lips. He relishes being a villain, though maybe he’s more like an anti-hero—a glib, funny agent of mayhem we can’t help but cheer on.
Ski clearly studied at the Chuck Jones School of Physics, and his best flows contort the human voice into the loose-limbed motions of a Looney Tunes character. Likewise, his best images often revolve around the body and its motions. A girl “looks him up and down like an Elder Scroll.” Another one he bends over like “the letter C.” Yet another’s legs go up like suicide doors. These aren’t connections most minds would make, yet they make total sense over the microphone and congeal into images you’d never otherwise find yourself thinking.
Vocal layering is expected in modern rap, but Ski’s vocal tactility makes his music hallucinatory. He can rap fast, but he doesn’t run laps with Eminem-style tongue-twisters but uses his gift in the service of texture, often saying literally nothing at all and babbling in the background as a sort of instrument. His flow is all about potential and kinetic energy; listen on “Run” how he uses the words “if there’s…” as a tug of the slingshot before rocketing towards us at formidable speed, or how time stops between the two syllables of the word “pussy” on “DoIHaveTheSause?”
The production is pretty typical trap stuff, not generic enough to stifle him but not batshit enough that you’d necessarily recognize “Run” as a Timbaland beat. The theremin on that song does contribute a whisper of camp horror, though, and the recorder on “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” evokes the same elementary-school madness as the Go-Gurt reference. The only song that doesn’t work, “Child’s Play,” is by no coincidence the most au-courant; it’s blown-out SoundCloud rap that drowns the rapper rather than giving him a chance to scramble over the beat.
Ski shouldn’t chase trends, and though there’s plenty here that will date this tape to 2018 for the foreseeable future—its trap beats, its short song lengths, its ‘90s-baby references, the simple physical appearance of this dreadlocked dude—Ski thinks more broadly. It’s no coincidence his breakout hit “Catch Me Outside” cribbed its beat from Missy Elliott’s “She’s A Bitch;” this guy doesn’t speak for the youth but for himself. Hell, he doesn’t even sound 22; he sounds about six thousand years old, and if we’re lucky he’ll keep on causing trouble for an eternity.