When I first heard “Check” back in 2015, I thought it was a revelation: Young Thug pairing the celebratory words of the chorus with a lethargic delivery and the spare chords from London on Da Track (Young Thug’s answer to Gucci Mane’s Zaytoven) to sobering effect; the sheer hilarity of the line “If cops pull up, I put that crack in my crack / Or, I put that brack in my brack”; the way he delivers the climax of the first verse. It was enough to make me work backward in Young Thug’s discography and eagerly anticipate his debut album.
Except, you know, we never got one. We did, however, get Slime Season that same year, which housed some gorgeous gems (“Best Friend” and “No Way”) in its 70-minute sprawl, and for whatever reason, Young Thug delivered a sequel before year-end that was even longer and with a worse killer-filler ratio. He matched his work ethic the following year, cutting down on the filler for the inconsequential I’m Up and too-consistent Slime Season 3, and out of nowhere, JEFFREY, with a cover as striking as the music within it (“Pop Man”). Even ignoring the sheer quantity of output, it was still hard to follow: I’m Up was delivered when we were initially promised Slime Season 3; JEFFREY was originally titled No, My Name is Jeffrey.
Likewise, debut album Beautiful Thugger Girls was originally Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls, and according to the Thug himself, a “singing album”, thus, appropriately, executive-produced by the self-proclaimed “singing nigga”, Drake. The cover featured Thugger with an acoustic guitar, and early reports suggested a mix of country, R&B, and trap. Weird, which is just a regular Tuesday for Young Thug anyway.
Opener “Family Don’t Matter” delivered, and it’s already accelerated itself into one of my favorite Young Thug songs. The way he sings “What’s popping, what’s the deal” over a beat comprised of a lilting vocal and spare acoustic guitar achieves an effect similar to that of “Check”’s choruses. Of course, the mere prospect of playing an acoustic guitar doesn’t make your music country, so he adopts an exaggerated country drawl for some of the verses (also shouting “YEE-HAW” on the first verse). And if that weren’t already enough to recommend the song, Millie Go Lightly adds additional gorgeousness, contrasting to his earthier voice in the first verse with her airier one.
To say nothing of her bridge — “I be having nightmares shaped like you / You be blowing smoke clouds shaped like me” — adding an additional emotional weight a song whose chorus begins “Like family don’t matter”. That’s been one of the most interesting prospects of Young Thug’s music, and Future’s as well — moments of surprise that force you to reconsider the braggadocio as something more. Speaking of Future, he shares everything with Young Thug on “Relationships”, so much so that you’ll have forgotten that a Twitter feud ever occurred. And here, Future exemplifies just exactly what I mean: “I’m in a relationship with all my bitches, yeah / I put my dick inside her mouth before she left,” which turns to “I’m in a relationship with all my bitches, yeah / I need to cut some of ‘em off, I need help” by song’s end. Plus, the song itself is ridiculously catchy as a result of the beat’s direct melody and Future’s autotuned “I know how to make the girls go crazy / When you treat her like your number one baby.”
Which brings me to my next point: Beautiful Thugger Girls is more like “Relationships” than it is “Family Don’t Matter”, which is to say Thugger’s promise of a singing album have been greatly exaggerated, to say nothing of the supposed country influence. Yes, the acoustic guitar does come back on “You Said” (check out the hand-offs between the piano to the acoustic guitar during the main beat) and “Me Or Us” (with a backing vocal sung high and mixed low evoking the detachment depicted on the cover). This is, of course, just fine: Young Thug’s uniqueness and the pretty beats he sometimes finds himself rapping/singing over is always welcome, and I’m happy to have the loops of “Tomorrow Til Infinity” and “Daddy’s Birthday” available to me. Which is to say nothing of Young Thug squeezing out a “yahoo” before sweetly singing, “I’m loving every single curve about you,” on “Feel It”, or the fuzzy synth beat bouncing around on “She Wanna Party” (with more of Millie Go Lightly’s excellent backing vocals).
There are some surprises though: he evokes Drake (who he had previously helped out on More Life) on London on Da Track’s “Do U Love Me”. Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg delivers a supple verse on “Get High” (note the flow switch from “Bubblegum, cookies, OG, and KK / We like Craig and Dae Dae, who gives a fuck what they say” to the next few lines, and the self-awareness! Capping that immediately off with “It ain’t as easy as I make it look”). Elsewhere, peppy horns and acoustic guitar that seem to come from a small, street-side mariachi band appear on the penultimate “For Y’all” while “Take Care”’s (not to be confused with single “Take Kare”) synth-line. And some of the tracks found on the second half are the most subtly gorgeous here: the way the keyboard loop of “On Fire” is capped off by that warm nudge, and the electronic beat of “Oh Yeah”, sometimes bleeping and occasionally fading out, to say nothing of the keyboards operating in the rest of the song.
Bemoaning his lack of quality control over the past few years, I was worried that Young Thug wouldn’t be able to deliver a worthy debut album, especially when the lengths of his mixtapes nearly halved between 2015 and 2016. Yet, listening to all of those details, I shouldn’t have been worried: this is one of his best packages, and it was well worth the wait and all the twists and turns in between.