You might have heard of Young Thug. You might not have heard of Young Thug. Either way, you’re here because you’re curious about his new mixtape Slime Season 3, and why you keep seeing his name in iTunes or Spotify or wherever constantly in the “New Release” section. This is all understandable because it’s time to pay attention to Young Thug, and I’m here with a handy-dandy Q&A about him, and Slime Season 3. So, let’s start.
Who is Young Thug?
Young Thug is Jeffery Lamar Williams.
That’s not super helpful.
Good point. Young Thug is an Atlanta rapper whose been kinda breaking out over the last year and a half since Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle.” He had three mixtapes in 2015, and so far Slime Season 3 is his second release of 2016. Each of these tapes have nudged his profile slowly upward; right now, he’s the internet’s favorite rapper.
Why do you say he’s “the internet’s favorite rapper”?
Well, a couple of reasons:
-Just as a rapper, Thug has a truly fascinating style that I’ll get to which makes him super exciting for internet rap nerds to talk about at length. And, because of his ridiculous output clip, they can do that often, giving the guy a massive presence in any corner of Rap Twitter or any major music site.
-He was also involved with (and quite frankly won) the drama around Lil Wayne and Cash Money by leveraging that controversy to promote Barter 6 last year, and damn if the internet doesn’t love a good narrative.
-Thug’s also just a cool as shit human. He makes any “Young Thug wears dresses!” outrage/controversy sound stupid without really trying. He showed up to Kanye West’s Madison Square Garden show half-awake and still caused buzz. He rode a horse in Atlanta to advertise a tour. In short: he’s fun to write about.
He’s also the internet’s favorite rapper in the sense that his online hype doesn’t translate into high sales or charting. His two biggest selling projects still landed outside the top twenty on the sales chart (I’m Up debuted at #22 the same week fellow ATLien Future debuted at #1), and for how much he’s talked about as rap’s bleeding edge, he gets outdone in airplay by Yo Gotti and Jeremih.
So critics and his fans love him, but he can’t gain traction besides?
Yeah, he’s pretty much the rap version of The Americans.
Would I know him from anything?
I mean, “Lifestyle” wasn’t exactly inescapable, but it was still a hit. Depending on what circles you roll in, you might have heard him on Rae Sremmurd’s “Throw Sum Mo” or more recently his solo joint “Best Friend.” Other than that, probably not.
Really? Even with all those mixtapes? What about him breaking through?
The thing to understand about mixtapes is they’re usually kind of scattershot, and only the windup to the following album’s pitch, like Wayne’s mixtapes leading up to Tha Carter III, or Future into DS2. Thug’s mixtapes have all been good, but they lack a signature performance, and tend to run long. They’re not what I’d call user-friendly, nor do they punch out singles.
So, er, does Young Thug have an album coming out?
Ish? His debut album is one of those “when it happens” deals.
Then why review yet another mixtape of his?
Because I like this one plenty, and it solves a few of his problems, for one. And, well, do you mind if I get all Music Blog insider baseball for a second?
I mean, I guess not.
Cool, just stay with me for a moment. I promise it won’t be a thing. Music writing on the internet gets echo chamber-y at the best of times, and I feel like with Thug in particular, it’s getting stale seeing the same people write about each of his releases in the same ways (not to put to fine a point on the man’s output, but he’s done four mixtapes in six months). What’s more, sites write about Young Thug in a way that assumes everyone just knows who he is already, when that’s not the case, and that sort of insularity irritates me because I feel like music writing is at its best when it’s accessible, hence this kinda silly Q&A format, an–hey, quick checking Twitter!
It’s fine, I got wound up.
You still haven’t described what Young Thug sounds like.
Honestly, just listening to him rap on something like “Best Friend” is going to be more fun than me explaining it, but if we’re gonna do this in writing, here’s what I’d say: the way Young Thug raps borders expressionist. Imagine starting with the frantic, occasionally melodious sort of flow that Lil Wayne had during his Tha Carter III era, or the loosely free-association, switched up cadences Drake or Future dabble in, run that through Andre 3000’s nasally urgency and penchant for verbal tics and yips, and then gut the whole thing down to the words that matter and sing the rest (then add a dozen wet blankets bitching about not understanding him).
But even that seems like the boring way to describe him. Young Thug raps the way you sing or rap along to a song without knowing the words because you’re just so excited to hear it. Or the way that you and your best friend will just talk with each other, and the words matter way less than the fact that you two are communicating. He raps almost like he’s just happy singing along to the beat. Here’s how Shea Serrano describes Thug’s rapping in The Rap Year Book: “Imagine if you could hug your own happiness. Imagine if you took both of your feet and stuck them in a bucket full of warm mud and wiggled your toes around, except that the mud isn’t mud, it’s your soul. That’s how Young Thug raps” (It’s worth mentioning this description is got me to give Thug a listen in the first place). Young Thug is the sort of dude who was known to draw pictures and shapes to write a verse, and I don’t doubt that for a second.
And Slime Season 3?
Oh, right. Slime Season 3 is great. What I meant when I said it solves Thug’s problems is that his formless style tends to get less interesting as a tape goes on, and SS3 sidesteps that by cramming 8 tracks into 28 minutes. And in those tracks, you have workouts like “With Them” and “Digits”, where both the production and Thug sound clearer but no less off the wall than they ever have. “Worth It” is your hypnotic rap warbler here not too far from some of Future’s less belligerent work, while “Slime Shit” has the only guests on the tape. Overall, the whole thing’s slick and accessible; if you’re gonna start anywhere with Thug, SS3 is your best time.
Okay, what’s your favorite s–
“Drippin'”, no question. Thug is absolutely freeflowing here, going between stuttering growls and yips to AutTune stretched lines to manic, down the middle raps all while staying entirely in the beat. Half of his second verse comes out as this bark that bounces perfectly between the ping-pong synth, and after a few seconds it hits you that this isn’t some ad-lib, this is how Thug is gonna do this verse. And then he pivots right out of it into another flow like it’s nothing. Really, the whole song’s a rush because you feel like it shouldn’t work but it does.
That covers Slime Season 3, but when’s the next mixtape out?
No one really knows. SS3 is the last in this series, maybe the album will be next. This is why catching up with Young Thug now is such a great idea, it’s like getting in on the ground. Of another planet.