Compose Yourself

Photo by author.

There’s something really important happening in rap. It’s not so much that Young Thug is its leader—it’s foolish to think that way in an art form so intricately patterned with reference and relation—as he is the one pointing to the bounty that awaits those who kill their masters.

“A wise man told me nothing.” So far, in the four hours since it’s dropped, that’s the standout line for me from Slime Season 2. Illustrating this perfectly is the album art featuring Thug’s hands expertly manipulating the strings of his self-made puppet. He is not his art: he’s the possessor of the power (and means? and conditions?) that pushes expression through it.

SS2 isn’t so much a sequel as a fulfillment: realizing the dream of every artist to become a sovereign without exerting force. This iconoclastic stance notably echoes Thug’s once-idol (now: ?) Wayne who also sang no predecessor’s praise on No Ceilings‘ “Oh Let’s Do It”: “I keep them tools on me / Get the screwface / Flowers for the dead / Here’s a bouquet.”

Experimental collaborators are undoubtedly crucial to releasing this kind of material, but self-composition is its own special prize.

Some quick notes compiled at first listen:

• while I do miss the delirious crunk vibe of Slime Season this turnt Netflix & chill one is OK too;

• there’s such easy control in Thug’s voice, evidence of a true innovator holding relaxed reign over his ultra-stylized syncopation and variation;

• the engineering production (from Alex Tumay) is smooth and highly consistent from track to track, its aural richness and precision never overpowering the unpredictable shifts and slides in Thug’s vocal landscape;

• though it might share with ?What a Time to Be Alive the polish of a studio album and the quickly-lit furnace of internet buzz, SS2 is more voluminous (20+ tracks) and off the cuff (e.g. Thug taking a polite aside to introduce Atlanta producer Wheezy as a new collaborative partner);

• the combinatorial power that makes Thug Thug is in full effect here, but at the center of all the free play is a big, red, juicy pumping heart;

• that heart is beating wildly and unapologetically for a lover or girlfriend than an ex-ed out ex (?see: #WATTBA);

• more cannabis resin than codeine vapor;

• I was hoping for more tracks from LondonOnDaTrack and Southside (who still hold a respectable number of producer spots) but “Raw (Might Just)” from Treasure Fingers pushes and stretches Thug’s additive sound in a soulful and confident direction;

• “Flaws” is the fastest octane I’ve heard someone rap—and speed is a piss-poor indicator of brilliance—just before slowing their delivery into a whooshy smoothie blend … only to unbalance and ignite it all over again;

• there’s almost no decent music criticism of Thug except for what the thoroughfares of these internet streets have to say about him—and unlike more established, marquee-name “stars,” he takes great latitude in responding to the swelling demand for new tracks with timely, dizzyingly prolific, high-note scream output;

• there are almost no major awards and accolades thrust upon Young Thug from any corner of the music industry; that reveals far more about their prejudices and “taste”-induced impairment than it does about him.