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Young Thug - Slime Language Music Album Reviews

Thug offers up a nice summertime party record, his most cheerful, undemanding project since his early mixtapes.

Nothing kills the excitement around a new rap record like learning it’s actually a label compilation. From Eminem’s grim Shady Records showcases to Lil Wayne’s sadistically Gudda Gudda-heavy We Are Young Money comp and JAY-Z’s forgotten Roc-A-Fella Records Presents: The Roc Files, Vol. 1 (there was never a Vol. 2), rappers have a long tradition of burying second-tier material on promotional efforts created to lift their imprint’s lesser talents. Even Young Thug’s team seemed to telegraph that his new release, Slime Language, should be graded on a curve. Its overcrowded tracklist is heavy on unknowns like Lil Keed, Tracy T, and Nechie, and speckled with verses from guys like Duke, who has never generated any real heat of his own despite wing-manning on Thug tracks for years. That it also features not only Thug’s sisters HiDoraah and Dolly but also his on-again, off-again partner Karlae furthers the impression the project was born of little more than blatant cronyism.

And yet any skepticism goes out the window from the first track, when Thug euphorically cowabungas his way across a tropical breeze of a beat on “Tsunami,” setting a precedent for good vibes that the record consistently lives up to. Label compilation or not, Slime Language is so generous with its star attraction that the distinction barely matters, and Thug digs in with his usual rubber-jawed zeal. He’s the kind of rapper who commits so fully that even a disposable quip like, “I’m not 2 Chainz/I got 40” feels like method acting: It’s a mere two bars, yet he inhabits the aggrieved sense so fully, selling the umbrage in the notion that somebody’s count could be so off.

From the streamlined elegance of Barter 6 to the lunatic modernism of JEFFREY and the horndog strum-and-croon of Beautiful Thugger Girls, Thug’s strongest projects have introduced completely new avenues of expression. In part because of its label obligations, Slime Language isn’t as indelible as any of those records, nor as revelatory, yet it carves out a niche in Thug’s discography: It’s a summertime party record, his most cheerful, undemanding project since the I Came From Nothing mixtapes of his less adventurous early years, before stylistic gambits took hold over simple pleasures.

For their part, Thug’s labelmates largely try their best to mirror his exuberance, and most of them hold their own. Gunna makes his mark on four solid tracks, reaffirming why he’s Thug’s buzziest protege, even though he’s upstaged by non-YSL signee Lil Baby on the crisp standout “Chanel.” The women in Thug’s life all prove they deserve the spotlight on their own merits, too, especially Dolly, whose stern, no-nonsense flow stands in cold contrast to her Animaniac brother. It’s a shame Slime Language doesn’t explore that dynamic; she appears on the one track Thug sits out entirely.

It’s only in Slime Language’s final stretch that the sheer weight of the guest features takes its toll, and by then it barely matters, since the highs have already left a lasting buzz. Among those thrills: Thug racing against drums modeled after a street busker’s plastic tub on the kinetic treat “Gain Clout”; Thug outlining his philosophy that if you’ve paid for it you might as well enjoy it on “Dirty Shoes” (“Came through Bleveland swerving/I just wiped my dick off with the Rolls Royce curtains”); and a hyped-up, hallucinatory beat from newcomer Keyyz on “Audemar.”

And so Slime Language isn’t as disposable as its somewhat muted early reception would make it seem. Young Thug has been on such a hot streak for so long, dependably mining new muses year after year, that listeners can begin to assume that he’ll always continue at this stride, but that’s not a given. Past performance is no guarantee of future success. Inspiration dries up and moments end. For now, though, Slime Language captures one of the most boundless rappers of his era operating near his peak. That it has a bill of goods to sell does little to diminish its accomplishments.

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