It’s been a while since I’ve indulged in trap music. I’m more attracted to the calming nature of R&B music. But this highly anticipated Young Thug album gained my attention, primarily from the live Tiny Desk Concert provided by NPR. Thug has always been a master at blending and even creating new genres, and this album is no different. You still have the traditional hard rap and trap elements with the introduction to — as the album name alludes to — a rock element (shoutout Travis Barker), and a straying from the norm with some slower, more intimate songs that take advantage of classical string instruments. Despite traversing through several genres, Young Thug still holds tight to his signature sound and creates an enticing listen.
Aside from Thug’s consistency, he harnessed and collected coveted features like Infinity Stones. We see J. Cole, Gunna, the late Juice WRLD and Mac Miller, Post Malone, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Travis Scott, and Doja Cat. While the album is quite lengthy, coming in at right over an hour, it is definitely worth a listen — especially if you need that dose of catchy trap music. The project feels very complete, a full narrative, something that is often lacking in trap albums. You could argue this album goes beyond the label of “trap” as it pulls elements from so many other genres. Overall, the general vibe of the album is very calm, personal, and revealing of a more thoughtful and sensitive artist. That being said, there are still the hype trap songs that will take over the radio-waves here soon. I expect this album to receive high acclaim to the likes of JEFFERY and Barter 6.
If you don’t listen to any other songs, you should listen to the following: “Die Slow”, for context and setting the tone of the album; “Stressed”, to see how well two of the greatest artist of this generation mesh; “Rich Nigga Shit”, for that nostalgic, throwback trap Thug that we all love (and a feature from Juice WRLD); “Scoliosis”, for the pure lyricism and effortless ability to ride on a beat featuring a flute; and “Bubbly”, for what will be the most popular song on the album because of Drake and Travis Scott.
Young Thug somehow is able to venture through pop, R&B, rock, trap, hip-hop, and rap and make it one of the most cohesive experiences I can think of in recent music. Who would’ve seen Thug eventually collaborating with Doja Cat a few years ago? Even Mac Miller for that matter. Better yet, I never thought I would hear an auto-tuned Nate Ruess, yet here we are and damn do they pull it off. Regardless of who is at his disposal, Thug is gonna show out.
Another interesting aspect is just how much is revealed through the album art alone. We see two different faces and emotions of Young Thug facing each other (each made up of artist’s body). One side is rolling a die and holding a stack of cash with the other pulling the strings of a guitar with a love arrow attached (like cupid) and both are reflecting over a pond of some sort. The two sides are antithetical of each other. One side captures a more flowery, open artist that is embracing a fun lifestyle, reaping the benefits of his work (seen in the apple growing from the branches of the tree). Notice the pink as well, a color often associated with femininity, reservation, and vulnerability.
This more so alludes to the side of Thug present on the mirror side, yet is still present in the left side. On the right, we see a more down and barren artist. You can see the cracks along the face. Combining this with a lone fire in the dark, this side is much less optimistic than the other. Overall, the art is an excellent depiction of the two sides of the artist that we travel through in Punk.
With his classic “baby” voice and skillful lyricism along with his genre-blending, Young Thug creates one of the best rap albums of the year. Be sure to give it a listen if you have an hour to spare! I was thoroughly surprised that I ended up liking this album, because as I said in the beginning, I haven’t listened to trap music in a purposeful manner in a long time. It is hard to overlook the impact Young Thug has had on the game, yet it doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. In the early 2010’s, Thug paved the way for all the “mumble” rappers we see today. Without him, the contemporary rap scene is completely different. Everyone say thank you, Mr. Thug!
Originally published in Modern Music Analysis