By Stephanie Hyde | November 1, 2021
Young Thug is an artist whose constant unpredictability makes him enticing. After releasing his compilation album “Slime Language 2” under his label Young Stoner Life (YSL) earlier this year, it would have been a safe bet to assume that it might be his only album for 2021. Instead of settling with just one, Young Thug doubled down and released his second studio album “Punk” on Oct. 15. With a wild promo that included destroying a Rolls Royce, an intimate Rolling Stone cover story, and an NPR Tiny Desk performance that revealed a new creative direction for the music on “Punk,” Young Thug proves he has not lost his touch.
A New Perspective
Young Thug expresses a more reflective theme throughout “Punk” gaining perspective from his past achievements and mistakes. “Die Slow” is a vulnerable track about how he has dealt with the traumatic effects of near-death experiences. He reveals that his mom almost died breaking up a fight when he sings, “The lady that got in the car and just pulled off doing at, like, sixty miles per hour and ran my mom over/She had a stroke and shit but she alright.” The soft strumming of a guitar in the background along with the repeated refrain sung by fellow YSL artist Strick highlights the time Thug’s reflection of his and his loved ones' mortality. During his NPR Tiny Desk performance, the acoustic element makes the song rawer with emotions. On the song “Droppin Jewels,” he takes on the role of mentor and offers advice for others. Lyrics like “You got to go through this shit here with your heart you can’t snooze it” and “You ain’t ridin for life, then I’d rather ride alone,” show Thug’s prioritization for qualities of passion and loyalty in his life.
One benefit of being a big-name artist is having more access to work with anyone. Young Thug leaned into his relationships with other artists on “Punk,” specifically with verses from Juice WRLD and Mac Miller. On “Day Before,” Mac Miller’s verse is longer than Young Thug's which helps to further memorialize Miller’s legacy as an artist with his last recorded verse. Thug revealed in his Breakfast Club that Mac Miller recorded his “Day Before” verse the day before he passed, making the song even more memorable and heartbreaking. On “Rich N**** Shit,”Juice Wrld and Thug connect again on their second collaboration this year after “Bad Boy.” While the beat felt a little too slow for Thug’s verse, Juice WRLD attacked the record and proved he can rap with anyone. Normally, the use of posthumous verses can be controversial. But since Thug and Juice WRLD had an ongoing relationship while Juice WRLD was still alive, hopefully there are more song releases that celebrate the duo’s successful collaborative efforts.
A trio that felt like a long time coming was Travis Scott, Drake, and Young Thug on the standout track “Bubbly.” The sirens on a crazy beat produced by YSL producer Wheezy blend perfectly with Young Thug’s contagious confidence, “My career bout to blast like bubbly.” After Travis Scott’s phenomenal verse, it abruptly switches to Drake’s verse. Instead of matching the rhythm from Thug and Travis Scott, Drake uses a more elongated cadence as the beat switches up to a slower tempo. Drake has proved that he can say anything in a song and it will deliver. This time it fell flat because it wasn't a Drake verse that carries his usual effortless and impactful flow.
“Punk” is most similar to Thug’s previous mixtape “Beautiful Thugger Girls.” While there were a few club records, the main focus of his 2017 project was soft melodies focused on acoustic and country elements with songs like “Family Don’t Matter” and “She Wanna Party.” “Punk” has more of a consistent subject theme along with distinct melodies of its own. On “Love You More” Thug teams up with fellow vocalist Nate Ruess from the group Fun. This collaboration was a long time coming after a clip of Thug singing along to the hit “Some Nights” went viral in 2018. Ruess’s and Gunna’s auto-tuned vocals make it a modern trap love song. It is refreshing to hear men croon over how much love means to them.
“Livin it Up” is another standout record thanks in part to the last-minute chorus from Post Malone that delayed the release of “Punk.” Over an acoustic guitar, Malone’s chorus highlights what it is like to have a good time with his fellow artists as he sings “Don’t worry ‘bout 12, no they ain’t showing up/Thug came with the shots, Rocky came with the blunts.” “Livin it Up” proves that Thug is a mastermind at knowing how to best use his featured artists as his verse flows seamlessly into ASAP Rocky’s. Since Thug and Malone have collaborated on the song “Goodbyes,” they knew what melodies would work to create a fun party anthem.
Whether it is collaborating with artists on other features or making a new album, Thug shows no signs of slowing down by continuing to innovate. Rather than trying to predict what new music comes next, it is best to celebrate the season of Young Thug that we are in right now.