Jeffrey Lamar Williams, the American rap goblin Young Thug, has unquestionably become one of the most prominent acts in the hip-hop community. He’s done so, in part, by being one of the most collaborative, hard-working artists the genre has to offer, releasing seven full-length projects that have made the Billboard 200 chart, all in the last four years. Very few artists could release that much music while maintaining the kind of quality he has. Simply put, in more ways than one, Young Thug is a freak of nature.
I am a humongous fan of Young Thug’s discography; titles such as “Slime Season” trilogy, “Barter 6″ and his compilation mixtape with Future, “SUPER SLIMEY,” are, in my mind, some of his greatest works. So, when Young Thug released the compilation album, “Slime Language,” in August, you can imagine I was ecstatic.
My anticipation was especially strong because the work is classified as a studio album, while his previous projects were labeled as mixtapes. I thought this could be the moment Young Thug would pull together all the skills he’s shown across his extensive discography and create a cohesive project. Up until then, “BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS” was the closest the rhymer had come to crafting a quality, full-length project that held listeners’ attention from start to finish. I thought to myself, “Could ‘Slime Language’ be the perfect medium between his old aggression and new-found R&B and soft guitar style?’”
Unfortunately, the compilation album failed to meet my optimistic expectations. The 15-track collection is stretched thin and contains numerous pitfalls. Despite the lack of overall quality, there are still a few enjoyable moments on the track list. However, it is difficult to enjoy these bright spots because they are isolated between tracks plagued with empty space, unambitious choruses and lazy song structure.
On a similar note, it feels as though Young Thug’s right-hand man, the wordsmith Gunna, had an underwhelming presence on the album, especially given that he’s the only act under Young Thug’s label experiencing a rapid growth in listeners. He should have been the centerpiece of the project, yet neither he nor Thugger really leave much of an memorable impression. If you are looking for an album to kick back and play through in entirety, you should stray away from “Slime Language.”
So, what does this setback mean for Young Thug? Well, the album was not a complete failure; the song “Chanel (Go Get it) (ft. Gunna & Lil Baby)” ended up being a viral hit. The performances from Gunna and Lil Baby were strong over the intoxicatingly upbeat instrumental. Similarly, the production on “U Ain’t Slime Enough (ft. Karlae & Duke),” “Gain Clout,” “Scoliosis (ft. Gunna & Duke)” and “Chains Choking Me (ft. Gunna)” are layered, diverse and noteworthy ear pleasures. Therefore, there was no worry that Young Thug was pulling a Trinidad James and going out of business.
However, the flaws on this album may have turned away new listeners and hindered potential growth for future music. The nauseating “Audemar (ft. Tracy T)” is a key example of when “Slime Language” gets much too wacky to be enjoyable. Young Thug’s obnoxiously squealed “slatt-slatt-slatt…” refrain that opens and closes the song is horrific. The artist’s autotuned yelling during the song’s chorus, mixed with the terrible lyrics on the track, make it a complete disaster. Likewise, songs like “It’s a Slime (ft. Lil Uzi Vert),” “Oh Yeah (ft. HiDoraah)” and “Expensive (ft. HiDoraah & Dolly)” are abominable duds in the lavish environment Young Stoner Life Records attempts to create. These underwhelming components make it less likely that listeners will download an entire album from Young Thug.
Then, out of nowhere, Young Thug blessed his long-time fans on Sept. 24 with his new EP, “On the Rvn.” The rapper improves on his previous missteps with slick flows, well-thought-out verses and creative hooks. For instance, the chorus in the song “Climax (ft. 6LACK)” contains vulnerable vocals from Young Thug, supported by a gentle female vocal sample in the background; the combination of the two is beautiful. The catchy refrain plays throughout the entirety of the song and acts as the cherry on top of its ethereal, yet bass-quaking sound. Rap and R&B artist 6LACK contributes a smooth verse to follow the first chorus that complements the overall experience of the track. Young Thug also includes a dramatically animated verse to the song, making it, all in all, a wholesome track.
The subsequent song, “Sin (ft. Jaden Smith),” is an ostentatious duplicate of “Climax.” The tandem of tracks in the heart of the EP are produced by London On Da Track. “Sin” is a bumpy ride with a jiggy, whispered hook and hypnotizing rhythm. Young Thug and featured artist Jaden Smith trade quick verses that glide over the “sinful” concoction. The song is an unapologetic mosh pit instigator that will get anyone with a pulse shaking.
“On the Rvn” closes with the spiritual release “High.” The song is centered around a vocal sample from Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Sometimes when modern rap artists try to incorporate classic songs (especially works as popular as “Rocket Man”) into their music, it can come off cheesy, forced or simply recycled. Instead of falling into that category, Young Thug strategically chose to not root the sample as the main attraction to the song.
Instead, the artist’s autotuned vocals harmonize with the distorted sample which evokes a euphoric sound for the listener. The artist also gets personal on the track when he confesses, “I spent a fortune all on double seals / If I tell you the numbers you’ll probably cry,” and the beat fades out behind his vocals. Surprisingly, this part of the song deeply stirs emotions due to the reality of his substance abuse in the eyes of his kids and other loved ones. The verses on “High” only accelerate the song further into the stars. The track is a beautiful conclusion to the versatile extended play.
It’s very difficult for even the most skeptical critic to poke holes in “On the Rvn.” The EP is the complete work I’ve been hoping for. Even the less dominant tracks, such as “Real in My Veins (ft. T-Shyne)” and “Icey,” would be outstanding on a typical rapper’s studio album. The hollow quality of “Slime Language” may have steered some hip-hop fans to doubt Young Thug’s abilities, but his newest output reaffirms Thugger’s one-of-a-kind talent.