Dan from the Internet took them boys to school, swagonemtry.
There’s a case to be made that Young Thug’s Slime Season is the most stylistically creative album of the year. Thug is rapping at such an unparalleled level that the collection could go bar-for-bar, warped syllable-for-warped syllable with codeine and Funkadelic enthusiasts alike. Maybe the music feels important because its construction is unassuming: Comprised of unheard songs and some that were scattered during this spring’s rash of leaks, the record never buckles under the weight of self-consciousness.
That doesn’t mean the songs themselves are half-formed. Somewhere, Ab-Soul is gouging out his 3rd eye while Young Thug violently throws a half-dozen viable pop hits into the abyss. Thug’s absence from terrestrial radio undoubtedly has more to do with politics than merit. “That’s All” is “Trap Queen” with more coke and shiny suits:
You can call me ace in this place, ten thousand-dollar vase in his face, go to church like Ma$e, put a mask on my face.
In fact, the key to Thug’s pop ear—and one of the things that makes him most intriguing—is he apparently doesn’t notice the distinction between pandering to white audiences with Clear Channel singles and churning out street anthems for primarily black audiences. Instead, he inhabits a weird world where Gucci Mane is a regular on Disney Channel original movies and the Migos are just as formative as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
To complicate things further: The most overlooked aspect of the Atlantan’s career is his dedication to conventional song structures. Most of Thug’s contemporaries have bucked the trend of template songwriting for dense 36 bar verses and the occasional R&B hook to lure in the casual listener. But Thug rarely if ever diverges from a staunch Hook/Verse/Hook structure—at the bottom of those yelps and warbles is something recognizable, something undeniable. The hooks on Slime Season are the best of the year, full stop. “Udiggwhatimsayin” follows “That’s All” with one that warps everything you learned in middle-school choir, but shows up right on time.
You dig what I’m saying, if they all hundreds I’m a count it fast, I’m a big ol’ playa I get it from my dad. Lil’ Mama dig what I’m saying. Keep it funky like an egg and you will never lay it.
Thug’s hooks are confounding in that they are bizarrely catchy yet rarely rely on repetition as a crutch. He’s languishing in label purgatory with two albums’ worth of strange, yet infectious radio singles collecting digital dust. Some of his peers (see: Fetty Wap, Rae Sremmurd, the three children stacked on top of one another to form Travi$ Scott) fill in verses out of obligation, stitching together danceable moments. But each verse on Slime Season is as dense, layered, and rich as anyone on any adjacent planet could hope:
Oh, water in his eyes I let that sucker go. And I forgot to tell her that you were poor, and I’m not doing a 20 year sentence, but you a hoe.
Thug constantly disarms the listener with beautiful melodies, before launching into verses like a sociopath. But again that’s what differentiates Thug from the pack; he essentially made a whole mixtape about murder sound like it belonged on the Top 40. Slime Season and DS2 are the only two releases this year where their stars pull double duty on almost every single hook and verse on the album and make the guest stars into window dressing.
A notable exception would be Gucci who,
on “Again,” invokes Dennis Rodman,
the only man who can truly understand Thug.
Come the end of the year Slime Season is bound to be relegated to the middle of most critics’ lists. But Young Thug is rapping about the same gang violence as on, say, Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06, but because of Thug’s reliance on melodies, those those albums will never be uttered in the same breath. But If the hooks and verses for “Rarri,” “Stunna,” and “Best Friend” were being sung by a certain Canadian, you’d have to think he’d be throwing platinum plaques in your face instead. In form, Slime Season is the year’s most inventive release. If you like your Atlanta hip-hop watered down and repackaged for East coast sensibilities, you’re out of luck. But if you’re looking for a hip-hop album with oddities like “LEFT POCKET LETTUCE, RIGHT POCKET RELISH,” then Slime Season is a minor masterwork.