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After filling “Slime Language 2” with slats, slimes and all-star features, Young Thug took an emotional turn on his latest “Punk” project. The Atlanta rap mogul has unequivocally ditched the trap style he’s been locked into in recent years.
Young Thug has never been part of one genre, but the last time he used his ability to manipulate his voice over acoustic beats was in 2017 with “Beautiful Thugger Girls”. This album cover is also similar to “Punk” – both show Thug with a string instrument in his lap – but the instruments themselves point in different directions.
“Beautiful Thugger Girls” is a cohesive 14-track project in which Young Thug – real name Jeffery Lamar Williams – verbalizes his pent-up emotions since his rise to hip-hop royalty. Thug’s second studio album, “Punk,” mimics the same emotional tone as “Beautiful Thugger Girls,” but the first is less cohesive, filling a solid start and end with a few disappointing tracks on the 20-track record. He moves away from his deep conversations about love and the identity of earlier works in favor of his recent surface bars.
The first six songs of “Punk” match some of the best lyrical songs in Thug’s discography. The opening song “Die Slow (with Strick)” is a heartfelt monologue with minimal production that he performed at a Tiny Desk concert earlier this year. He keeps the same tone as the show, expressing what he’s had in mind for the past few years – something he removed from previous albums.
He talks about love, family, and even politics, as he tackles the growing unrest between the police and blacks in the United States. Thugger uses strong characteristics of J. Cole, Gunna and Future, who comment on the same topics as Thug because they understand the difficulties that come with being famous and being black.
But after this catchy six-track emotional outpouring, Thugger makes a random change and uses a version of a Playboi Carti print. The trap beat is great for heavy training, but it doesn’t match the theme that has been established from the entire album up to this point.
After this detour, Thugger goes back to a tricky production using features from Post Malone and A $ AP Rocky on “Livin it up”. But it deviates off-road again. After professing his love to an unnamed woman he calls Señorita on the song “Yea Yea Yea”, Thug brags about “fucking that bitch with a virus” on the track “Scoliosis”.
The most popular song from the entire project is “Bubbly,” with features by Travis Scott and Drake. In the first collaboration of the three icons, they deliver one of the most hyped pieces of the year.
Later, Thug brings in Nate Ruess, the lead singer of the now disbanded indie pop group “Fun”. – out of the shadows. On “Love You More”, Thug shows increased maturity with production and vocal ability, even giving Gunna enough space to shine on the pop song.
The album ends with a track featuring Mac Miller, titled “Day Before,” as Thug said it was recorded days before Miller died after an overdose. The minimal and heavy string production of the first half of the album returns in this conclusion with a ukulele.
Thug lets Miller have the final words on his latest emotional journey, ending with the lines “Swear I’m still shining, I couldn’t tell you if it’s dark or not.” After a few detours throughout the project, Thugger reaches his final destination with this line that talks about the ups and downs of life.
Best Track: Stupid / Demand
Double tracks have been a mainstay of music for centuries, most recently popularized in the rap game by Tyler, the creator, who has had this type of song in all but one of his studio projects. Like Liam Neeson in “Taken”, it requires a very special skill set – the ability to blend two completely different themes into one piece.
Thugger makes his first attempt on a double track on “Stupid / Asking”, singing to a slow, vibey beat of Charlie Handsome and Metro Boomin, followed by a bass boosted minute produced by Taurus, Crater and Yo Benji. The two sides are related, having chorus from the point of view of an unnamed lover.
Thugger says “You must be stupid, you must be stupid” over and over in the first part, not trying too hard but focusing instead on the production. The beats with Thug’s vocal inflection are paired perfectly, making this one of the loudest songs in the entire project.
“Asking” is not as loud as the first part, but the transition between the two stories is executed seamlessly as Thug uses a variety of vocal inflections to introduce the different rhythm. Like a vintage thug, he expresses his passion for this person by saying “I’m tired of asking” with a piano and a violin to conclude the song.
A jump: scoliosis
Thug does some of his worst writing in this album on “Scoliosis”, and it doesn’t sound original and recycled from previous albums.
It follows the untimely COVID-19 joke with the phrase “I was fucking your daughter”. Then Lil Double O jumps in for his feature, starting his verse with the same line before talking about his multitude of guns and women – the same bars every rapper repeats in his songs today.
Still, the flute in the background for most of the song is catchy, along with Thug’s adlibs saying “Woo” and “Hoo”. But with references to the Slime group, it looks like a throwaway that didn’t make it into “Slime Language 2”. This song is a good transition to Bubbly, but it really shouldn’t have been on this album in the first place.
Hardest Bars: Die Slow (with Strick)
On Thug’s opening track, he surprises listeners with his sweet vocals that shine over the song’s silent production. This introduction is more like a ballad than a rap song. Thug lets the floodgates open on what he has on his mind, talking about his relationship with his mother and family.
But Thug also comments on the country’s political landscape, highlighting how Americans end up being divided on some of the most controversial topics affecting society. He says in the third line how he sees through this facade, not adhering to the standards expected of people across the country.
He ends the thought with a metaphor of diamonds and pearls, showing how some people shine through these obstacles, but most get irritated and defensive like a mollusk producing a pearl.
The entire album is a nice change of pace from the content Thug has produced for his avid listeners over the past few years. But sometimes this project deviates from its early themes which showcase Thug’s emotions throughout the pandemic and even before that with the album’s early references to police brutality.
Although Thug is the king of party jams, he needs to take more risks and continue to develop the few meaningful tracks on this album. The arbitrary transition to trap songs is completely unnecessary on projects like this, which are meant to strike an emotional chord with its listeners.
But it’s a transformation from what we already know of Thug, his second rendition of trying to make music that transcends the surface level of mainstream rap music. This album is almost perfect if three or four tracks were taken out, and I hope Thug will return to that emotional maturity soon.
Posted on October 27, 2021 at 11:38 p.m.