Young Thug is a spectacle. His personal quirks — the tutu, his not-quite-there interview presence, and his fluid use of “bae,” to name a few — don’t come across as intentionally subversive. Young Thug exists in Squigglevision. He flips common maxims into something extraterrestrial. He wantonly throws around umlauts, macrons, and accent graves. Then, after tracks like “Best Friend”, common phrases like “on fleek” belong to Young Thug. Days before two of rap’s moody superpowers joined forces, Young Thug delivered yet another solid project with Slime Season. On one hand, the mixtape placates those waiting on the again-delayed Hy!£UN35. But this tape doesn’t come to a mass of starving anticipation; Slime Season comes at a time of Young Thug saturation.
Slime Season finds Thugger mastering new conduits to express his idiosyncrasies in addition to spreading like marmalade over familiar territory. “That’s All” recalls the glistening lens of “Lifestyle”, although he fits more modesty in between his yodels (“Bitch, I am a monster, I know I am a lil’ ugly”). In the heavily memed “Best Friend”, he flips a social media moment into a lean standout. Ricky Racks’ tangled but beguiling riff is a launch pad for Thug’s glitches and the mid-coital manner in which he punctuates his hooks.
While “Best Friend” is one of Slime Season’s indisputable highlights, it’s also somewhat of an ironic one. The project is at its best when it finds an anchor for the rapper’s perpetual weightlessness. For the most part, it manages to do so by pulling from Barter 6’s bleakness and letting Thug mold himself around the added sinew. That Young Thug was able to find a cast of producers to keep up with his infectious nuttiness is a small miracle, and here those beatsmiths draw some physicality from his voice.
Following “Take Kare” and its spry Lil Wayne appearance,“Quarterback” finds Thug spreading shrapnel of Atlantan prose. It’s a sparse, shrill number that explodes on every bass thump, but Thug is unbothered and adaptive, slipping from percussive patterns to sleazy syllable stretches. It’s an exciting track in itself, but it also opens the door for a high-octane Quavo verse (“Green diamonds like a dill pickle”). Thug snaps on to Southside’s bacchanal right after on “Rarri”, where he runs from those notorious ad libs to aggressively rolling Rs like a nasal Howlin’ Wolf.
Thug malfunctions on the brooding, Isaac Flame-produced “Stunna”: He interrupts his boastful hook with a tortured bark, but not quite tortured enough to stop his trip to Haiti. This isn’t just to say that the tape starts with a strong four-song run. It’s a harrowing example of Young Thug’s ability to cover multitudes. He simply needs the right vehicle. For further proof, see “Overdosin” and the schizophrenic presence he weaves within Ricky Racks’ claustrophobic production.
By the time Slime Season closes — as a “she wanna fuck me in the kitchen” tumbles out of Young Thug’s throat after the last beat of “Wanna Be Me” — you’re left with confidence in his combustible persona. It’s not because he reveals anything revelatory about himself, but because Thugger’s performances are revelatory in themselves. His work is constantly rooted in improvisation, an inherently thrilling concept that’s embedded itself in black music. So, maybe Young Thug isn’t so alien in that aspect. However, rappers who’ve mastered it to this level are in short supply.
Essential Tracks: “Best Friend”, “Quarterback”, and “Rarri”