Words About Music
Atlanta rapper/singer/oddball Young Thug is an artist whose work I’ve been enjoying on-and-off for several years at this point, following a string of releases that have earned him an elevated status as one of contemporary hip-hop’s most enigmatic figures. His cartoonish voice and flow are instantly recognizable, and the apt comparisons to Lil Wayne have allowed him to slightly usurp Weezy’s place in our hearts.
Additionally, Young Thug has dropped some notable projects over the past few years, each of which has adopted such a cult following that fans often have a difficult time deciding which they think is best. It’s especially difficult since every project sees Thugger embody new experimental personas and stylizations, vocally and visually. The Young Thug who gifted us with “1017 Thug” back in 2013 is not the same one who contributed to Rich Gang’s acclaimed 2014 mixtape “Tha Tour, Part 1.” He continued to progress on the fundamentally solid “Barter 6” and the trio of “Slime Season” mixtapes that followed it (of which, the third is my personal favorite), only to completely subvert expectations once again with what is my favorite project by Young Thug, 2016’s “JEFFERY.”
Now, just under a year after “JEFFERY,” the eccentric vocalist has returned with one of his most polished projects to date, “Beautiful Thugger Girls,” an album that nearly reaches an hour in length, and features far more straightforward attempts at singing than we are perhaps used to. While the image of Young Thug with an acoustic guitar gives me unwelcome flashbacks of Lil Wayne’s ill-fated “Rebirth” album, I think that the result here is generally more pleasant, even when it effectively serves as musical wallpaper.
The record kicks off in an acoustic fashion with “Family Don’t Matter,” which features vocal contributions from Millie Go Lightly. This is quite the introductory track for the album, with its plaintive acoustic guitars and light tambourine. This could very well be the best track Young Thug has put together with its myriad of inexplicable melodies and jarring transition into hip-hop production during the verse. It’s a really weird song, with Thugger trying to demonstrate some influence from country and folk music, complete with a “Yee-haw!” ad-lib. Lyrically, it’s more sexual and financial flexing, which is no surprise, with some hilarious (unintentionally?) lyrics like “Boutta put my dick in your mouth when you yawn” and “Country Billy made a couple milly.”
The next track is “Tomorrow Til Infinity,” an almost cloud-rap-inflected song which features Gunna. As usual, what makes Young Thug such a great artist to listen to is his unique vocal style, with his whelping whinnies which deliver bizarre lyrics. He sounds especially wobbly on this song, indicating some weirdly impeccable voice control. It’s a shame that this darker, sadder vibe doesn’t fit Thugger quite as well as the more energetic, outlandish vibe does.
Millie Go Lightly returns on “She Wanna Party,” which is even poppier than the previous two cuts. I like the hook on this song, and the melodies Young Thug uses to embellish his verses are impressive and memorable. This track also continues the similar sonic theme of the previous song, ditching the acoustic guitars suggested on “Family Don’t Matter” in favor of darker, minimalistic cloud-rap sounds. I like the lyric about reimbursing the girl he’s with for her time if she feels like being with him was a waste of time, even offering to pay a little bit of interest.
This sonic sensation continues on “Daddy’s Birthday” which was co-produced by London on da Track and legendary hip-hop producer Scott Storch. The somber instrumental palate on this track (and album) gives it a more serious tone, something I’m sure Thugger is going with, especially with his lyrics about using his newfound wealth to take care of his swath of children. I love the production on this track (and album), but I just wish there was less of a disconnect between the music and Thug’s performance. There’s something kind of strange about the whole thing, and the fact that this track sort of fades out into nothing doesn’t really help.
London on da Track also produces “Do U Love Me,” one of the album’s most up-front and upbeat tracks. This is a way dancier song, with an energetic and off-the-wall performance from Thug. It’s definitely one of the album’s highlights, and it reminds me more of the sound he was going for on “JEFFERY.” It’s definitely a welcome addition to the album’s somewhat overlong tracklisting.
The highlights continue with “Relationship,” a collaborative track with Future that shows so much chemistry between the two hip-hop trendsetters it’s a wonder they haven’t put together a full-length collab. It’s a moody, sex-obsessed song, with a ridiculous line from Future about how he lets three out of his four baby mamas fly private because they don’t engage in any public drama.
The issue of relationships continues on “You Said,” a confessional track which details Thug’s qualms about his relationship with his fianceé, Jerrika Karlae. Don’t expect anything deep, though, because it’s mostly about Thug’s worries that Jerrika is only with him for his money and that she’s not as into him as he is into her. This track features a verse from Quavo, which didn’t get added to the album until a couple weeks after it dropped. And thank goodness the verse did get added, because it adds depth and diversity to the track, which brings back the highly anticipated acoustic guitar passages. All told, this track is almost 7 goddamn minutes long, so maybe it didn’t need to repeat the chorus as many times as it does, but I still think it’s one of the album’s better tracks.
The album’s second half kicks off with “On Fire,” in which Thug practically begs his fianceé to let him have a thressome, which is pretty funny. This track sees the return of the minimalist, electronic sounds that pervade on this record. A lot of the problems I have with this album as a whole are exemplified by this track, though. It doesn’t completely justify itself in the tracklisting here, and I just simply don’t feel like Young Thug perfectly fits this production style. I feel like Young Thug thrives when he’s going for a more humorous, braggadocios style, rather than the confessional relationship-rap which seems to make a majority of this album’s theme.
“Get High,” which features, appropriately enough, Snoop Dogg and Lil Durk, does surpass the previous track by quite a bit with its series of sticky hooks and the almost jazzy instrumental wrought by Young Chop. I think Snoop’s smooth flow perfectly fits the track, and Young Thug nicely toes the line between a chill smoothness and his eccentric style. Lil Durk’s verse, on the other hand, doesn’t really add much to the song and just sounds like an underwhelming Thug verse. I’m not entirely sure if this is Durk’s usual sound or if he’s trying to emulate Young Thug here, but thankfully it’s such a short verse it doesn’t completely ruin the track for me.
The next track, “Feel It,” has been in the works for a couple years, initially popping up in a snippet in 2015, only to leak earlier this year, then see a re-mix and re-master for an appearance on this album. It’s a passionate performance, with more lyrics about love, sex, and romance, this time with a busier instrumental to accompany Thugger’s inherently busy vocals. This isn’t the album’s most memorable track, in my opinion, but it isn’t a lowlight. It just leaves me yearning for more, like many of this album’s tracks. I feel like this album shouldn’t have been rushed, as rushing to get records out before they feel really done has been a problem in Young Thug’s career in the past, especially with tapes like “I’m Up” and some of the “1017 Thug” sequels.
The album kicks into the next dimension on “Me Or Us,” the lyrically confusing track which is placed atop the sound of Post Malone performing Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life” on acoustic guitar, an idea that was initially put together with Post and Kanye during the recording sessions for “The Life of Pablo” but wound up here instead. I think it’s one of the strangest things Young Thug has ever put together, but it does work, and I appreciate the ambition, even if Thugger doesn’t know that it’s a mid-2000s Conor Oberst indie folk track in the first place.
The next song, “Oh Yeah,” is okay. Again, I think it’s very well produced, it’s just that I don’t think this production style really suits Young Thug’s abilities, try as he might to churn out melody after sticky melody. It just seems to present a formula that is tried elsewhere on this album, not much more or less successfully, I might add. It almost seems like every other song on this album feels unnecessary, especially considering that I quite enjoy “For Y’all,” which features Jacquees as well as Billboard Hitmakers, the team who was partly responsible for the full sonic excellence on “JEFFERY.”
The album goes out on a somewhat lukewarm note with “Take Care,” a synth-heavy track with an intense build and a decidedly EDM-inspired beat. I think this track serves as a fitting closer, only because this album is so much of a mixed bag. No song really reinforces the other, and I’m ultimately left feeling mixed on it when I’d rather feel as excited about it as I felt about “JEFFERY.”
“Beautiful Thugger Girls” can be listened to in essentially any order and not lose any sense of flow or significance. Some of the songs on here are decidedly great, ambitious, and unlike anything else that’s been attempted before. Some of the other songs, unfortunately, don’t quite live up to that standard, giving us more of the same muted, underwhelming combination of ambient, slow-burning synth-production and strange, yet predictable vocals and lyrics. There are parts of this record that feel like Jeffery is going above and beyond and others that feel like he’s phoning it in, and while I’m leaning positively on this record, it doesn’t quite do as much for me as I feel like it should.
SCORE — 6.50 out of 10
FAVORITE TRACKS — Family Don’t Matter, She Wanna Party, Do U Love Me, Relationship, You Said, Get High, Me Or Us, For Y’all, Take Care