Young Thug is perhaps the ultimate realization of André 3000 and Lil Wayne’s weirdo rap aesthetic; he’s an oddball being championed mostly for his eccentricity. Regardless of how you feel about him there’s no denying that there would not be a market for his rare brand of noise rap without their influence. He is a derivative of their collective cachet pushing culture. His raps aren’t so much comprised of lyrics as they are of sounds; each verse finds him navigating blurted onomatopoeia ad-libs with melodies that trail off suddenly as if he has a remarkably short attention span. The best thing about listening to Young Thug is that you never really know what he’s going to do next, and it often seems like he doesn’t know, either.
1017 Thug 2, the sequel to the highly lauded mixtape that first put Young Thug on the national stage, briefly revisits the music made while he was under Gucci’s 1017 Brick Squad umbrella. It seems to be the first Young Thug tape released without the participation of Young Thug, but being that the music was (most likely) recorded in the same sessions as its predecessor, it still dazzles. Even without his final input, the music stands on the strength of his innate ability to recognize exactly what a song needs to catch the ear. The ATLien is brilliant in his manipulation of tone, cadence, and even enunciation. He makes music that captivates. Though only ten tracks long (nine if you strike 1017 Thug original “Trigger Finger” from the tracklist), 1017 Thug 2 successful reaffirms why he’s been buzzing in the first place: his charisma isn’t just persistently ever-present; it’s palpable.
Young Thug’s ability to bend sound to his whims at any given instant makes him incredibly unpredictable, and it makes his music a gold mine for Easter eggs: delightful tidbits of unconventional sonic expression. “Oh Ya” sports a pitch-shifted sample of Haddaway’s “What Is Love,” and he juxtaposes its low register with a pitchy, warbling falsetto. The Metro Boomin-produced “Run It Up” is constructed like background for a 16-bit video game, and Thug exhausts as many flows as ad-libs. “Sub Zero” an ominous, Quavo-assisted gem is an obvious highlight. It stuns with sheer fluidity. The tape as a whole isn’t interested in saying much. Young Thug punches out non sequitur after non sequitur, and though he often makes literally no sense his versatility is impressive.
Listening to 1017 Thug 2 makes you wonder what’s going on in his head at any given time. The skill in his process seems to be less about contemplating and more about doing. The greatest bit of irony is that “Let Up” opens with a contradictory quote from Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret in the World. “What’s wrong with men today?” he asks. The clip fades out and the beat drops before he can answer: “Men simply don’t think.”
1017 Thug 2, though less riveting than the original installment (by a hair), is a solid assortment of leftover tracks from Thugga’s 1017 stint lined with phenomenal trap production and even better musicality. As a mini compilation, the tape functions well as a serving tray of sorts, sampling the very best bits of his crazed genius. Young Thug’s greatest asset is that he never, ever bores, and as his sound continues to evolve one can only imagine – with a certain measure of wonderment – what his very best music could sound like. With any luck, it’s on the horizon.—Sheldon Pearce