Punk – Young Thug

Punk is the second project from Young Thug this year following Slime Language 2, the collaborative mixtape with Gunna and fellow YSL artists. Although Thugger appeared in most songs on Slime Language 2, none of the verses were particularly memorable and the mixtape served more as a showcase for YSL signees. With Punk, Young Thug returns to the acoustic, stripped-down instrumentals found on 2017’s Beautiful Thugger Girls and seems introspective in the latter half of his career. Many of the songs on Punk feature guitar or piano-driven beats that form acoustic ballads with Thugger crooning softly about vulnerability, success, wealth, and trauma. While the formula isn’t as tight as Beautiful Thugger Girls, it’s here that Thugger shines brightest on Punk as he shifts his trap stylings into a barer sound. Lacing the vocals with his signature inflections and alternative R&B influences, Thugger embodies a tonal shift away from previous albums like So Much Fun by favoring more minimalist sounds.

Featuring artwork inspired by Octavio Ocampo’s “Forever and Always”, Punk displays the different eras of Young Thug on its cover and this concept extends to the music found on the album. Punk melds together the unique sounds that Young Thug has explored over the course of his career from the trap anthems of Barter 6, the abstract stylings of the Slime Season series, the acoustic ballads of Beautiful Thugger Girls, and the experimental vocal inflections on Jeffery. On songs like “Insure My Wrist”, the Taurus-produced beat with an airy vocal sample lets Thug and Gunna trade verses about their comeup. The subtle drumwork and minimal instrumentation feels reminiscent of Beautiful Thugger Girls but quickly shifts tone with “Scoliosis”, a typical trap anthem that sounds eerily like “Hot” from So Much Fun. Metro Thuggin’ makes a return on “Stupid/Asking” with a natural continuation of Thugger’s reedy yelps and inflections found on Jeffery. Bouncing between the different sounds that Thugger has explored in the past, Punk feels like an encapsulation of his experimentation over the course of his career but it rarely reaches the heights of his best work.

As Young Thug reaches the latter half of his career, he’s come to favor overly long albums with far too many guest appearances to showcase his innate talent for rapping. Punk is no different with its 20-song tracklist stuffed with features that often feel out of place. Young Thug will always have natural chemistry with artists like Gunna or Future but the features from Doja Cat, Post Malone, and J. Cole offer almost nothing in the context of the album. Even the Drake feature sounds completely phoned-in compared to their previous collaborations. There are a few nice surprises like fun.’s Nate Ruess coming through with a beautiful hook as Thug and Gunna float on the piano-driven “Love You More” and Mac Miller’s first collaboration with Thugger on “Day Before” sounds bizarre in the best way possible. As always, it’s these unexpected moments that shine brightest on a Young Thug project but there’s just too much filler for the album to stand out against the rest of his discography.

There are momentary flashes of brilliance like always but some of the ideas feel like half-baked versions of Beautiful Thugger Girls or So Much Fun that never evolves into what Thugger is truly capable of. Earlier this year, Young Thug performed an NPR Tiny Desk concert backed by a full band playing songs like “Die Slow”, “Droppin Jewels”, and “Hate the Game” as well as singles like “Tick Tock”. For an album titled Punk, it’s a shame that the final artistic direction didn’t end up with something similar given how impressive his performance was with a live band. The powerful riffing on the live performance of “Hate the Game” seemed like an exciting new avenue for Thugger to explore but the end product played it rather safe. Punk isn’t a boring album by any means but Young Thug has sounded complacent with his last few projects and for an artist that’s so heavily predicated on his unique style of vocalizations, it’s a little disappointing to see him rehash ideas without evolving them.

Must Listens: Insure My Wrist, Stupid/Asking, Love You More


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I turned my incoherent ramblings on music, anime, and video games into an entire blog.

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