Slime Season 2 is Young Thug toned down, and for skeptics who are still keeping up with the Atlanta rapper in hopes that they’ll eventually “get” him, that’s a good thing. In essence, Thug keeps the term “ATLien” updated for the molly generation. Using his voice as an instrument (or instruments), he switches his flow so often you never know whether he’s about to swan dive into a beat’s pocket or explode in an entirely unpredictable direction. It’s that constant gear-shifting that keeps his defenders defensive and gives fuel to his naysayers. Where the first group praises his hooks, which can catch in your brain when you least expect them, the second says those pieces only stick after enough listens, and can’t that be said about most music? Fortunately, SS2 offers Thug’s peculiarities in streamlined form, making it easier for both camps to admire his strengths.
On Thug’s first mixtapes, there was a gap between his inventiveness as a vocalist and the simplicity of the beats underneath him. He would have a fully formed aesthetic, the argument went, if he could develop closer relationships with producers ready to pre-adjust to his eccentric style. That happened when he, Rich Homie Quan, and Birdman worked extensively with London on da Track for Rich Gang’s Tha Tour Part 1, and it’s continued with each of Thug’s three 2015 solo releases: April’s Barter 6, September’s Slime Season, and now SS2, released on Halloween. Here, over production from the likes of Southside, London on da Track, Metro Boomin, and Wheezy, Thug alternates between thunderous trap rap and airy hip-pop, a collection of beats that are appropriately spacious and balanced for him to be both comfortable and chameleonic.
On its most memorable songs, SS2 recaptures some of the melodic magic that made Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle” the biggest song Thug has to his name. The Trouble-featuring “Thief in the Night”, “Hey, I”, the Rich Homie Quan team-up “Never Made Love”, and “Raw (Might Just)” are smooth, controlled songs that make earlier Thug tracks like 1017 Thug’s Spanglish spaz-out “2 Cups Stuffed” and the equally unhinged “Picacho” seem worlds behind. That’s not necessarily a positive for Thug fans who follow him for his abrasive quirks, but at the same time, SS2 is proof that he can put together a sleekly catchy song easily enough. If Thug is a genius songwriter after all, that genius can be heard in these songs.
Elsewhere, Thug allows his wildest impulses to flow without restraint. He sounds totally removed from convention on songs like “She Notice” and “All Over”; suffice it to say that the first song’s flat singing and the second’s garbled chorus aren’t for everyone. Thug is also extremely horny here, comparable to Lil Wayne on I Am Not a Human Being II. That excess doesn’t merit any gold stars in itself, but Thug’s manic energy does pay dividends on songs like “Big Racks”, a menacing lurch steadied by his persistent delivery.
For fans arguing that he’s today’s most exciting young rapper, things get problematic when digging into Thug’s lyrics. Despite his wealth of pop culture references, let’s be honest: He’s one of rap’s most formulaic lyricists. He’s both “hotter than a Taki” and “hot like a Pocket” on “She Notice”. Elsewhere, he draws too much attention to weak lines: “You can have my son, no Phoenix,” goes the awkward chorus to “Phoenix”. Simply put, the idea that Thug is possessed with superpowers at all stages of his creative process needs to go. It’s good enough that he has fun here with lines like “Brand new Rollie, I’m living sporty/ Flood you with gold like a trophy.” The fact that SS2 allots space to regional rappers like Atlanta’s Trouble and Shad Da God instead of relying on established stars suggests that Thug isn’t as focused on showcasing his current clout as he is in establishing a solid base of collaborators. If you want true avant-garde hip-hop, you’re better off looking elsewhere. If it’s a melodic, cohesively produced collection of rap songs you’re after, you could do a lot worse.
Essential Tracks: “Hey, I”, “Mind Right”, and “Raw (Might Just)”