Young Thug Slime Season 2

[Self-Released; 2015]

Styles: Young Thug
Others: you can keep that

Last month, while Atlanta rapper Young Thug traversed the heart of America on a sold out tour, Hopsin — rapper, actor, class clown — uploaded a music video for “No Words” to his YouTube channel. Both the song and the video were smug indictments on contemporary rap music below the Mason-Dixon line, and found Hopsin lampooning its regional culture and language. In a little over four weeks, the video, which is prefaced with standard Hopsin name-calling (“mentally retarded rappers,” “dumb asses like you,” etc.), has amassed over six million online views. During that time, Thug, the presumed object of Hopsin’s ridicule — and whose vocal dexterity is subject of much debate — was too busy purchasing Fendi keychains to reply. But to simply dismiss the 24-year-old rapper’s vocals as “gibberish,” as many have done, is like removing the drip technique from Jackson Pollock’s action paintings. And with his latest mixtape, Slime Season 2, Thug not only picks up where the first installment left off, in carefully repurposing unauthorized leaks, but also showcasing the development of a clear narrative.

To say Young Thug’s music has a clear narrative is to open up Pandora’s box, inciting hip hop purists to spew rhetoric. Likewise, the pomposity Hopsin displays with “No Words” is tantamount when gauging the dividing line between individualism and purism in rap music. However, those swearing up and down that “nobody knows what the fuck” to make of Thug’s lyrics will surely be surprised with Slime Season 2’s striking clarity. By cleaning up the defining studio sessions between the Rich Gang era and Barter 6 — his impressive major label debut — many of Thug’s best qualities are further accentuated on SS2. Despite being a year-old leftover, “Never Made Love” keeps from going stale with its newly remastered solo version that boasts a startling likeness to a Douglas Sirk melodrama. Backed by London On Da Track’s intricately woven beat, which has everything from oceanfront synths, snappy snares, and somber bass stabs — perfectly spaced out, no less — Thug dissects his yarn into three equally moving fragments. But it’s the third verse that has Thug flexing his powerful narrative skills: “When you make me mad, I try to get back and get some head/ And I know that’s wrong, but my dumb ass still did it instead/ Then I put the strap to my own head/ And then I told her don’t ever do it again.”

Although Slime Season 2 bears a resemblance to its slimy predecessor, in that both have a jumbled track sequence and silly cover art, it does hold the notable distinction of possessing some much-needed confidence. By settling on songs that tend to be fragmented, flawed snippets from a much bigger story, SS2 radiates a strange aplomb in wisely not trying to cover the rapper’s entire life in 90 minutes. With all the hullabaloo that’s been made of the intermittent delay of Young Thug’s proper debut album, Hy!£UN35, it ultimately proves to be moot, because it’s possible to facilitate great music through a free mixtape. These glimpses into fleeting moments of his life — blurred between Jeffery Williams and the enigmatic Young Thug — paint a picture of a young man of many shades. He’s in full committed boyfriend mode on “Hey, I,” sweetly serenading his partner — who is “ready for a kiddie” — and showers her with a purse “every time little momma catch [him] cheating.” Conversely, on “Phoenix,” Thug gleefully rejects love in its entirely, instead searching for a ride-or-die chick (“But I never told her that I wanna be with her,” “that I wanna sleep with her,” “that she gonna eat with me;” “Only thing I told the girl is she could bleed with me”).

Going by how little we truly know of Young Thug, the world probably hasn’t been formally introduced to the man born ”Jeffery Williams” after all, and there’s a likelihood it never will. We live in an era where an 87-year-old grandmother — named Baddie Winkle, no less — can make $5,000 for a single Instagram post and still be a member of society. That proverbial line between art and life isn’t just blurred, it’s completely vanished. A Millennial himself, Thug is aware of this hodgepodge social climate we’re in — he’s living proof of it — and in turn, he’s a catalyst for exciting and sometimes messy rap music. In the same way, studio experiments like “Don’t Know” and “I’ll Tell You What” can leave the mixtape feeling slightly dehydrated, running into rough patches of redundancy. Ultimately, these moments feel like a cooling off period after streaks of excellent, fleshed-out tracks. Elsewhere, a by-the-numbers club banger like “Twerk It” feels wholly out of place within SS2’s more detail-oriented coda, and its chorus of ”twerk it for me baby” repeated ad infinitum isn’t registering the same way it would’ve three years ago.

The production on Slime Season 2, which Hopsin actually praised (“hard-ass beats,” he says), is quality shit, of course. Working with his familiar crop of producers — London On Da Track, Wheezy, Goose, Metro Boomin, Southside — has resulted in some of Young Thug’s best songs over the years, and there’s no question the production on SS2 is the most sophisticated bunch yet. Hot off DS2 and What a Time to Be Alive, Metro Boomin and Southside drop off their rosé colored beat for “All Over,” a beat that has a gentle guitar informing a delicate piano to flutter over acerbic percussion. Late-effort heroics come from an unlikely name: DJ, producer, and Fool’s Gold Records signee Treasure Fingers. Perhaps best known for his six-year-old house remixes, Fingers’s ”Raw (Might Just)” is SS2’s “Best Friend” moment: an unexpectedly airy bit of musical confection put to blotter paper for Thug’s consumption. He appropriately floats on cloud nine and at one point even lets out an exaggerated, strained falsetto, telling you “that’s how you motherfucking do it” in the process. That’s how you do it, indeed.

During an international summer tour, Young Thug touched down in France, where he told — cogent and direct — that he’s “not from here,” a claim he’s made in the past. However, unlike many Atlanta artists, both past and present, whom have proudly embraced the “ATLien” moniker, its never been more accurately personified than when informed by Thug’s signature eccentricities. Even though major publications and misguided industry insiders often disregard the palpable emotional heights of Atlanta’s street-centric rappers — in place of backhanded praises for the city’s chart-topping, club-ready bangers, of course — with Slime Season 2, Thug falls closer in line with hometown luminaries like André 3000 than ever before, bringing his Lil Wayne comparison to a death knell. Nevertheless, embracing SS2 isn’t a prerequisite to better understanding Young Thug, but there’s certainly no denying him, or his collection of sounds, as the next frontier in rap — whatever that even means.

Links: Young Thug

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