Young Thug’s slimes hold him back on ‘Slime Language’

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

On Slime Language, Young Thug highlights artists who are part of his Young Stoner Life (YSL) label. Nearly every track has a feature: the compilation album hosts a startling 13 YSL artists. Although Slime Language covers broad territory, it doesn’t give Thug’s proteges enough chances to distinguish themselves.

Thug himself presents characteristically zany, uplifting performances. In fact, the first half of the album is quality. Thug covers a broad range of fun, memorable vocal inflections. But the rest of Slime Language is overstuffed and diluted, dulling Thug’s punches. Thug is one of the most innovative voices in rap today: he can do better.

Whether those on his label can do better is unclear. The guests on Slime Language, especially those signed to YSL, miss more than they hit. Gunna, the flagship of the YSL label, particularly fails to impress. On each of his four appearances, the Georgia rapper struggles to define a sound distinct from Thug’s. Three of the songs featuring Gunna are backed by the same type of guitar lick, a sound that is featured heavily in his past work. When it comes to flow and lyrics, it’s unclear what Gunna has to offer: as it stands, he seems like a less adventurous Thug clone.

Fortunately, some of Gunna’s fellow YSL artists hit their marks. On the joyful “January 1st,” Thug hands the reins over to singer Jacquees and rapper Trapboy Freddy. The result of this pairing is a radio-friendly summer hit. Jacquees is infectiously enthusiastic on the hook, and his commitment to the seemingly nonsensical titular lyric, “I’m number one my birthday should’ve been January the first,” sells the song. Trapboy Freddy makes the best of his only appearance on the album with a verse catchier than Thug’s. It’s a rare instance on the album in which guest artists surpass the main act.

There are several bona fide hits on Slime Language. The album’s highlights showcase Thug at his creative peak, refining ideas he has used in the past. “Audemar,” featuring former Rick Ross signee Tracy T, finds Thug developing his playful growl. That sound previously appeared on Thug’s stellar collaborative EP with producer Carnage, Young Martha. On “Audemar,” Thug uses it to underscore a particularly aggressive line in the hook, though he sounds mellower than he did on Martha. It’s a radio-ready version of his previous experiments. Thug still manages to break new ground on the track, though: his hoarse croaking in the song’s intro is an inhuman noise new to his repertoire and perhaps to hip-hop at large.

Another highlight comes in the form of “Gain Clout,” in which Thug demonstrates unusual agility. His maniacal staccato flow combines with a percussive, stripped-down beat for one of Thug’s most frenetic tracks. Thug has a genius’ eye for what makes a rhythm catchy, and, here, it’s on full display.

“It’s A Slime,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, follows the two artists’ collaboration from earlier this year, “Up.” While “Up” showed Thug and Vert at their most deranged, “It’s a Slime” is much more toned down. The result is a sleepy cut that fits squarely in the two artists’ comfort zones rather than pushing the genre forward. It’s a snooze and an underwhelming effort from two of melodic rap’s defining stars.

All in all, Slime Language rarely comes close to the rapturous highs of Young Thug’s solo material. It serves as a summary of Thug’s recent work but doesn’t do much to broaden the horizons for his sound. Neither does it do a great job hosting the talented newcomers on its feature list. The album is the sort of passably fun trap Thug is known for subverting, making it all the more disappointing.

It seems, as the album’s second track points out, Slime Language ain’t slime enough.

Contact Seiji Sakiyama at [email protected].