Written by: Andrew Kirkpatrick
Rapper/producer Hopsin is one of the worst things to come out of new-school hip-hop. He’s a self-important, holier-than-thou prick whose loud and obnoxious attempts at being “different” only really make him uniquely unlikable. His latest LP, cringe-inducingly titled Pound Syndrome, has a song called “No Words.” The cut finds him trying to talk shit about melodic rappers like Young Thug and Future by loading up on vocal effects and proceeding to sing complete gibberish over a hulking trap beat. Unfortunately for Hopsin, this song is probably the most enjoyable moment on his entire album.
A lot of bitter, misguided rappers and hip-hop nerds have argued for years that Young Thug (among other sing-songy ATL trappers) is not a real MC.
I can’t really argue that Thug makes intellectual music. All I can say is that it’d be unfortunate if you can’t bring yourself to enjoy modern trap music just because it rarely says anything deep and meaningful.
Young Thug’s music may not be especially cerebral, but it is possessed of a strange, drug-addled joie de vivre that’s undeniable. Thug’s Slime Season mixtape series has thus far been the ATL rapper’s best and most large-scale display of his unique and infectious attitude.
Before Slime Season, Thugger’s projects had at least partially obfuscated the weirdo persona that’s now made him something of an icon in modern hip-hop. 1017 Thug, for instance, found him trying to maintain the gritty image of his then-affiliates, the Brick Squad. Meanwhile, Tha Tour (while one of my all-time favorite mixtapes) was a close collaboration with Rich Homie Quan and Birdman, and Thug appropriately toned back his antics in favor of group chemistry. And he evidently made his first high profile solo project, Barter 6, while in some sort of codeine coma; while strangely mesmerizing, the album isn’t exactly a feverish display of inventive songwriting skill.
The Slime Season series, thus, has set the stage for what we can expect from Young Thugger as a solo artist.
Getting into Slime Season 3 itself, I’ll just come right out and say that it’s not as good as its immediate predecessor. SS2 was more expansive, psychedelic, and melodic, and all of Thug’s producers and features were firing on all cylinders through the project’s absurdly long running time. Slime Season 2, simply put, is one of new-school rap music’s best (and weirdest) epics.
So, yes, I have my issues with Slime Season 3 — the posse cut “Slime Shit” keeps Thugger out of the spotlight for far too long in favor of some phoned-in guest verses, regular Thug-collaborator London’s beat on “Memo” is basically the same instrumental as the one he laid down for Thug’s “Imma Ride,” and the project as a whole isn’t as entrancingly melodic as SS2, Barter 6, or Tha Tour.
I still can’t say I’m hugely disappointed, however. Thugger Thugger is one of the most creative MCs out today, and even if Slime Season 3 falls short of the high bar he’s set for himself, it still provides the opportunity to hear an emerging master at work.
The opener, “With Them,” is the perfect demonstration of what makes Young Thug so captivating. Switching flows and cadences on a dime, he spits some impossibly outrageous bars. His punchlines range from hilariously stupid (“She suck on that dick on a plane and I just called her airhead”), to sort of clever (“I’m not talking shit, but I’m ready to shoot some craps”), to simply head-scratching (“Monday morning, got a dentist appointment, lil bitch you can check out the dentures plate / I got so much jewelry, baby, I got so much water this shit like a mini lake”).
These bars certainly don’t represent the sort of lyricism that’s typically revered in hip-hop, but damn if they aren’t entertaining. Thugger is the only artist out right now whose music regularly makes me laugh out loud; just wondering how someone could possibly conceive of the shit that he says without the slightest hesitation is both mindboggling and genuinely funny.
Slime Season 3 is a lean 8 songs, so there’s not a whole lot to delve into. The track that I imagine is going to have the most staying power, however, is the viral “Digits.” London’s beat here is uncharacteristically skeletal, consisting mostly of just one simple synth loops and some drums. That leaves Thug to do all the heavy lifting, and he does so in glorious fashion. The whole song is anchored around its earworm hook (simply “We ran up them digits / We ran up that money”), and he does a great job of building it up as a moment of anthemic catharsis. The way he drags out the syrupy pre-chorus is an especially great masterclass in pop songwriting. And, as could be expected, the lyrics in this section are completely ridiculous as Thugger embarks on some highly questionable philosophizing, claiming “Hustlers don’t stop, they keep goin’ / You can lose your life but it’s gon’ keep goin’ / Why not risk life when it’s gon’ keep goin’ / When you die somebody else was born.” I don’t really know what that means — I’m not sure if it means anything. But I love it.
The brief mixtape closes out with “Problem,” which is both a potent dose of triumphalism in its own right and a fantastic conclusion to the Slime Season series. Thug’s strange lyricism is at its peak here, as each bar is more amazingly confounding than the last. He starts his first verse with “I got that blue cheese, I’m not ranchin’ / I done took off a boot, now I’m Paris Hilton dancing / And I feel like Marilyn Manson and I want a fuckin’ Grammy” and closes the song out with “I’ll shoot him with a bow and arrow / Yeah, my bitch is a motherfuckin’ horse with no saddle / Yeah, shoot that bitch one time with a double barrel.”
Just like any form of music, hip-hop is in dialogue with itself, and I’ve listened to enough rap music in my life that I can generally pick up on even some rather opaque imagery, references, and double-entendres fairly quickly. Young Thug is so entertaining because he seems to have dodged this cultural conversation entirely; some of his lyrics are straightforward, of course, but when he spits bars like those mentioned above, I honestly have no idea what the fuck he’s talking about. Ultimately, that willingness to rap with reckless abandon, stringing together words that no other rapper (or human being in general) has ever thought to place next to each other is what makes Thugger so compelling.
Even if Slime Season 3 seems destined to register as a minor work in Young Thug’s catalogue, the fact he can’t be measured up to any standards other than his own speaks to just how unique and necessary of a voice he’s become.