11143731_1732766196950172_605582329208550567_nYoung Thug’s newest release, a 22-track mixtape dubbed Slime Season 2 (a successor to September’s Slime Season) is a confluence of two things: hip-hop club hooks and Young Thug realizing he is in love.

The album starts off as any other of Thug’s. The bass and trap hook pound on “Big Racks,” a standard hip-hop anthem of victory. Thug champions his ability to stack the paper in a society and culture (in his case, Georgia) that is systemically designed to prevent him from doing so. Upon first listen this is all one gleans, yet upon successive listens more layers pop into focus. Young Thug uses his voice not only as his primary tool for communicating melody and lyrics, but also as percussion. His timbre screeches high into the mesosphere of the human larynx, and occasionally will morph into garbled nonsense. Sounds akin to “skrrrrrrr” and “shoom” and “yuh” populate the songs, even on some of the slow jams. Yet these are never done to excess, fortunately as that would become distracting, but rather as accent marks on a sheet of paper. Thug’s vocal tricks and instrumentation choices make this album layered as a city, some buildings underground and others poking into sunshine.

The sixth track on the tape, “All Over” is evidence of Thug’s commitment to unpredictably. Right as the album settles into a formula (electric intro, drums descending into kick-snare combo, verse, hook, verse, outro), this track begins with an intro of either a harpsichord or acoustic guitar. While the inclusion of these instruments on a rap album is not surprising in and of itself, it is a surprising shift for this album. It then proceeds into the equation we have come to know, but this slight deviation was welcome. Yet this only sets up the next track, “Mind Right.” This track was produced by Wheezy, one of Thug’s newest producers. Wheezy’s tracks take on a futuristic and ethereal quality. Beneath Thug’s words glisten a choir of humming ghosts who rest upon the scaffold of some alien shimmering. High falsettos in a darkened place. The combination of harsh lyrics and these shrouds is enticing. “I swear to God man my diamonds they come from New York and yo shit looking sunny/You come with them bad boy that shit better be wrapped up like muhfucking mummy.” He and Wheezy could have paired these words with righteous drums and throbbing bass, yet they laid it all amidst celestial howling.

This moves nicely into Thug’s diction. His stream of consciousness style of writing is part of what makes his music so fun to listen to. Collaborator and friend to Thug, Metro Boomin, has gone on record saying Thug’s breakout hit “Stoner” was written “in about fifteen minutes.” Naysayers could easily label this as laziness or shoddy craftsmanship, yet in Thug’s brevity is an argument for skill. His lines, though deceptively simple, have a way of sticking in the mind. As in “Thief in the Night feat. Trouble,” Thug challenges a would-be partner “I look good as your dad on a Friday.” Meaning here is elusive and ultimately irrelevant. It fits in the meter and it delivers the message that Thug is better than some poser. Another line with staying power pounds in “Hey, I” amid a mellow bass hook, “Now you’re rich got eyes like December.” A beautiful phrase, though outwardly silly, captures the mood of the song expertly.

As the mixtape progresses through almost two dozen tracks, the bravado and anger give way. Or they are perhaps eclipsed. In the song “Never Made Love feat. Rich Homie Quan” Thug chants a phrase almost disarmingly honest: “Never made love, never felt love/Never made love, never felt love/Never made love, never felt love.” This phrase repeated over and over again is a heartbreaking window into the sanctum of Young Thug’s heart. Perhaps this is Kendrick Lamar’s legacy, the opening up of hip-hop to bear witness to harsher and more raw forms of emotion. That’s not to say that Young Thug was not been expressing himself in this way before Slime Season 2. A single listen of “Constantly Hating” will easily disprove that notion. But what a lovely fusion. The mixtape showcases Thug’s ability to spit something powerful like “Big Racks” and concurrently lament his inability to form a lasting connection. The closing line in SS2 may be telling in which emotion ultimately wins out: “I just want to be loved.”

The mixtape can be heard and downloaded here or here.

Words by Evan Nyarady.

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