There has never been a rapper quite like Young Thug, and honestly, there may never be another one quite like him either.
Thug is a walking paradox of a human being; the kind whose very existence pushes so strongly against any pre-conceived expectations of what he should be that they shatter completely. And as he shows on his latest mixtape “Slime Season 3,” which released last Friday, Thug is a heck of an artist too.
Here’s a choice quote from Devin Friedman’s excellent GQ profile of Thug that ran in February: “He wears women’s Uggs but travels with AR-15’s everywhere he goes.” And another: “When he likes something, he calls it sexy … [Thug] recently called the 2-year-old son of a woman he was flirting with online sexy.”
There is plenty more where that came from, but to linger too long on certain aspects of Thug’s personality is to miss the point entirely. He is an individual just like everyone else, albeit an undeniably unique one.
To help understand Thug’s inner workings, we can look to “Slime Season 3,” where he smashes down musical barriers in a frenzy of slippery flows and wonky ad-libs. Thug is a devoted advocate of the ‘voice as instrument’ movement that has recently swept through rap with the backing push of forward thinkers such as Future and Travis Scott.
No rapper quite inhabits instrumentals like Young Thug. Not content to simply spit 16 bars and move onto a hook, Thug dives in and out of beats like a dolphin in water, crunching and stretching words however way he damn pleases. Then he sprinkles generous helpings of yelps, shouts and various other noises atop this diverse dish before calling it a day.
The trap-flavored backing sounds of “Slime Season 3” aren’t particularly special, but Thug’s performance brings them to life. On standout track “Drippin,” he puts on an incredible display of vocal gymnastics, affecting different accents and slicing off the ends of words with a noticeable intensity that very few rappers can match. It’s an energetic, show-stopping display of charisma that brings to mind Nicki Minaj’s impossibly strong turn on Kanye West’s “Monster.”
His lyrics aren’t going to win any awards, but land with far more impact when ejected from Thug’s relentless voice box than they do when read off a page on Genius. “When not risk life when it’s gon’ keep goin’/When you die somebody else was born,” he croons before toasting his grind on the fiery truth bomb “Digits,” and it’s that kind of passion that will let him continue to run up the digits as time goes on.
While focused moments like “Drippin” and “Digits” show Thug’s strength as a performer, his artistic overindulgence has hurt him as an overall curator. Many of his numerous releases, including the first two installments of the “Slime Season” series, have shown a lack of cohesion, with excessively length run times and little to no track-to-track consistency.
“Slime Season 3” slims down to just eight tracks, and there aren’t any real misfires. Some tracks are stronger than others – the infectious opener “With Them” is another winner – but the entire project is a breezy listen at just 28 minutes.
Now, the real challenge begins for Young Thug; with his major label album debut looming, what course should he chart going forward? His mixtape run of the last year has been impressive, but even his inimitable style may become stale if no evolution occurs.
“I’m not backing down,” Thug tells Friedman to close that aforementioned GQ profile. With a mentality like that, and plenty of electrified personality to spare, we may not have even seen Thug’s final form yet. To predict his next step is an impossible task.