On August 16, 1991, in Atlanta, Georgia, Jeffery Lamar Williams was born. 27 years later, Jeffery, better known as Young Thug, is a hip-hop anomaly.
Rappers claim to be Martians (hello, Lil Wayne) but few embody the persona of an alien like the Zone 3-bred rock star rapper. Thug is enigmatic enough to convince almost anyone he was hatched on Mars rather than delivered at Grady Hospital or Southern Regional.
A few days before turning 27, Young Thug began touring the country with J. Cole. No fan nor critic had the foresight to see such a pairing when, from 2011 through 2014, Thug took the rap game by storm. But that’s what has always made Thug an enthralling artist; he operates at the very heart of the unpredictable. Who else would send pet snakes to publications to promote an upcoming album? No one but Young Thug.
The baby snakes were delivered with a tracklist for Slime Language, Young Thug’s latest album. Back in February, during an interview with Hypebeast, Thug revealed how having a deaf brother inspired his decision to not release music this year. While Thug has obviously backtracked on this promise, the homage to his brother can be felt on the album’s cover, which is a nod to sign language.
Slime Language, according to a report by The FADER, isn’t a Young Thug solo tape, but rather a compilation project. Only two of the 15 songs on the project feature Thug without a guest. With the excitement surrounding Gunna—an artist’s signed to Thug’s Young Stoner Life label—this is an ample opportunity to present the rest of his roster in a similar fashion as JAY-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.
Young Thug decided to commemorate his birthday with a gift for fans, and he brought friends and family. There’s promise for Slime Language to be a moment, especially since the release coincides with touring with Cole. With his fanbase expanding, if Slime Language can live up to Thug’s previous projects, in particular, 2015's Barter 6, YSL will have a new, solid foundation to build upon.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Eloquent keys. A vibrant Van Gogh yellow. The drums are rumbling like two rhinos colliding. Thug started off with his high-pitched singing. I like this. He’s getting into the rapping, his voice is moving faster than a defensive lineman blitzing the quarterback. “I perfected this rhyming.” Talk your talk, Thugger. The repetitive hook isn’t his best, but the verses are solid. His form of rhyme is so loose, I imagine he just sits in the studio and rhymes for hours. You never know when Thug will bust out a new flow or completely interrupt a rhyme scheme with an eccentric delivery. I’m not mad, but not in love with this one. It’s solid by Thug standards but still falls short of really filling me with excitement for what’s to come.
2. "U Ain't Slime Enough" ft. Karlae & Duke
Singing Thug. I hate when he hits the high pitch. Karlae with a touch of Auto-Tune. Is she from Atlanta? Cool, cool. “I’m going Eeyore.” More Winnie-the-Pooh references in rap songs, please. There were a few fun moments, but she didn’t really sell it. I can’t wait for Thug to go on Genius and annotate what it means to slime someone out. Thug’s verse is strong. “I know niggas getting extorted like a common cold,” sheesh. “I got black diamonds like my grandpa’s snuff.” Yep, there are bars all over this verse. Thug doing his own background vocals is a nice touch. I never got into Duke, but he gave a solid short verse. Thug’s dog-whistle pitch is killing me. There’s no gentleness to his singing; he doesn’t care to be angelic. I appreciate all the ways his voice can morph, but it does become overwhelming.
3. "Gain Clout"
These keys. Oh shit! This is one. Whoever produced this track has the drums dancing! The rhythm is so infectious, it’s like watching a black family perform "Cupid Shuffle" at a family reunion. Thug is blasting off. His words are razor-sharp, the talons of an American eagle. This flow is disgusting. Whoa whoa whoa. So many switches and transitions; Young Thug is like if Transformers were men and not cars. A rhyming Autobot. I wish this one was longer. It’s everything I like about Thug—eccentric and enthralling.
4. "Oh Yeah" ft. HiDoraah
I need the production credits. There are a lot of sonic decisions that feel very new to Thug’s palette. He’s been singing for 30 seconds and no drums have dropped. It’s very soft, what I would like to hear in an elevator at Disney World. “I can’t get enough of codeine.” I’m worried about him, but I’m almost certain he’s invincible. I can’t explain why I like Thug’s singing, but when he finds the perfect pitch, it’s just irresistible. He’s like a bag of Skittles; multiple flavors that somehow complement one another. No one understands why no one questions it. I believe HiDoraah is his sister? She fits well here. Oh, I forgot to mention, the drums finally dropped. The song really built into something solid. Is that an electric guitar back there? It sounds like Thug is really expanding his musical landscape. As much as he experiments, Thug might be more scientist than an artist. I don’t hate it.
5. "Audemar" ft. Tracy T
Back to the trap. What the hell is that sound? It sounds like a kitten trying to say “Skkrt” underwater. Okay! Thug just came in sounding like a ball of fire. I’m impressed by his performances thus far. This is a fast break highlight reel slam dunk. The production sounds like an Iron Giant breakdancing. It’s all clunky and heavy, how I like my trap thumpers. Thug’s voice is an instrument. He’s doing the most bizarre inflection. Tracy is running off with the baton, a stride that would impress Usain Bolt. I’m not mad at his verse. I really can’t wait for Disney to call Jeffery about doing animated animal voices. He has a second calling as a voice actor and no one can tell me different. Early favorite.
6. "Chanel (Go Get It)" ft. Gunna & Lil Baby
Thugger, Gunna, and Lil Baby are the Gohan, Goten, and Trunks of new Atlanta rappers. Thug’s kicking things off. Sounds like a hook. A long hook. Gunna! He is leaning into the beat with such ease. Nice knock. “Got the diamond put in by my dentist.” I can’t imagine how excited his dentist must be when he sees Thugger on the schedule. Thug’s hook gets old by the fifth "She can get it." Baby! I’ve been trying to figure out what makes Lil Baby so infectious, and it’s his voice. He has the kind of Southern rap voice you never get tired of hearing. Pure water. Alkaline, not Aquafina. I like the idea of this song a bit more than the execution. Thug’s hook is good but gets old very fast. Gunna and Lil Baby delivered.
7. "Dirty Shoes" ft. Gunna
Thug is mumbling to himself. Guitar strings and haymaker trap drums. Thug can still get the boom without Metro. Every Thug verse is like watching a different contestant take part in the Slam Dunk Contest. No matter how many times you watch him take off from the free throw line, you can’t take your eyes away. “I know I’m the goat,” no humble bragging. An early favorite. Gunna was tagged in. “You niggas stealing my drip I need a percentage.” Ha, Gunna is not allowing the sauce to be borrowed without getting his piece of the pie. A good verse. Thug back. Beat breakdown. Good song.
8. "It's a Slime" ft. Lil Uzi Vert
Wheezy has been making his case as the best producer in Thug’s corner. He offers a unique touch to his trap beats; they’re different while maintaining a sharp edge. Thug is falling in and out of pockets like a thief in the night. A very free-flowing record. There’s no hook, no structure at all. Lil Uzi Vert just arrived from thin air. I’m almost certain Thug summoned him. This is a good flow for him. Production-wise, I would like to hear Uzi on some Wheezy. Thug’s hooks sound so much like his verses I can almost never tell where one begins and the other ends. Not bad, it’s just not striking. I need the electricity.
9. "Scoliosis" ft. Gunna & Duke
Of course Thugger would have a song called “Scoliosis.” It’s still “Fuck Cancer” by the way. “Black bitch, Keke Palmer.” Mannn, he’s catching flack for that. The production is a monster. It’s the kind of cinematic battering ram that you can say almost anything over and speakers will be turned to the max. Thug is reminiscing on guns in middle school and running from the principal. I can’t wait for his autobiography. He’s making a case here for the best flow thus far. I can’t get over how he bends these words. My only issue is Gunna doesn’t carry the same enthusiasm as Thug. Even Thug’s ad-libs are more lively. I didn't need a monotone verse, not when the beat is begging you to yell, to thrash. Duke just came in with all the gusto I wanted from Gunna. Yeah, if this was solo Thug it would be perfect. Still a keeper.
10. "Goin Up" ft. Lil Keed
Kanye’s seven-song albums really did spoil me. Wait. Before I complain, I’m liking how this sounds. Thug’s voice and background whining are so good together. Whoa, whoa. This might be a spiritual experience. Another strong verse. I just wish he enunciated. Well, he wouldn’t be Thug if he did. Bob Marley reference. I think he called himself Bob. “Goin Up” sounds like the closest thing to a radio record. There’s magic in the hook. It’s the melodic touch. That’s Keed. A quick verse. I remember when Thug sounded like a baby Lil Wayne and now he’s in a world of his own. I’ll keep this one. At least for the hook.
11. "January 1st" ft. Jacquees & Trap Boy Freddy
“I got diamonds on my toes.” Another killer Weezy and Thug collaboration. Cotton-candy production with a rampaging Thugger is a great contrast. “I’m number one, my birthday should’ve been January 1st” is hilariously cool. Jacquees sounds too much like Thug for my liking. I thought he was singing his own hook for the first minute. Trap Boy Freddy is a rap name. Cardi B reference. Yeah, I like this kid. He has a flavor. Nice first impression, Trap Boy. I’ll never understand the music Thug makes. It’s literally a genre of his own creation. Cool second verse. This is one where all the good ideas come together rather well.
12. "Chains Choking Me" ft. Gunna
“I might die from all these chains choking me in my sleep” is such a strange fear. Why not just remove the chains? Why sleep with them!? Gunna is back with a smooth verse. The beats on Slime Language haven’t complimented him as well as I would like. I like the verse, yet, the sound doesn’t seem tailored to his voice like it is for Thug. That’s one thing about him—he always sounds at home. Songs bend to Thug’s imagination, his presence is dominating. Solid song. I’ll return.
13. "STS" ft. Strick
R&B-esque. I love the chords and background vocal loop. Is that a sample? Yo! Thug sounds GOOD. He brought an energy to this record that I didn’t expect. Strick just came in. Haven’t heard of him before. Eh, not too impressed. He’s not ruining the experience; certain beats can’t be tainted. I would’ve preferred if Gunna would’ve caught this vibe. I'm talking cozy like Obama since leaving the White House. Another Thug verse. A slower flow… Nah, he just switched it up. A Dr. Dre and Eminem line but I didn’t catch it. We’ll have to discuss Young Thug the songwriter. There’s a lot of potential for him as a pen.
14. "Expensive" ft. HiDoraah & Dolly
Nice vocals, girls. Dolly starting off. I like her harmonies underneath the hook. Money talk. “Fuck around and I'mma catch a deal.” This is how all rappers feel in the studio. Very loose, very fun. HiDoraah has a nice melodic flow. They could be a cool duo. The hook is working for me. No Thug, huh? Only song not to feature him. I’m not mad at it.
15. "Slimed In" ft. Nechie
Final song. Another production heater. Nechie is handling the hook. He’s not holding my interest. There’s no presence to his voice, no bars sticking. I like the hook, but his contribution could’ve stopped there. “I’m not 2 Chainz, I got 40” hahaha. 40 Chainz would be a horrible rap name. Thug’s voice is probably the deepest it’s been the entire album. No Auto-Tune, no melodic touch. There’s a nice bounce to his verse. Reminds me of Wayne a bit. That was good. Nechie has one more verse to make me a believer. Yeah, I’m not seeing the vision.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Slime Language:
Slime Language is a compilation tape, but it’s more like Thug bringing his YSL signees into his carnival; only HiDoraah and Dolly were given a song outside of Thug's world.
Thug’s personality is so large, he effortlessly becomes the dominating presence. Yet, when trying to fit everyone through the gates, he fails to be as effective. The guest contributions feel too short, poorly timed, or leave a desire for more Thugger. Even Gunna, who is primed to be the next YSL star, isn’t provided the necessary setup to stand out.
As a whole, Slime Language is a collection of cool ideas that aren’t as striking as Young Thug’s solo material. Instead, it puts a magnifying glass over the broad range of rap records Young Thug is capable of making. There’s no commitment to sound or style; Thug will stretch ideas to their final form and move on.
This approach gives Slime Language a song-by-song freshness, something new awaiting as each track begins, but, unfortunately, good ideas aren’t always paired with good execution.
There are parts of nearly every record that I liked, but only a handful of complete songs that I loved or would ever return to for a second listen.
By Yoh, aka Write Boy Yoh, aka @Yoh31