On Tuesday night, the litany of charges and accusations against XXXTentacion, the young Florida rapper who was murdered earlier this year, resurfaced when Pitchfork published a partial transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between XXX and several others. On the recording, he confessed to several crimes, including domestic abuse and multiple stabbings. On Thursday, in a spectacularly mistimed follow-up, one of XXXTentacion’s highest-profile musical collaborations was released: “Arms Around You” pairs previously unreleased XXX vocals on a new song with Lil Pump, Maluma and Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee.
“Arms Around You” will likely become a runaway success on streaming platforms and industry charts based on name value alone and its straightforward bid for an international audience. The song itself — produced in part by electronic maestro Skrillex — is bland, Latin-inflected pop that reflects none of the talents of its four collaborators. According to a press release, the song was conceived of and completed after XXX’s death. “Lil Pump reached out to XXXTentacion’s mom Cleopatra Bernard in an effort to posthumously create a track that would continue the legacy of her son’s status as an innovative force,” a statement reads. “Together, they carefully assembled ‘Arms Around You’ and worked with collaborators Maluma and Swae Lee.”
For Lil Pump, this is the second high-profile collaboration in as many months; he delivered a true star turn on Kanye West’s id-driven “I Love It” in September. He doesn’t dominate the spotlight here, though. Instead, the song is a mish-mash of vague pop-in-2018 signifiers without cohering into any sort of artistic statement.