Young Thug has always had a way with words — not necessarily in terms of the words themselves, but with regard to how he says them. His verses may play fast-and-loose with the English language in a way that gives traditional hip-hop heads a heart attack, but it’s never less than fascinating just how Thug emotes through the cadences of his voice. So it’s fitting that the Atlanta trapper’s new album Slime Language gestures toward the creation of a dialect that few could claim fluency in — the few being members of Thug’s Young Stoner Life Records, whose shared billing as co-headliners here gives them a kind of Rosetta Stone. While originally advertised as a solo project, the YSL artists constantly impress for how seamlessly they fit into the auteur’s deliberate soundscape. There’s Karlae (who was once engaged to Thug) passionately rapping “these bitches ain’t slime enough” with such Auto-Tuned verve that she nearly matches Jeffery’s wildly shrill chorus; Gunna (who’s featured on four tracks, more than any of his YSL peers) being the heir to the warbled-mumble throne, finding a way to sound subdued riding the monstrous beat of “Scoliosis” while bragging that his whips come with toilets; and Thug’s sisters, HiDoraah and Dolly, holding it down on their own track while exploring differing vocal approaches on the poppy “Expensive.”
While these artists form a strong sense of cohesion, as a collective, the strongest sole performer here is (unsurprisingly) Thug himself. Coming fresh of his relatively lowkey (and honestly terrible) Hear No Evil EP, it’s exciting to hear Thugger in top form on Slime Language, offering up absurd vocal performances that range from the ear-splitting taunt of “Audemar” (think the gruffness of “Harambe” but with a higher-pitched delivery and more ludicrous lyrics like “I need my bags, man, I’ma come through like Aladdin”), to the country-inflected “Dirty Shoes,” where Thug is casually able to sneak “I just wiped my dick off with the Rolls Royce curtains” into a melody akin to the stickiest of choruses off of last year’s Beautiful Thugger Girls. Even when the rapper settles into a more conventional mode, there’s a certain undeniable timber in his voice that vacillates wildly between low-range mutterings (“Gain Clout”) and high-energy stormers (opener “Tsunami”). Slime Language is such a packed album, in terms of pure strangeness, that when Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Baby show up, they’re completely overshadowed by the performances of both Thug and the YSL crew — which gives hope that the exhilarating oddball style that Thug flaunts, with some inconsistency, doesn’t have to live and die with him alone; that there can slime for all seasons.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 2