Young Thug and Lil Yachty blow up the world’s biggest genre
THE SANTA CLARA
March 31, 2016
Rap has entered its Punk age. The once-groundbreaking genre has been codified after nearly three decades. It has sprawled into a behemoth that even its most innovative artist, Kanye West, couldn’t expand upon in his recent effort, “The Life of Pablo.” And what started with the colorful anarchy of Odd Future has blossomed into the tight-ripped-jeans-wearing, facial-pierced, rail-thin Young Thug, who just released his most mature album to date, “Slime Season 3.”
Like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Ramones, Young Thug broke into the game experimenting with the conventions of the genre’s past, but infusing it with an energy that forsook polish for raw personality. He blurred his barbaric yawps with wobbly autotune and took the hallmarks of rockstars and rapstars, ripped them up and stitched them back together again, weaving in a few of his own threads.
The Ramones released four albums in three years, but they were restricted by the physical distribution era. Young Thug has shotgunned his manic, sonic lunacy into the cloud with reckless abandon at a far more prolific pace. He took the loopy logic of prime Lil Wayne and threw that sound into a washing machine full of lean and diamonds. The projects didn’t go for cohesion—his to-date discography bounces about with ADHD experimentation.
His mega hit, “Best Friend,” flouted the homophobic past of hip-hop, calling his friends the rather soft moniker of “besties.” The dress-wearing pioneer repudiated hatefulness. He dodged any brainless mocks because most were too busy wrapping their heads around him—the music video featured him in white face eating at a dinner table where his yapping head was also the main course. He opened up the genre as his sound stuck like a burr in your brain.
The unpolished efforts promoted him to a messianic plane within certain listening circles. But he failed to plunge fully into the mainstream. Non-diehards held out for a more refined effort that could be enjoyed all the way through without having to cull out the hits.
“Slime Season 3” is this—a compact 8-song effort that lasts just a little bit longer than an episode of “The Office.” It represents the distillation and epitomization of all that Young Thug is. If you’ll ever like him, it’ll be here.
Each song on the album bangs. “With Them” features perky, propulsive synths and a bassline that sounds like it was played by whacking mallets on taut transmission belts. “Memo” kicks off with a Thugger rooster call, then crackles and pops between gigantic claps, while he announces his impending dominance with schizophrenic glee.
“Drippin’” marks the album’s energetic highpoint. Young Thug compares his member to a ruler over an undulating tweaked xylophone. Then, he bellows a word I’m not allowed to say and rides it into a crest where he just screams incoherently—the effect hits like the foot-long shot Vic Vega slammed into Mia Wallace’s heart during “Pulp Fiction.” “Worth It” marks the tenderest moment, a wistful ode to a baddie disowned by her own mother, but who makes Thugger feel something deep regardless. It’s a classic—slurry and adoring, even when the bars rank among the freakiest in modernity.
On the album, he keeps his spontaneity, but establishes himself as someone who can no longer be dismissed as a mixtape rapper. He counters Kendrick. Whereas the Compton poet wrangles with the socio-economic troubles of Earth, Young Thug rockets into an extraterrestrial, interdimensional sonic realm of trippy world building.
Like rock before it, rap has bloated into a gaudy goliath. It’s a cruise ship chugging unimpeded through calm seas, which is comfortable, but borders on becoming boring. So Young Thug careens through it in a wheelchair, wearing a cheetah-print neck pillow and eating Nilla wafers while readying the dinghies to abandon ship.
In related news, the 18 year-old Lil Yachty just released “Lil Boat The Mixtape.” The intro to his concept project samples “Finding Nemo” and introduces us to his “two nephews:” Lil Boat who raps with confident astonishment about his newfound fame; and Lil Yachty who is a blurry autotuner with emotive force, welcoming folks with an endless, gooey hello.
Lil Boat hammers home an absurdly catchy hook on “Wanna Be Us” that floats between frosty, galactic keys and lays down gems like ‘put it in like a finger roll’ with a deadpan delivery lifted from the Based God. “Run/Running” meanders moodily over five minutes of skipping pan flutes, cloud-light chimes and N64 power-ups—Lil Yachty’s voice weaves through an ever-shifting composition like a melancholy saxophonist.
On “1Night” depressed keys cradle Lil Boat’s conflicting desires for intimacy and the reality that he “can’t have no wife,” especially when his “trife” women demonstrate questionable fidelity and stronger allegiances to his icy lifestyle.
His adlibs ricochet through the tracks, bolster the beats and will leak out of your mouth for hours afterwards during absentminded moments. He lures you into trance-like states by meditating on exceptionally executed hooks, tweaking them in each iteration over arrangements and noises that just sorta haven’t existed before.
I don’t know if this is even hip-hop anymore. Rap might be dead. Rap might be experiencing a Renaissance. Rap might be transitioning into an entirely new genre. What’s certain is the genre’s newest pioneers have torched convention, and are punking around with the melted echoes.
Contact John Flynn at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.