Review Summary: Young Thug plays it safe.
Finding rap music’s greatest innovators has long been a case of finding its most vocally hated. The ones being dragged through the mud for refusing to fall in line behind rap’s most superficial tenants - lyrical complexity, hypermasculinity, respect for elders - are usually the ones making the most exciting music out. From Drake to Nicki Minaj to Chief Keef to the Migos, these artists are smacked down today only to end up reshaping rap in their own image tomorrow. No rap artist of the moment is more likely to inspire long winded comment section venom than Young Thug and, no coincidence, he’s the most exciting rapper out. If Kendrick Lamar represents one side of the spectrum, a straight A student of rap music history who receives universal respect and accolades, than Young Thug sits at the other end. A skirt wearing ATLian who openly refers to other men as “bae” that raps like Roger Rabbit with a double cup of lean and molly in his system who thinks you could take your “real rap” and shove it.
Previous Young Thug required no effort to find their highlights. “Angry Sex”, “2 Cups Stuffed”, “Pikachu”, and “Danny Glover” practically lunged
from their respective full lengths the same way “Stoner” and “Lifestyle” did from radio playlists. In this regard, Barter 6
disappoints. An end to end listen uncovers nothing as immediate as the aforementioned tracks . In exchange for this lack of instant highs, Barter 6
is Young Thug’s most cohesive work, a fleet 13 tracks in 50 minutes with dark, trickling production. In fact, the production, which bears some resemblance to Cash Out’s recent strain of minimal kitchen bangers, is so interesting it might make Barter 6
Young Thug’s first headphone album. Its heady blend melodic elements tiptoeing around thundering bass is the inverse of the maximal Fruity Loops trap beats that have been recently subsumed into EDM. Opener “Constantly Hating” lets its strings dance somewhere in the background while hi-hats and snare tick away in the foreground. London on da Track produced “Check” is awash in the lost souls of the stunted-on manifesting as haunted synths. “Dream” is what Burial’s debut album might sound like if he grew up in Atlanta instead of London while “Just Might Be”’s synthetic ocean choir is like prime Clams Casino or Friendzone.
But Young Thug is still the star of the show. He’s a flowsmith, eagerly bounding down new avenues to throw his words around, and lapsing into wild melodies that stick in the brain. On “Check” he lazily lets his voice rise ever so slightly for the hook (“Got me a check
I got a cheeck
, yeeauh”) that you’ll be hopelessly reciting to your confused coworkers. Conversely, Young Thug snaps into urgent attention for closer “Just Might Be”, reeling off a dazzling triple time chorus that’s just as catchy. Lyrically, there’s a few flashes of clever self awareness (“Everytime I dress myself I go mother***ing viral”) and throws shots at Lil’ Wayne (“Pussy boy I'll leave you dead and call it dead-ication”) but it’s mostly a Young Thuggish tangle of lifestyle raps.
The Barter 6
missteps in two critical areas. For one, Young Thug’s choice of guests is still highly suspect with total no-names (Young Dolph? Yak Gotti? Duke?) contributing little to nothing of interest. The face smashing intensity of Bloody Jay or Rich Homie Quan’s one-in-a-million croak are sorely missed. For another, Barter 6
is safe, sticking to a comfortable blueprint without pushing hard for anything new. It’s Young Thug’s darkest release, which is a damn shame as nobody does “top of the mountain puffing on clouds” quite like Thugger, and, all told, Barter 6
feels like a minor release. The lows aren’t very low but the highs aren’t very high. Young Thug is still a can’t miss rapper and his debut album, the bewilderingly titled Hy!£UN35
, is slated for August. With a title like that it’s hard to imagine Thugger won’t swing for the fences yet.