Young Thug attempts a reign different from that of the hip-hop stars that he now counts among his friends and collaborators.
Photo: Young Thug / YouTube
Hip-hop appreciates changeâ¦ up to a point. Stir the pan too much and the dish becomes a bit harder to sell. Consider Tyler, the creator, who has been criticized for the abrasive lyrics and corrosive sounds of releases like the one in 2009 Bastard and 2011 Leprechaun, then spent most of a decade polishing his music as the streams and accolades accumulated; Take Chief Keef, the Chicago rapper whose breakthrough in 2012 sparked intense debates about morality in street rap, closer to the cultural mores of the late 80s than the early 10s. Young Thug, a The 30-year-old former rap iconoclast from Atlanta began releasing mixtapes around the same time Tyler and Keef were enjoying their first successes and controversies. thug I come from nothing the mixtapes filtered sharp melodic sensibilities and a natural gift for rhyme through a playful, chirping tone that coolly undermined his formidable talents with an air of levity. Cut like I came from nothing 3‘S “I Know Ya” sounded like the mutant descendants of the triumphant and booming beats of the 2000s Jeezy bands and the gymnastic lyrical soaring of the music that Lil Wayne was releasing at the same time. A certain subset of hip-hop heads have pledged this as “mumble rap,” a catch-all term degrading (mostly Southern) rappers for the clarity of their diction, but Thug persisted through releases. like that of 2013. 1017 thug, 2015 Barter 6, and 2016 Jeffery, evolving its sound and moving one step closer to the top of the Billboard 200 album chart with each subsequent drop. By the time he released a debut studio album – 2019 So funny, not to mention many retail mixtapes, EPs, and compilations – he had amassed the chops, connections, and name recognition needed to score his debut No.1 album.
Young Thug attempts a reign different from that of the hip-hop stars that he now counts among his friends and collaborators. He’s not like Drake or Future, whose coherences justify guessing the sound of a new release if not the subject, or Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, thinkers who don’t care much about the spotlight though. their long absences must be believed. A new version of Thug could signal a quick detour into a new genre or introduce new bit players. that of last spring Slime & B, together with Chris Brown, saw Thug honor the most stylish production he has touched since his chart-topping collaboration with Camila Cabello “Havana”. This spring is Slime Tongue 2 gave the members of the rapper collective Young Stoner Life ample room to shine, ceding some of the spotlight to Dolly White, HiDoraah and Unfoonk, Thug’s true siblings. This year Thug teased Punk, the second album previewed at an NPR Tiny Desk concert whose crisp guitars and cameo from former Blink-182 student Travis Barker seemed to convey a renewed interest in the guitar. Would have Punk to follow the return of the pop-punk aesthetic to mainstream music? Thug, an avid student of Lil Wayne (whose Barter 6 album title was a provocation for Wayne and his Carter album series), follow his elder in the quagmire of the ugly butt-rock failure of 2010 Renaissance?
Renaissance was sunk by taste and timing. Working with Miami producers Cool and Dre at the dawn of an era that would produce some of the harshest reviews of his career, Lil Wayne set out to create his idea for a rock album, focusing on the funk rock, nÃ¼ metal, blues rock and pop. punk but largely failing to offer anything fresh or modern. A decade later, listeners’ interests seem more varied, and mainstream music is heating up to guitar sounds that seemed to be endangered amid the great EDM movement of the early 2010s. Now we’ve heard the Lil Peep’s experimentation with midwestern emo samples; Juice WRLD, Lil Uzi Vert and Trippie Redd filter pop-punk melodies through trap beats; Justin Bieber and Kid LAROI’s blend of pop, rock and hip-hop aesthetics; Willow Smith’s indie rock album; the grunge song by Olivia Rodrigo; and Machine Gun Kelly’s pop-punk caricature. Thug – a restless talent who seems comfortable in all settings, thanks in part to an unpredictable instrument, a voice capable of selling a soft melody, coarse rhyme, high bark or low rumble – has proven himself in a rock frame in 2017 on the Beautiful thug girls jams “Me or Us” and “Family Don’t Matter”, acoustic campfire jams that bordered on country music, and in 2019 on So funny‘s Nav collab “Boy Back”, where Thug skates quietly on a sparkling electric guitar loop.
These songs inform the approach of the new album to rock music. Punk is not punk. There is nothing abrasive about its aesthetic. Punk is a movement of standing out, breaking the rules and opposing business trends; Punk is smooth and comfortable. (Destroy a spray painted Rolls-Royce with baseball bats like a promotional stunt does not oppose any system. Is the album title ironic, or is the popular understanding of the very concept of punk rock now being watered down, misinterpreted by commercial ventures like Renaissance? Hard to say.) The guitars are smooth. The arrangements are sumptuous, moving. The pace is relaxed. This isn’t a new direction for Thug – or anyone else in a decade where everyone from NoCap in Alabama to Sheff G in New York and Sleepy Hallow in Polo G in Chicago is looking for built beats. around emotional guitar loops – as much as a sampling and refinement of several ideas that are explored in the rapper’s interim projects.
Divided almost directly in the middle between rock-oriented cuts like the heart-wrenching story song “Die Slow”, where a gently plucked electric guitar flanks the rapper as he blurted out a spooky tale of family strife and misfortune, and trap desires. bangers like “Bubbly,” with Drake and Travis Scott, Punk is not consistent. Cohesion has never been the goal. The call, as was the case for So funny, hears Thug rip through the strangest beats he can find (though this album’s pitfalls seek to appease, where Amusing cuts like âHotâ or âJumped Out the Windowâ aimed at heckling). Young Thug is a chameleon. He easily retraces the melodic lyrical lines Post Malone sets on âLiving It Upâ and meets Future on flat ground as the duo recalls past struggles on âPeeping Out the Windowâ. He gets J. Cole to search for high notes on the deceptively sweet sound “Stressed”, matches Doja Cat’s cooing romanticism on “Icy Hot”, hums alongside The Format and .fun alum Nate Ruess, and performs a old-fashioned song stream about the Mac Miller ‘Day Before’ collaboration.
The lineup is impressive, and even rarer is the star-studded rap album that doesn’t lose its character in a parade of high-profile guest spots. Thug does what he wants. Everyone takes up the challenge. The iron is the sharpening iron. The writing is flexible. In the solo songs, Thug walks through half a dozen characters – the lover, the father, the pre-fame dreamer, the affluent rapper. Possessing all that he is and always has been, Young Thug rewards longtime listeners by celebrating every rung of his patient ascent. He’s also groomed an audience that no longer finds his quirks incredibly bizarre. Hopefully he doesn’t mess around.