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Don’t Know Why: Young Thug’s Slime Season 2

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Young Thug comes up with his verses by drawing pictures rather than writing lyrics. The only music he listens to is his own. Interviews reveal him to be concerned with nothing but drugs, money, and (you probably didn’t guess it) his bride-to-be. He’s damn near unintelligible in his music unless you’ve acquainted yourself with his singular lingo. And you’d think his incredibly weird vocal affectations were done for the sake of grabbing attention until you realize he actually sounds like that.

So yes, Young Thug is strange. But his latest mixtape, Slime Season 2, takes his endearing weirdness to ludicrous new heights.

The perception of Thug as a weirdo has rightly existed since he blew up. His woozy cadence is all cracks and warbles as he delivers bars that, to most, just sound like a tangle of words slurred together. But before Slime Season 2, Thug endeavored to take his singular vocal stylings and put them towards some pretty simple, accessible songs.

Occasionally, he’d toss out mystifying lines. On the hook for “Constantly Hating,” on of his most would-be single-ready tracks, he croons “What is it to do when the whole world’s constantly hating on you?” / Pussy n**** grab their nuts masturbating on you.” This raises questions, namely: how the fuck is that the first image of being “hated on” that came to mind?

These sort of bars would surface fairly regularly on Thugger’s previous works, but Slime Season 2 is almost wholly comprised of this kind of absurd, free associative, and thoroughly X-rated lyricism. As most of the tracks 22 songs came to a close, I had pretty much no idea what I’d just listened to.

And I loved damn near every second of it.

Thug can easily make catchy hits (see “Lifestyle” and “Stoner”), but SS2 finds him reveling in his uncanny ability to carve out melodies and lyrical ideas that never existed before rather than resorting to anything nearing tried and true trap/pop-rap songwriting. Make no mistake, many of the songs here are still real earworms, but they also do double duty as fantastic exercises in truly abstract lyricism.

The first three tracks alone contain some of the most confounding bars I’ve heard in a long time. The opener, “Big Racks,” references drugs, the Bible, Michael Jordan, The Jeffersons, Hercules, porcupines, rabbits, Hermes Birkins, contains the line “Psych! I’m shooting every person,” and of course, ends by paying homage to late actor Paul Walker.

Next is “Thief In The Night,” which sounds like it was made by aliens who decided the best method of infiltrating human culture was to try to pass as trap rappers. The track is essentially about sex and drug dealing, but both topics are addressed with the weirdest imagery you could possibly imagine. Fellow ATL spitter Trouble begins the hook with “Like a thief in the night / I’ll take anything but some pussy,” and then proceeds to talk about sex for the entire rest of the song. So why did he just say he’ll “take anything but some pussy?” And what’s the point of the Biblical imagery of a thief in the night? Thug’s part of the song is all about selling ki’s, but his approach is just as bewildering as his collaborator’s, as he raps “I’m a fish, I’m a lake / Scoop them grits on a plate / Yet she thought it was steak.” Again, I get that these bars are still basically just about drugs and women, but the particulars of the phrasing are just so damn weird. Listening to this song makes me feel like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, desperately trying to piece things together and vehemently claiming “this means something!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX8oyYwxnhI

 

Slime Season 2 is madness without method — that much seems to be confirmed on “Don’t Know” as Thug croons about killing a guy, then admits he has no idea why he did it in the first place. Then, of course, he goes on to talk about some ridiculous shit, dropping his voice to a gravelly squawk as he spits these bars of pure gold: “I’m a level 5 goblin / 30 deep, all them lil n****s be mobbin’ / Have you ever seen a street geek barbarian? / R.I.P. Monroe, no Marilyn.” So yeah — he doesn’t know why, and I sure as shit don’t know why either. So I guess I’m in good company.

These lyrics are so shocking and stupidly funny that I would’ve enjoyed them regardless of how they were delivered, but Thugger’s flows and melodies are killer all throughout. He seems to float over London on da Track’s club-ready beat on “Don’t Know;” the way he holds onto the hook, stretching out “I don’t know whyyyyyy” in a nasally tone for as long as possible, sounding like a five year-old on the brink of a temper tantrum, would seem impossible to forget.

Mid-album cut “Twerk It,” meanwhile, is a fairly rote club track — or at least as rote as a song with lines like “Climb in that cat like a lion / I’ma mix this shit up like a liger” can possibly be — until a huge, hazy interlude engulfs the track in some genuinely beautiful overdubbed vocals. The moment is almost sugary sweet until you realize that Thugger’s heartfelt ode is performed in honor of a stripper who’s apparently put him in a stupor.

Right after that is “Phoenix,” which is one of the best songs Young Thugger has ever cooked up. Atlanta beatmaker Goose supplies a colossal backdrop of synthesized vocals and sub-bass that Thug’s spaced out delivery meshes with to sublime effect. But before you know it, he launches into a double-time flow and clattering trap drums enter the fold, supplying a song that’s basically about nothing with an almost stifling sense of urgency. The track also contains the line “Kuna Matata I need you, I am a Mufasa genius,” — a line that is as unbelievably dumb as it is undeniably genius. I have to love it.

From there Slime Season 2 is one surrealist banger after another. “I’ll Tell You What” has an infectious synth bassline and some of the funniest and dirtiest lyrics on the record, with a few bars bordering on straight up disgusting; it might go without saying at this point, but SS2 is not for the faint of heart. Another highlight, “She Notice Me,” finds Thug mimicking and harmonizing with a vocal sample to a level of technical sophistication that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. In different ways, moments like this come often over the course of the tape, reminding you that shock value may not be Thug’s main goal — saying shit that no rapper has ever said (or wanted to say) before is seeming more and more like a byproduct of a greater musical inventiveness than a hollow shtick.

The mixtape’s most subversive moments may come in its final act, however, as Young Thug reins in the chaos and delivers a set of tracks that are focused and surprisingly hard-hitting. “Raw (Might Just)” is an earnest love song dedicated to his fiancee’ that largely trades in vulgarity for genuineness. Who saw that coming?

On “No No No,” Thug lays back, letting mentor and Cash Money CEO Birdman take over the track with an extended and surprisingly introspective verse on which he mourns his late mother and vows to be different from his father. Birdman is basically a real-life Bond villain, so I’m not sure this track really lends him any likability, but I give him props for crafting such stark, reflective bars when he could have easily spent his airtime flexing.

But the best suckerpunch comes in the form of the Rich Homie Quan-featuring “Never Made Love.” For less than a year, Young Thug and Rich Homie headed up Birdman’s Rich Gang collective. Across a few sessions in 2014, they made an ungodly number of songs; the only full project to come of their collaboration was the excellent Tha Tour Part 1, which is destined for classic mixtape status. Despite their huge potential, their partnership effectively dissolved because of label drama (thanks, Birdman), but their unused material has been finding its way into the public all year. “Never Made Love” may be the last of those leaks we’ll ever get. For that reason alone, this track means a lot. It’s one of those moments that makes me wish music and time weren’t inextricable — that the song could just freeze in place and I could pretend Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan are going to trade bars until the end of time.

But even stripped of its context, “Never Made Love” is an uncharacteristically substantial piece of work from Thug. The song finds him reflecting on a crumbling relationship, culminating with these powerful bars: “I know it’s wrong but my dumb ass still did it instead / I put the strap to my own head like boy I’m the one / Then I told her don’t ever do it again / Every guy you look at, I’ll turn him to wind.” But the most cutting lines come during the first verse, before things hit a fever pitch and he’s only beginning to see the woman in question in a negative light, rapping “She had the same exact face as my brother’s nurse / And he in a hearse / I never looked at it for what it’s worth.” Damn. Young Thug’s music often leaves me speechless, but typically it’s for vastly different reasons.

The tape’s final track is a chopped and screwed version of a previously leaked song, “Love Me Forever.” It’s all slow, syrupy vibes until the song sprints back to its full tempo briefly, just in time for you to clearly hear Thug’s final plea: “I just want to be loved!”

With this, Young Thug closes out Slime Season 2 on the most human sentiment there is. We all look at this guy as some sort of incomprehensible, sexually ambiguous alien trap lord from another dimension, but the mixtape’s final seconds prove that perception to be unfair. Everyone who’s witness to the 21st century’s deluge of pop culture tends to view its ridiculousness through the lens of two-dimensional caricature, even if that means ignoring something more nuanced that lies underneath. We never look at things for what they’re really worth.