I’m not sure when Young Thug became the most exciting voice in rap, but we’re here now. What began in 2011 with his I Came From Nothing series started to blossom as early as 2013 with the seminal 1017 Thug mixtape, while the next year’s Tha Tour, Pt. 1 collaboration with Rich Homie Quan and Birdman cemented him as a main attraction in rap circles. He’s only grown more adventurous and daring since, his 2015-16 run with Barter 6, Slime Season 1, 2, and 3, I’m Up and Jeffrey being particularly dizzying in its consistency, but also for Thugger’s hyperactive, eccentric presence. But despite his eccentricities, he’s always remained in control of his persona, using his evolving state to challenge his audience, constantly keep listeners on their toes.
After a relatively (relative to his usual output) quiet start to 2017, seeing Young Thug’s name not once, but twice on Drake’s new playlist project More Life was a sight for sore eyes. And he makes good on his two featured credits, again subverting expectations in the process. The penultimate “Ice Melts” picks up where “Wyclef Jean” left off, the reggae swing a natural extension to Drake’s affection for Jamaican dancehall while proving Young Thug’s influence. Like a lot of More Life, “Ice Melts” works best as Drake acting as curator, bringing in others to flesh out his ever-expanding worldview. And “Ice Melts” is decidedly a Young Thug track in Drake’s clothing.
The astounding “Sacrifices” features a Young Thug hardly heard on record, a startling clarity largely replacing – until halfway through his masterful verse – his more characteristic yelps and ad-libs. I’m talking grounded like a cancelled flight. He twists his words, piling homophones (“I’m talking sweet like dear meet / I’m talking suite like he sleep”) and homonyms (“I watch the game from the floor / I’m talkin’ wood, first mattress / I’m talkin’ wood, pants down / I’m talkin’ woods like them clowns”) on top of each other with a glee seldom heard so prominently in rap this side of Chance the Rapper. He steals the show here, and damn near the entire album. Young Thug is the most exciting voice in rap, and More Life shows just how little room he needs to leave an impression.
More Life is available now via Apple Music and Spotify.