By the time I started writing this review, Young Thug had just been arrested for possession of marijuana and tinted windows. This development is unfortunate but also equally Young Thug, not in terms of illegality, but in nonconformity to societal strictures. Strictures, including within his music — bars, some form of rhythm, the essentials — aren’t something with which he concerns himself. In this sense, the rapper is different, not “normal”; we know this. He knows we know this, but he says things like “Everybody got tigers / So I’m gon’ go get a liger” so we know he knows that we know this. If you create your own canon of rap experimentalism, as he has, this is just something you do.
If you’re Thug, most recently, you make a ballad-heavy album (Beautiful Thugger Girls) with the most croony guitar the genre has seen since Jay-Z ironically brought one out to mock Noel Gallagher at Glastonbury in 2008.
While the guitar gets left behind on Young Martha, Thug’s latest — a collaboration with Carnage — stays weird, because it’s just something Thug does. This form of weird begins with the grandiose on “Homie”; Meek Mill trades punches between passionate Thug hooks (“I got a bottle of Ace and I popped it and I don’t even pour it up”) that reinforce the type of energy we’ve come to expect from him.
This EP is more Jeffery — a trap landmark thanks to its defiance of convention — than Beautiful Thugger Girls, employing more traditionally thumping production and leaving out the more tender exclamations we heard from Thug on the latter.
“Liger,” for example, is confidently Thug, as he shows quirkiness and pomposity, the closest thing to normal being Carnage’s synth cuts. The track feels primed for a mainstream splash.
That a rapper can make such a splash after making strong statements ranging from the political to the, well, inescapably political, is an impressive reflection of his influence within the industry. And, while his status as a catalyst for previously ambiguous rap territory has been given a ton of attention at this point, it doesn’t make his quintessential self any less entertaining.
“10,000 Slimes” sees Young Thug at this most quintessential self, with quips (“her booty ja-jiggly, wiggly”) that we would never hear from Drake, or J. Cole, or anyone of that vanilla variety, and it makes it all the more fun. The highlight might be “Don’t Call Me,” which features multi-instrumentalist production infused with an explicit pop sensibility before unheard from the rapper. Here Carnage’s touch shines, allowing enough room for a chopped Shakka hook that pulls the song together as something definitively un-Thug. In his world of undefined boundaries, we welcome the dancehall.
Young Martha isn’t really “new,” but if that sounds disappointing, it shouldn’t. If it’s not a marked progression in his development, it is, at the very least, a fun diversion, four tracks that layer effectively but still masquerade as cogs in this typical Thug fun machine. Enjoy Young Martha for now — he’ll probably “twist it like a tootsie roll,” or something of that sort, again, very soon.