Young Thug is often considered an influential figure in modern rap and for good reason; his vocals often manage to be as varied and eccentric as his fashion, and his varying delivery prevents his work from being too repetitive.
He’s also no stranger to new sounds, and his latest album, Punk, is certainly different.
The album opens with “Die Slow,” an acoustic ballad recorded in a Venice hotel room. It’s a guitar-based sound occasionally reminiscent of 2017’s Beautiful Thugger Girls, which Young Thug has called his “singing” album. The verses feature some of the most introspective lyrics on an already introspective album, and the way Thugger deftly moves from pride to shame is indicative of the record yet to come.
Indeed, the album toes the line between disillusionment with the world and the pride that comes with staying on top of it, although it tends to fall towards the former.
The album is definitely strongest when Thugger strays furthest towards this mellow, disconnected commentary on his life and the world around him. The first five songs on Punk exemplify this style best, with “Stressed,” “Stupid/Asking,” “Recognize Real” and “Contagious” being highlights that are grounded in the issues important to Young Thug. Features from Strick, J. Cole, T-Shyne and Gunna also tie the songs together.
Unfortunately, the record’s best songs do not exist in a vacuum, and a lot of the album’s themes are lost later into the tracklist. There are a lot of more traditional rap beats on the album, and many of them feel too derivative to pair with the decidedly unique songs towards the beginning.
That being said, the stretch is broken by a few interesting concepts. “Bubbly” is a strange affair and features Drake and Travis Scott for an airtime power play. On the other end of the spectrum, “Icy Hot” is almost grating and seemingly wastes a feature from Doja Cat, who has frequently brought much more to collaborations than seen here.
The record closes with “Day Before” featuring Mac Miller, named for its recording the day before Miller’s death. The song is soft and beautiful and leans toward the album’s strong opening. The track reiterates the album’s themes and is another highlight for the list.
This album is certainly not what many expected, and it’s certainly not punk. The album is strong when it remembers its own identity, but it can occasionally feel like Thugger is reigning in his considerable vocal skills and thoughtful lyricism.
The best tracks are beautiful, but the album’s overall score is brought down by the weight of its size. All in all, I give it a 6 out of 10, and I hope Young Thug continues experimentation with his work.
Punk was released on Oct. 15 to generally positive reviews. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart (Oct. 30) and is Thugger’s third number one debut.