A tight, focussed, and emotional return...

The pandemic affected each of us in different ways. From colossal stars to complete unknowns, it up-ended our lives, and demolished our expectations.

Take Lil Skies. The Philly talent found himself back in his home city, completing a journey that began in pace on his 2017 mixtape ‘Life Of A Dark Rose’. Re-connecting with his roots – his moniker is a nod to his father, while 2019 debut album ‘Shelby’ named after his mother – he’s delivered some of his most potent, open material to date.

‘Unbothered’ is a tight, focussed return – a snappy 14 tracks, is exudes a sense of purpose, retaining the swagger of his debut while upping the word play. It’s an inward journey, one exemplified by those early viral singles ‘OK’ and ‘Havin’ My Way’ but it’s also lit up by some special guests.

Working with alacrity, Lil Skies built ‘Unbothered’ from a series of freestyles, yet every element on the album feels exact, placed with real precision. Using a mere three features – a trilogy that boasts Wiz Khalifa, Lil Durk, and Jodeci – the emphasis is placed on his vocals, on his ability to utilise the voice as an instrument.

‘Trust Nobody’ hinges on fragile paranoia, while ‘Riot’ bristles with a palpable sense of rage. An attempt to channel the repressed – and often extreme – emotions of the past 12 months, ‘Unbothered’ pitches a cool facade against a depth of feeling that often threatens to explode – just check out ‘Think Deep Don’t Sink’ for a mission statement.

Working within clear definitions, ‘Unbothered’ feels more distilled than Lil Skies’ previous work, the sound of someone choosing to work with what they know. Lyrically it’s marked by pain and redemption, lingering on messages of perseverance, and renewal. He may claim to be ‘Unbothered’, but the marks of the pandemic are there for all to see on a brave, at times powerful, new album.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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