Written by Kelmen J Dindinger
Young Thug has been a viral internet sensation since around this time in 2016, when he dropped his widely acclaimed commercial mixtape, Jeffery. Aside from the songs themselves, all uniquely named and highlighting Thug’s eccentric style and approach to rap music, the mixtape garnered a great deal of internet attention because its album cover featured Thug posing seductively in a baby blue dress. Creating controversy worldwide, the reasons behind this choice were never quite revealed; Thug always refused comment on it. That is, until now. Finally, three years later, he drops a single bar on his official debut studio album explaining the choice, and because of this and a number of other reasons, the internet’s still blowing up all around him.
In the album’s opening track, “Just How It Is”, Thug explains exactly that; just how things are now. It seems only fitting that here is where he decides to finally comment on the dress: “Had to wear the dress ‘cause I had a stick.” Thug later clarified that he was concealing an AK-47 (just for fun?) beneath the dress. Not necessarily the explanation we’d all been hoping for, but with the infectious swagger he brings to the track, no one seems disappointed. We all just nod along and move on (except for those of us making memes of it; but more on this later). The song comes off as surprisingly introspective, and has Thug in rare form as he elaborates on his status as a rising rap star, and its effects on his life. “I can no longer disguise it, bitch, ’cause I’m rich/
I got cars galore, lil’ bitch, ’cause I’m rich/
I escaped every one of the licks ’cause I was supposed to be rich/
I don’t care nothin’ ’bout no cop, I’m tellin’ you just how it is”
While not quite the profound lyrics one might hope for in 2019, the words are surprisingly fun to sing along with, have an undeniable swagger to them, and are exactly what Thug feels the need to say. This ultimately becomes a large theme behind the album itself; shallow, overly repetitive words over consistently banging beats that certainly never become “transcendental” music of any sort, but because of Thug’s exuberant personality and unique approach to even something as mundane as a debut studio album, it’s still so goddamned fun that even the most “serious” rap listener is bound to succumb to the overwhelming beats and the silly, almost juvenile but terribly fun words they’re laced with. Even coming from a more traditional rap fan like myself, I’ve gotta admit I still got much of Thug’s new album stuck on repeat. And seemingly, the best part about this album is that Thug evidently doesn’t give a f#@k about anything. He’s just here to have fun with it, and he does just that.
Because of the almost deplorable state modern rap has found itself basking in (an over-saturation of short tracks designed to garner as many plays as possible), a track-by-track album review of 19 distinct, separate songs is rather inconceivable. Instead, I’ll make a few comments on what surprised me most throughout the entirety of the album and then go into the highlights, the honorable mentions, and the low points of the album.
Contrary to the expectations modern rap’s created, I was pleasantly surprised to find that often Thug was at his best on the featureless tracks. It seemed that he frequently would change his own unique energy to match or compliment his featured artists (as is evident on “Sup Mate” ft. Future), and more often than not, this feels like Thug dumbing himself down. The typical recipe for success in this rap game is to boast a few big-name features, to garner more listens and get people’s attention, but personally I was the least impressed by most tracks featuring a well-known rapper (Future, Quavo, 21 Savage, etc.) Thug just doesn’t seem to bring the whole of his exuberant and inviting personality to these tracks, and instead tries to be “the modern rapper” he feels he should try to be. One of the major latent disappointments within the album, but what are you gonna do? These tracks are, even then, still pretty fun, they just don’t feel like the well-rounded “best” showcase of Thug’s eccentricity and that in and of itself is a let-down.
And I was very pleasantly surprised when, by the end of a couple listen-throughs, Thug really made me consider what music is, what it should be, and what it can do. While still not chalked full of “progressive” lyrics that we’d hope from a late 2019 release, Thug does excel at one unexpected thing: reminding us music is more than just words, or beats, or beats and words. Above all, he shows us that music is about the energy the words bring to the beats, and vice versa. Thug brings it all in a tightly wound shiny ball of essentially unbridled joy. It’s difficult to listen to this album and not enjoy it; it’s almost impossible even to avoid singing along with the almost painfully catchy and repetitive hooks. Even for those who consider themselves “too good” for Thug’s particular brand of music, they’ll find that beneath the predictable shallow rap lyrics and excessive, almost typical-sounding banging beats is a soul trying its hardest to spread goodness into the world through the medium of mindless, catchy music that, at the end of the day, everyone can (and should) enjoy. He just wants us all to have some fun. Surprisingly refreshing, but a revelation I’m glad I stumbled across. After all that, it’s basically impossible not to call this album undeniably fun.
The Highlights: “The London” feat. J Cole and Travis Scott. Arguably the biggest single of the summer, this track has by far the farthest reach of any and all of Thug’s recent release. Not only is Thug excelling at exactly what he does well (unique energy, atypical crooning that catches your ear, funny lyrics and beats that feel just fresh enough to be amazing, fun, but somehow familiar too), but both his features are at the top of their game. Cole’s verse evidently isn’t him at the tip top of his game, but that doesn’t stop him from spitting some real and bumpable bars. It feels like he’s just dropping bars for the fun of it, and this is exactly what the track, and the album, needs. And in this day and age, you can’t go wrong with Travis Scott on the hook. His voice is just perfectly suave, and he’s on the track just enough to give a cool, light fun energy. Again, exactly what the song needs. All in all, you’ve got three essential rap stars working together at the top of their game, blending together brilliantly, and producing, in my opinion, the best song of the summer. A must-listen.
“Ecstasy”. The beat is immediately inviting, and quickly drops to being the most impossible-to-resist beat on the entire album. Five seconds in, and you’ll be bobbing your head. Truly the best beat around, and Thug in turn brings his most infectious and just starkly fun energy to match the beat perfectly. One of the unexpected bangers off the album, I promise it’ll be stuck on repeat in no time. Maybe the exemplary track of the album, because it’s just so goddamn fun and seriously impossible to resist.
“What’s The Move” feat. Lil Uzi Vert. When was the last time you heard a banging rap song from two of rap’s biggest rising stars where the beat was 808s over early morning bird noises? Never, that’s when. Thug cements himself as a true pioneer with this track, where for a lot of the song it’s just Thug or Vert rapping over birds chirping. He’s always had a flare for unique beats, and this might be his apex. Not only is the beat refreshing and bizarrely pleasant, but both Thug and Vert bring their distinctive styles to paint the track the exact colors it needs. Overall, this song is the crisp spring morning that everyone’s been looking for.
Honorable Mentions: Hot and Surf (both ft. Gunna), Bad Bad Bad (ft. Lil Baby), Light It Up, and Lil Baby (the track right after Lil Baby’s feature). With the last one, Thug pays homage to his previous knack for finding the most unique, interesting, and exciting names for his songs, which helped him gain popularity earlier in his career. While not quite the best tracks off the album, these are all definitely worth a listen and are likely to be bumped anywhere rap is listened to.
Low Point: Future’s Verse on “Sup Mate”. As previously mentioned, some of the larger features on this album fall entirely flat on their face, and this is the most obvious one. It seems evident Future was extremely high on something during recording, and Thug, always doing his best to match the energy of his features, dips too far into the ridiculous and nonsensical energy Future too often brings. The track is still surprisingly fun, and might even be one of the harder songs to avoid singing along to once you know the words, but still, it is by far the worst moment off the album. Future’s verse is so devoid of creativity or craft that it actually hurts to listen to, especially coming from a “bon a fide rap star”. It mostly consists of Future saying a few phrases over and over again (notably: “Wipe ‘er nose”), and a series of weird guttural noises and grunts that, without Kanye’s distinct energy and inherent link to the “soul of humanity”, falls foolishly short and gets nowhere near to selling itself. In the end, it feels evident that Future fails wholeheartedly here, and, in turn, drags this track down into the depths of extreme mediocrity. It’s still fun, but at what cost?
But at the end of the day, this whole album is a testament to Young Thug, his energy, his creative choices, his once-in-a-lifetime personality, and his internet legacy. Beyond the dress bit, and the already largely memed album cover, never before have I seen so many memes made out of the songs themselves or images from the music videos. Even the dress picture has become a meme now. A week into the release, and it already seems to be the most pop-culture significant album to be released in the past few years. And crazy enough, a lot of the memes are pretty hilarious, and really make you excited to hear the songs in a different, unexpected environment. This seemed to be something rather new regarding the music world, but nevertheless very intriguing. Seeing all those memes and hearing everyone talk about this album, it really solidifies it as the modern internet generation’s album.
While most of the album inevitably blends together a bit sonically, you can clearly identify it as a Young Thug work because of his quirky energy and unique use of his voice to croon, screech, etc. The music is fun, distinctly Young Thug, distinctly banging, and distinctly summer. Almost the perfect salute/send off summer album, it’s certainly the perfect way to showcase (and officially debut) the exciting, exuberant personality of one of rap’s biggest rising stars, and have a lot of fun learning to love the colorful and entrancing mind of Young Thug. Ultimately, Thug has so much fun drooling over the elated, bubbly bop beats that he nearly subverts the whole modern music trap (monotony; mindless lyrics over a blaring mindless beat) and gives us exactly what the title promises: SO MUCH FUN.
PS: if you’re a Young Thug fan, check him out on the new Post Malone single, “Goodbyes”.