Prior to May 2016, most people were unfamiliar with South Florida rap. Rappers like SpaceGhostPurrp and Denzel Curry had gained popularity on the internet, but other than Kodak Black (whose style differs from his peers in the area), no project truly defined the sound.
That all changed when Fort Lauderdale native, Ski Mask the Slump God, dropped his self-released debut mixtape, “DROWN-IN-DESIGNER.”
While cartoon references and sampling have always been featured across the genre, Ski Mask took those two elements to new levels on this project, most notably on “Billy and Mandy,” where he heavily samples the theme song of “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” as he briskly spits on the mic: “Ski made a stunt on a jet ski / After that I’ll mountain bike ya b---h like a 10 speed.”
The album’s cover is unforgettable, as it features a crudely drawn figure carrying a ski mask and bloody machete while dripping out in designer clothing, evocative of the album’s title. The name “DROWN-IN-DESIGNER” can be seen in the lyrics too, working with the cover art to paint a picture of a young man too boyish and feverish to worry about the world, as he chooses instead to enjoy his rockstar life of parties, expensive food and designer clothing, while reminding outsiders not to cross him, most aptly described on “Unmask.”
“Jet like I’m big that b---h into me / Pockets Yo Gotti, they hopped in the Mase’ / My chain is a sin cuz it's killing me / My n---a Xen got the pistol piece / My n---a Curry don’t keep the peace / This is the gift that I give to ye / Drown in designer my necklace piece.”
The album didn’t only help Ski’s career; it also gave a spark to the rap industry. Still in the early stages of their career, Ski Mask employed the talent of fellow Florida rappers Craig Xen and Denzel Curry on “Unmask” and an especially early appearance from Lil Pump on the “Tokyo Drift” sampling “Where’s the Blow!”
But no other song on this album comes even close-in both quality and impact-to the mosh pit anthem “R.I.P Roach,” which has nearly 30 million plays on SoundCloud. Featuring a verse from late longtime friend XXXTentacion, the two Florida rappers rap aggressively to one of the most ear-bleeding inducing beats of all time. After an uncharacteristically long 30-second introduction filled with sexual moaning, X unleashes his trademark scream effortlessly across the bass: “Cocaine for my breakfast / Hold that pistol, ambidextrous / P---y boy talk reckless, he might end up on a stretcher.”
This type of sound can be heard in all of X’s discography, but this song was no doubt one of the late rapper’s most important examples of establishing the headbanging rage that made him a household name.
If that weren’t enough, Ski Mask rounds out the mixtape’s final track with one final verse that perfectly compliments X’s aggression with Ski Mask’s fun-loving and aggressively energetic persona.
“Came from the dirt, you can’t hit my purp / Said my diamonds wetter than some sweat, absurd / Gold up on my wrist is lookin’ sunny, Big Bird / Hit ‘em with the, hit ‘em with the numbers like a nerd.”
While this underrated gem has seemingly been forgotten, few can deny that “DROWN-IN-DESIGNER” is one of the pillars of South Florida Soundcloud rap, and arguably modern rap as a whole.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org