Since stepping into the music industry in 2010, Young Thug has defined himself as a highly influential rapper and artist. While well-recognized for his collaborations with other figures leading the rap industry (such as “The London” with J. Cole and Travis Scott and “Hot” featuring Gunna), Young Thug’s talent can stand alone, as he is best known for his unique, eccentric rap style.
Punk, released Oct. 15, is Young Thug’s highly anticipated second studio album. Slower in pace than his past work, it strips back Young Thug’s rock star persona to tell a mixed story of triumph and continued hardship, despite his glamorous lifestyle. Although the album is characteristically outlandish in its vocal ranges, Punk offers a raw vulnerability that Young Thug has not revealed before.
From the album’s opener “Die Slow” to its closer, Young Thug complicates his usual rock star trope with vulnerable storytelling and simplistic beats. Featuring Strick, “Die Slow” is a powerful introduction to Punk, as it is the slowest song on the album and the most drastic change from Young Thug’s usual electric trap music. Layered over clear guitar chords, soft instrumentals and melodic intonations, Young Thug raps about his father leaving, his mother being hit by a car and his brother in prison. Yet, in contrast to the discussion of these heavier topics, he never fully abandons his rockstar exterior, boasting about his sexuality and success.
Illustrating both his artistic and personal versatility, Young Thug contrasts “Love You More,” featuring Nate Ruess, Gunna and Jeff Bhasker, with the following track, “Hate the Game.” “Love You More” is a candied love song, foregrounding the chorus “I love you more than anything,” sung by Ruess and intoned with sweet vocalizations by Young Thug. In the song’s single verse, Young Thug sings “Girl, you know I love you,” somehow managing to sing the most simple lyrics with utmost sincerity.
Diverging from this love trope, “Hate the Game” follows with “I f—ed her the first night and then I never called again,” going on to carry a lighthearted and sugary sweet tune in which Young Thug brags about his success, many sexual encounters and what he calls “the game.” The sharp juxtaposition between “Love You More” and “Hate the Game” perfectly encapsulates the complexity of the album as a whole, as Young Thug retains his branded, rock star persona while also revealing a newfound, sincere side of himself.
In this spirit of contrast, Punk also contains an ample amount of Young Thug’s hedonistic stream of consciousness. “Bubbly,” featuring Drake and Travis Scott, hits with booming, synthetic beats and whining instrumentals. Each rapper brings their individual rap style to their verse, adding intriguing variation to the song, but the theme remains the same throughout — extreme excess and success.
“Livin It Up,” featuring Post Malone and A$AP Rocky, introduces a laid-back vibe, highlighting Post Malone and A$AP Rocky’s personalities. With twangy guitar strings, the sounds of beer cans opening and snappy instrumentals, Post Malone establishes an easygoing tone with the chorus, while Young Thug expertly modulates his voice while rapping, singing and whining in his characteristic vocal style. A$AP Rocky contributes his own short verse in continuation of the song’s theme, singing “Get high with me, we’ll levitate/ Get high with me for brighter days.”
Overall, Punk serves as a complex addition to Young Thug’s repertoire. The honest lyricism and simple melodies featured illustrate the wide range of the rapper’s abilities, but with its ample discussions of indulgence and the highlighting of his branded, eccentric rap flow, the album is in no way a departure from his previous works. While Punk is certainly a career milestone for Young Thug, it seems to be a little confused about where exactly it lands.