Before he turned 25, Young Thug had already reshaped the way we looked at rappers and birthed an entire subgenre in his wake. Between 2014 and 2016, the Atlanta-born space alien released the premier collaborative album of the 2010s, the rare trilogy that wasn’t a disappointment, and his opus, Barter 6. So what would come after his first quarter-century? Young Thug didn’t know.

First, he tried to get weirder—a nearly impossible feat after he slipped into the mainstream with 2013’s deranged and innovative 1017 Thug—flipping himself into a country singer on 2017’s Beautiful Thugger Girls. Then, he successfully parlayed his talents into the pop world by laying down vocals for Camila Cabello and Post Malone. BTG set the acoustic-tinged blueprint for his apprentices Lil Babyand Gunna, and the pop songs broadened his visibility. But still, Thug never needed to throw on a cowboy hat or aim his music at the masses—his coos and ad-libs over the trap snare and 808-heavy sound of Atlanta were more than enough. Thug just needed to be himself, and that’s exactly what we got with his latest project, So Much Fun.

Young Thug rarely leaves his comfort zone, but he’s able to add a melody, a flashy ad-lib, or a new flow that keeps the sound fresh and pushing toward new ground. He develops a natural connection with Pi’erre Bourne throughout the project, as the super-producer gifts Thug four beats that sound like he locked himself away in a submarine specifically to lace Thug with something futuristic and beachy to talk his shit over. “Surf” immediately jumps out: We get Thug screeches, sass, and some of his best ad-libs in recent memory (“Totally dude”). “I’m Scared” is just as good, with Thug and 21 Savage bonding over their mutual love of terror. “Lethal weapon, let it rip from out the top of the drop to his scalp,” says Thug, in the same tone as he talks about his favorite pair of custom Nikes.

On the album, Thug takes some time to pat himself on the back, aware of his own widespread influence. With guests on most songs, each of his Atlanta rap sons get some swings in, but Thug makes sure to show them they’ve still got a ways to go. On “Hot,” he educates Gunna on how to expertly flex one’s jewelry over triumphant Wheezy-produced horns. His most accomplished pupil, Lil Baby, makes him proud on “Bad Bad Bad,” as his unrelatable boasts about real estate and foreign whips are on par with Thug. Lil Keed is still in the midst of being groomed, but the two share a connection in their vocal similarities, trading helium-pitched deliveries on “Big Tipper.” Even when Thug dips outside of his immediate circle of influence, he’s just as comfortable, clearing the runway for Nav to list off his favorite pairs of Gucci tube socks and getting caught in a battle with Lil Uzi Vert about who wears the tightest pair of jeans. (It ends in a draw.)

But despite all the collaborations on So Much Fun, the album is about Young Thug. He might not mystify as he did in the early stages of his career, when he was stumbling into new flows and deliveries at an inhuman pace, but now he’s able to wield the madness with ease, satisfying in many modes. He’s got the single aimed for the Billboard charts with the J. Cole and Travis Scott assisted “The London,” as well as the hard-nosed Southside-produced Atlanta street hit, “Pussy.” And then, there’s a song like “Light It Up” that has the bizarre ad-libs and sudden melodic outbursts. At the core, he’s rapping as good as anyone, like he always has. After years of rappers trying to be the next Young Thug, there’s still only one.

Via Pitchfork

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