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Review: Young Thug Continues to Turn Rap Into an Unsolvable Maze on ‘Slime Season 2’

Young Thug: The Hy!£UN35 Tour
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 25: Young Thug performs in concert at The Tabernacle on October 25, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: October 31, 2015
Label: Self-Released

Maybe Young Thug is a pragmatist after all. In the run up to the record’s April release, some mistakenly billed Barter 6 as the Atlanta upstart’s debut album. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like a stopgap measure, a swaggering bit of misdirection as 300 hemmed and hawed about a true lead single. Two things happened next: First, dozens upon dozens of Thug’s songs were leaked unceremoniously onto the Internet. Second, the label finally picked a single in “Pacifier” — an avant-garde masterclass that was, perhaps predictably, dead on arrival at radio.

Despite scoring a hit alongside Popcaan on Jamie xx’s ebullient “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” a late-summer release date for Thug’s supposed retail debut, Hy!£UN35, came and went. Having studied under the famously prolific Gucci Mane, he stayed in the studio, but he never lost sight of those hard drives.

In mid-September, Thug dropped Slime Season, a daring, maximalist counterpoint to the restrained Barter 6. It was comprised of previously unheard material and songs culled from the leaks. It was bright and frequently brilliant, if a bit unwieldy. Halloween’s Slime Season 2 serves as a companion piece that’s smoother, more skeletal, and, by most measures, superior.

Curated by Thug’s longtime engineer Alex Tumay, this second installment continues to give context and direction as to the rapper’s wealth of unorganized material. This time, it’s constructed with more precision, playing out as one long crescendo. As always, Thug is wildly inventive with the form, pulling melodies out of thin air and rapping like the walls are closing in. Slime Season 2 gives him ample negative space to do so, like on the sparse “Don’t Know” or the Yak Gotti-aided “Pull Up on a Kid.” Where he used to read as hip-hop’s most resourceful newcomer, Thugger’s now building different worlds entirely.

There’s also a pronounced romantic streak. The tape ends with a chopped-and-screwed version of “Love Me,” reportedly because Thug wanted fans to make out each of the lines he wrote for his fiancée. The London on da Track-produced “Hey, I” marries Crime Mob’s threatening classic “Knuck If You Buck” to family planning; on “Flaws,” he says, “I might be a lame if I don’t pay that ho tuition.”

But the most arresting moment here is buried in the back half. “Never Made Love,” with its Rich Homie Quan chorus, is presumably left over from last year’s Rich Gang sessions. Just as on 2014’s Tha Tour Pt. 1, the emotional weight is hidden in the folds: While explaining that he didn’t sleep with a woman, Thug notes, “She had the same exact face as my brother’s nurse / And he in a hearse.” That’s Slime Season 2 — behind every watch, every kick drum, there’s a reveal you’ve never imagined.