Young Thug displays selective greatness on ‘Hear No Evil’

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Young Thug/Courtesy

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Score: 3.5 / 5.0

Young Thug might just be the most enigmatic rapper of our time. From claiming to have changed his stage name to “SEX” to reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his feature on Camila Cabello’s hit song “Havana,” he’s bigger than ever, without having dropped a full-length solo project since last summer.

Young Thug’s most recent full-length mixtape was mid-2017’s Beautiful Thugger Girls, a rap/country crossover project that brought the rapper’s amazing ability for melodies to a new soundscape. Since Thugger Girls, Young Thug has released collaborative mixtapes Super Slimey with rapper Future and Young Martha with producer Carnage. This lower frequency of musical output from Thug is not something longtime fans are used to — he released six great projects in 2015 and 2016 but slowed down significantly after Slime Season 3 in early 2016.

While these releases are decent, they don’t reach the heights of Young Thug’s solo albums Jeffery and Barter 6. His latest offering, Hear No Evil, is yet another Young Martha — its three tracks are meant to hold fans over until the full-length follow-up to Thugger Girls. But his newest EP is a return to the Thugger fans are used to — one who drops great party music that remains innovative.

Nicki Minaj features on the opening song, “Anybody,” in which Young Thug floats over a bouncy, stereo-banging beat that is warmly familiar for his catalogue. Hear No Evil was released on the same day as Minaj’s official comeback to the rap game with her singles “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz.” Although her verse ends tragically too soon, Minaj copies Thug’s sticky melody, sounding right at home on the track. Young Thug imbues the song with his signature flairs, his trademark wails and squeaks adding unique vocal layers to an otherwise standard trap song.

“Up (feat. Lil Uzi Vert)” contains a hook so annoying that it harks back to the mind-numbing chorus of Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang.” Young Thug’s repetitive ad-libs of a half-attempted Michael Jackson imitation do not pan over well. Uzi’s verse, meanwhile, sounds phoned in, dragging on for noticeably too long.

The track’s Southside-produced beat is incredible, though, demonstrating that had Young Thug written a better hook and worked with a rapper like Future, he could have done it instrumental justice. It’s a shame the overutilized chorus makes this song unlistenable, because Thug kills the beat with his rapid-fire verse.

Despite this mid-EP dip, closer “Now (feat. 21 Savage)” is a smacker. It doesn’t drag on too long as “Up” does, and it hits even harder than “Anybody.” This is the standout track from Hear No Evil for good reason. The keys in its piano-led beat rival those in Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” and the Atlantan collaborators come through with some great bars. 21 Savage, a rapper notorious for his lazy delivery, meets the track’s energy for once while staying true to his dreary sound.

This project shines in its production, through which Thug sounds much more comfortable than he did on the unconventional Beautiful Thugger Girls. While the EP cannot be judged as a full album, better hook-writing and feature choices would have made it a more promising demonstration of what Young Thug’s next full-length release has in store.

Contact Justin Sidhu at [email protected].