As a fan, Young Thug’s evolution has been a joy to behold. First he was the sonic successor of peak-experimental Lil Wayne on 1017 Thug. Then the hungry ATL understudy to Gucci Mane on Young Thugger La Flare. He went on to forge his most solid project to date on the low-key Barter 6, before rattling off “I’m UP” alongside three hard-as-fuck Slime Season projects. He then metamorphosed into the dress-wearing JEFFERY on the iconic album of the same name last year. And now, in 2017, he’s the legless, country-crooning “Black Christian Grey” on the brilliant "singing album" that is Beautiful Thugger Girls. YEE-HAW!
And yet, there's a feeling that despite Young Thug’s meticulous (but minimal) teasing of Beautiful Thugger Girls that the wider hip-hop community simply isn't arsed with Thugger’s latest work. This goes some way in explaining the direction has gone down on his latest; those wanting to hear him over explosive 808, bass-laden trap beats akin to 1017 Thug or Slime Season will be disappointed. But those who're invested to Thug's weirder and more wonderful qualities will fully embrace Beautiful Thugger Girls for what it is: well-executed, post-modern pop music.
Antony Fantano (The Needle Drop) recently delivered his review of the album. Just like he did with Future’s HNDRXX, he found the whole “emotional trap” sentiments throughout the album hard to swallow, saying that Young Thug “slipped into genres of music that demand more thoughtful, poetic lyrics.” He’s (yet again) excruciatingly wrong on so many levels. Insinuating that is, as one Twitter user commented “really insulting to musicians and is low key kinda racist.” Just because Young Thug comes with a label of ‘trap rapper’ does in no way mean his lyrical content should be regarded any differently to the Blake Shelton or Keith Urbans of this world.
Simply put, Thug has delivered his most earnest and wholesomely candid album to date. The ATL rapper-turned-singer subverts the stylings of White America’s most popular genre into a sonic concoction of “at least 8” genres according to the album’s mix engineer, Alex Tumay. You could easily count more. So it seems fair to say that Thug’s spawned his very own, inimitable genre.
There is an incredible amount of juxtaposition throughout the album. There’s the undoubted love of his beau, Jerrika, alongside the lust of all the other 'beautiful thugger girls' that are seemingly still very much a part of his life. Whilst his monogamy is questionable, an undoubted album highlight is "You Said," where he begins the song aggressively calling out someone for "talking shit" over the phone as a nonchalant Latino guitar plucks breezily away in the background. It's contrasts like this that make Young Thug such a compelling artist, and this album such a compelling listen.
The feature list is indicative of the direction Thugger is seeking to go down with this album. Recruiting the unknown Milly Go Lightly to sing beautifully over melodic masterpieces “Family Don’t Matter” and “She Wanna Party” is genius. As is recruiting fellow trap maven Casanova Future on the bubblegum beat heard on “Relationships,” as well as enlisting Snoop Dogg for one of his most solid guest verses in recent memory on “Get High.” There's also some very poignant moments from him too. Memories of Thug's self-conscious past of hiding his now-glistening mouth are brought about when he tells his baby to keep her "teeth straight.”
Young Thug has always used his voice as a form of instrumentation in his music, but never as enjoyably as he has done here. Instead of being indebted to production, Beautiful Thugger Girls is quite the opposite; Thugger's vocals are, again, the highlight throughout. Musing over love on tracks like “Do U Love Me,” “Feel It” and “Me Or Us,” the album’s more melodic trap beats are where Thug’s latest manifestation is heard clearest. He continues to be one of the most progressive artists not just in hip-hop, but in wider popular music.
Despite flaunting the multitudes of wealth and women throughout the album (as expected), Thugger is clearly in love with his girlfriend. And just as the title suggests, Beautiful Thugger Girls is a celebration of all the women he has in in his life - akin to a lot of the messages held in country music. He might be a bit off saying that he's “this generation’s 2pac,” in terms of picture-painting lyricism. But in terms of innovation and honesty in hip-hop, Young Thug stays setting the precedent, with his most curiously grand work yet.
For more of our recent hip-hop reviews, read how 2 Chainz cemented his place in the Mount Rushmore of Trap on 'Pretty Girls Like Trap Music' right here.