Young Thug Slime Season 3

[300 Entertainment/Atlantic; 2016]

Styles: Young Thug 2.0
Others: the death of Slime Season, the birth of Hy!£UN35

Over the last five months, a rap game Civil War has been raging in Atlanta, arguably hip-hop’s center for creatively fruitful and commercially viable music right now. The participants, rappers Future and Young Thug, are the city’s two biggest exports, and they’ve helped shape everything from their region’s aesthetic to the country’s radio and streaming trends. Where Future is cool with playing up the supervillain role — regularly churning out songs about lethal uses of pharmaceutical drugs, slandering his baby’s mother, and representing for society’s low life — Thug, his crosstown rival, has almost inadvertently positioned himself at the opposite end of that spectrum. But while Future’s latest album can often be cruel, emotionally detached, and hellbent on bringing society down with him in a blaze of hedonistic glory, Thug’s Slime Season mixtape series remains largely unpredictable, imparting warmth, personality, and novelty via euphonious tones and complex, colorful lyrics — something that’s “super inspiring,” according to Kanye West.

Slime Season 3 is the third and final mixtape in the rapper’s slimy triptych, which not only fittingly embodies his best efforts yet, but also serves as the first proper introduction to the long-gestating Hy!£UN35 era. In these eight songs, which ostensibly double as narrative adventures, Young Thug takes his devotees on a mesmerizing journey deep into hidden recesses of hip-hop and the outer limits of its culture, presenting a startling vision of its past and exciting future. At just 24 years old, Thug — who regularly straddles the line between anomaly and conundrum — is already something of an underground legend in hip-hop, a rousing raconteur, adventurer, and expert on the experiential use of the genre’s rigid blueprint as laid out by DJ Kool Herc over 40 years ago. Much like the two volumes preceding it, Slime Season 3 finds the rapper at his absolute best when he molds the production to his liking, splashing the sonics with novel vocal quirks. Take “With Them,” for example, the exciting “kick out the jams” moment on the tape: “Fuck all that, let’s get to it,” he prefaces the track, indelibly, before inexplicably charging Mike WiLL Made-It’s sugarcoated beat with a string of multicolored melodies and brain-melting wordplay to illustrate his creative vision. Of course, this is only Young Thug getting revved up.

But what makes Young Thug such a fascinating artist are perhaps to be found elsewhere on the mixtape, like on “Digits,” a witty and sober dissection on how life is an opportunity to prepare for death, ranking up there with the best of Barter 6’s emotional cocktails; on “Drippin’” or “Slime Shit,” both tightly packed with hooks that rocket off into the stratosphere without phoning back home; or on the tape’s surprisingly moving single “Worth It,” a heartfelt ode to a long-term girlfriend who his overprotective mother believes “ain’t perfect.” Most remarkable of all, though, is Slime Season 3’s centerpiece, “Tattoos,” which, backed by London On Da Track’s signature subtle piano noodling and buzzing sirens, brings out moodiness and tense anxiety in Thug’s colorful personality: “I got a feelin’, one of these niggas gon’ try me/ No I’m not fearing, my bitch got tattoos and piercings.” The mixtape may be a brief 28-minutes in total length, but there’s an endless plethora of bizarre, comical, and crass images to pull from, like “I wanna fuck her, but she play more games than the NBA,” or “I’m so high I think I just seen a UFO with them troops,” all emphasizing the spontaneous quality that gives Thug’s words such raw power.

As the conclusion to a mixtape trilogy that sought to bundle and aggregate leaks and unofficial releases, which has been estimated anywhere between 100-130 total tracks, Slime Season 3 is easily the shortest. But where the tape may lack as a comprehensive look at Young Thug’s oeuvre up to this point, it never feels like he’s trying to shortchange the listener and certainly makes up for it by weeding out the studio experiments and savoring his most potent ideas. Here, London On Da Track, Thug’s frequent collaborator and producer, handles exactly half of SS3’s instrumentals, with each one delineating their reciprocal working relationship that spawned an unexpected platinum hit in “Lifestyle” two summers ago. From the radiant, flush synths on “Memo” to the swirling nebula of “Digits,” London’s production brings out Thug’s confident, wide-eyed side. “SS3, the funeral,” Young Thug writes on an Instagram caption promoting the mixtape. “New life! No leaks. Self-esteem!!” Indeed, Slime Season 3 is as celebratory, emotionally rich, and life-affirming as a good funeral should be but never is. And this isn’t the end; it’s only the beginning of a brand new chapter.

Links: Young Thug - 300 Entertainment/Atlantic

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