Young Thug is an Alien. He’s unlike anyone that came before him and it’s hard to imagine anyone like him in the future. Like any alien, when he first burst onto the scene, people were unsure about him. He had a few hits and successful mixtapes, but he possessed a style so unorthodox, that it was hard to lump him into the box with other “mumble” rappers of his class. Like most things that we aren’t familiar with, there was apprehension at first which turned to interest and today has nearly turned the corner to full blown acceptance. The influences are well noted with Lil Wayne and Wyclef being among the favorites that people like to list, and while those are definitely present in his music, he is his own artist. The same way Wayne used to record music tirelessly then worry about the way it was released later is similar to how one might imagine Thug’s recording and thought process going. His success and popularity has never quite matched his sales and part of that may be due to his sporadic musical output. Thug is one of those artists who continue to keep listeners on their toes and guessing what he’ll do next.
It doesn’t help that he releases projects with little notice, even less promotion and has yet to even release an official debut album. His output is similar to that of an A.D.D artist that has countless drafts lying around his house, some masterpieces and some throwaways, but all unsure of what he should do with them. Keeping up with Thug’s stream of consciousness output could be part of the reason his fan base has remained loyal but never transcended into superstar territory, however much he may deserve it. When news broke of Thug releasing an all singing album, it should have come as no surprise. His forays into melodic territory are well documented and his ear for it is even more impressive. As snippets started to surface that had a more country leaning edge, it was clear that he would be going left with BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS. He’s already an alien so the question is just how left would he go?
As opener ‘Family Don’t Matter’ begins with light strums of an acoustic guitar and Young Thug belting “yee haw” right before the beat drop, all expectations that listeners could have for this album immediately fly out the window, along with genre lines. Eventually more conventional drums kick in and Thugger is off to the races with his elastic flow. The difference here is his voice is taking on new accents and stretching to new registers that he hasn’t quite displayed before. As he begins the second verse with a deeply rapped “Country Billy made a couple milly” it is clear that Young Thug is not one of those artists who half-asses his ideas or concepts. He said he was going to give us a singing album and after ‘Family’ not only do you believe him, but you think he may just pull it off.
In fact, as a project he executes what may be his most successful attempt at crossover success to date. The radio ready ‘She Wanna Party’ is a song that in another artist’s hands could sound contrived, but Thug’s ability to turn the ordinary into something strange and danceable is unmatched. The way his voice strains and bends is fantastically weird. The other obvious single pick is the Future assisted ‘Relationship’. The two trade bars and melodies and create something that wouldn’t sound out of place on Future’s own singing album HNDRXX from earlier this year.
The album has more conventional moments sprinkled in as well, at least by Young Thug standards. ‘Daddy’s Birthday’ shows that Thug’s coherent raps on Drake’s More Life were no fluke. It’s the most “normal” he sounds the whole project and it’s a style that would be interesting to hear him explore more. Thug’s voice is just as good at showing restraint as it is performing acrobatics. The bass heavy ‘Tomorrow Til Infinity’ puts his skillset front and center. It’s one of the many examples of the artist tossing song structure to the side and almost intertwining flows and melodies as they come to him. The conventional aspects of this album pretty much begin and end there.
Where BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS hits its stride is in its weirder moments. The sincere love ballad ‘Feel It’ is not only Thug’s strongest vocal performance here, but it’s also BTG‘s best moment. The song and Thug’s voice melt into the beat until it culminates with a softly crooned “If that’s your man you better hold him down” about 90 seconds in. He once again abandons boring structure to create a song that zigs when you think it’s going to zag and begs for replays in the process. What follows is the most straight forward attempt at genre bending that Thug’s ever attempted. ‘Me Or Us’ borrows an almost identical chord progression from Bright Eyes ‘First Day Of My Life’ and finds Thug traversing into indie folk territory. It’s almost an entirely sung ballad that contrasts its tenderness with the normal vulgarity of his lyrics. The song is one of those divisive moments that further proves that Thug frequents the path less traveled by other rappers.
While BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS may not be the project to catapult Thug to the next level of solo mainstream success, he does reside in pop leaning territory more frequently here than on any of his past projects. Whether it’s the tropical bounce of ‘Do U Love Me’ or the more straightforward EDM elements of closer ‘Take Care’, he proves as he’s done on many guest appearances before that he’s a shapeshifter when it comes to different styles. These aren’t necessarily the brighter moments of GIRLS but even his slight misfires are still interesting. Same can be said for ‘Get High’ which appropriately features Snoop Dogg and Lil Durk. It boasts one of the better Snoop features in recent memory and on a normal Thugger project it wouldn’t sound out of place, but here it seems to drag down the wild ideas and experiments with its normalcy.
Any speculation of what Young Thug had in store with BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS was probably wrong. He called it a singing album, but it’s not that. He said that Drake executive produced it, yet there’s been no further mention of that. The details around the album are not important. Thug has proved that even after the multitude of projects he’s unleashed to the world that he can still conquer a feat that many of his contemporaries refuse to attempt: Doing something different. A lot of artists follow the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and while that may work for artists like Drake and Future, Young Thug doesn’t seem to be interested in the formulaic. BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS is not perfect. It’s not even the best project that Thug has released, but it’s close. What it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in ambition, and it’s a breath of fresh air in a climate full of redundancy. Sales projections once again look disappointing for Thug and his fans, and for an artist that seems to have such a strong following it really is a puzzling case. On the one hand, there’s still more than enough time for Thug to reach the heights that he seems capable of. On the other, it may be time to start accepting that he might not and that’s OK. Thug might just be a little too weird for mainstream America. He is one of the only aliens we have in rap and maybe he’d be bigger if he were more ordinary. Luckily he’s not. Normal is boring and BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS is anything but.
Repeatable: ‘Family Don’t Matter’, ‘She Wanna Party’, ‘Daddy’s Birthday’, ‘Feel It’, ‘Me Or Us’
Skippable: ‘Get High’
By Scott Evans