Will Hagle will take a 20-piece bucket of hot wings over Ruth’s Chris any day.
Young Nudy’s albums have received various subjective scores from reputable music media outlets since the Atlanta rapper dropped the first of his Slimeball trilogy. Pitchfork’s ratings, for instance, range from 7.2-8.0. The relative quality of Young Nudy’s albums, however, is objective. It is mathematics. The quality of a Young Nudy album directly correlates with the amount of Pierre Bourne beats it has on it.
Eight of Slimeball’s 14 tracks feature Pierre production. So that first mixtape scores a 57.14%. An F, by school standards, but still a notable introduction. Slimeball 2 scored a 10/13, or 76.2%, or a C. Nudy Land, while being a great album that led us to deem Nudy Best New Rapper, scored 9/13, or 69.23%, or a D. Slimeball 3 saw this regression dip to horrifying levels, with only one Pierre track out of 15 scoring Nudy an embarrassing 6.67% on the scale.
Sli’merre, by contrast, is 100% perfect.
Twelve out of twelve tracks on Young Nudy’s newest album feature Pierre Bourne, the still-ubiquitous producer who had Nudy as a client on his first paid engineering work ever. Pierre’s name is on the cover of Sli’merre along with a colorful, artistic rendering of Nudy exhaling into the clouds in front of the “Welcome to East Atlanta” sign. The album is as much Pierre’s as it is Nudy’s.
Pierre utilizes Nudy’s voice like an extra digital instrument at his disposal, dispersing it where he sees fit. Bourne’s beats tend to utilize repetitive, light synths over heavy, effected bass and kick drums. His hi-hats are methodically choppy, often centering the rhythm while the surrounding instruments and SFX form an entrancing mix. This leaves room for artists to meander their way over these persistent, lightly brushed backdrops. On Sli’merre, Pierre maintains tight control over the ways in which the pieces of his production form the more perfect whole. On “Long Ride,” the opening track, Nudy talks, rambles, mumbles, sings, laughs, and ad-libs to bookend the song. Pierre chops and interweaves elements of Nudy’s voice in order to create a cohesive piece.
Songs like Playboy Carti’s “Magnolia,” still among Pierre’s biggest hits to date, subverted the traditional verse-chorus-verse model. “Magnolia,” like most of the songs on Sli’merre, does have a hook and verses. They simply bleed into each other, barely distinguishable above music that does little to indicate the typical shifts in tone.
Although the “Magnolia” model has spawned an entire generation of imitators, including Pierre himself trying to replicate that track’s infectiousness, no artist is as locked in to the producer’s aesthetic as Young Nudy. Nudy restrains himself to a certain degree throughout Sli’merre, opting not to take the types of risks that he tried out with the more experimental, sung tracks on Slimeball 3. Instead, he finds the groove that Pierre creates, and embellishes it with his own glorified tales of rapping and robbing.
“Ya’ll better be glad I’m making all these motherfucking big ass blocks of blue cheese off this rap shit, man,” Nudy half-jokingly blurts at the end of “Long Ride.” “Cuz I’d be out here making big blocks of blue cheese off stripping you fuck n****, you hear me?” In moments like these, at his rawest, Nudy can sound like a Southern Drakeo, but with an almost D.R.A.M.-like energetic voice that makes violent robbery somehow sound gleeful.
As legendary POW scribe Will Schube noted in his aforementioned 7.2 Pitchfork review of Slimeball 3, Young Nudy has been steadily expanding his voice beyond the most limiting aspects of Atlanta rap tropes. He’s worked towards bucking the 21 Savage comparisons that found him fame in the first place, while still maintaining that bleak style’s best aspects and featuring 21 on Sli’merre’s “Mister.” Nudy is 21’s cousin, and was arrested and subsequently released during the same infamous ICE raid. But at this point, he’s wholly his own artist, even if the best aspects of his artistry are drawn out of him through working with Pierre Bourne.
The Bourne production is far from a limiting factor. In fact, it’s probably what will attract most listeners to this project. The album could, however, have the unintentional effect of pigeonholing Nudy into a sound inextricable from Pierre. When Nudy branches out on his own, as we saw with Slimeball 3, he scores embarrassingly low on the objective quality scale. The rapper’s chemistry with Pierre is too palpable, and Pierre’s production is too infectious. With Nudy evolving his own distinct voice, subjectively speaking, hopefully his work will be able to stand on its own. For now, relying on Pierre Bourne to boost him to perfection works out for the rest of us.