A couple of days ago, when I was writing about Yeezus, I was bathing in that album, thinking about it for days on end, playing it front-to-back on repeat for hours. Yeezus is a great album, but it’s not exactly a friendly one, and the experience was weirdly exhausting. It’s been a while since a hugely popular artist tried so hard to push vast swaths of the public away; Kid A is the only kinda-recent example that immediately jumps to mind. And by the time I was done and my piece was posted, I needed some goddam audio candy, and I knew exactly where I’d be turning. I’d been waiting for it, using it as a sort of carrot-on-the-stick incentive for when my piece was finally up. Y.R.N., the new mixtape from the Atlanta rap trio Migos, is everything Yeezus isn’t: Warm, fun, goofy, jokey, melodically immediate, buoyant, life-affirming, welcoming. I don’t love it the same way I love Yeezus, but it sure takes a lot less work to love. Y.R.N. is an immediately blast of joy, a fizzy summertime record that gets over on pure charm and craft, and I threw it on the second I was done with my Yeezus piece.
There’s not a whole lot of information immediately available on the internet, and I haven’t yet done the deep Googling necessary to find out more. They’re three young guys, one of whom is in prison, all of whom are from Atlanta, fond of dreads and comically oversized sunglasses. They namecheck Mortal Kombat characters a lot. Zaytoven, Gucci Mane’s greatest production collaborator, is a big supporter, producing five tracks on the tape. And even when Zaytoven’s not producing, his aesthetic — cheap keyboards dinking out springy and impossible-to-shake little melodies, combining circus-bloop melodicism with oceans of bass — is all over this thing. A few famous people show up on the tape. Gucci Mane tries out Future’s sincere Auto-Tune crooning on “Dennis Rodman” to surprisingly amazing effect. (“She changed her hair again, ooh, Dennis Rodman / She changed her hair again, damn, shorty ballin’”: He sounds like he means it.) Trinidad James and (especially) Riff Raff have fun tossing around basketball references on “Out Da Gym”: “Kevin Garnett, ’cept I don’t even break a sweat / I’m flying Lear jets, all-glass clear jets.” Soulja Boy does nothing much of note on the “We Ready” remix. Other than that, though, it’s just the Migos kids, and their combined force of personality is more than enough to carry this tape.
The three members of Migos are all just ridiculous rappers, triple-time technical beasts who work in sharp singsong melodies, push their already-playful beats every which way, and keep the tone decidedly light. More than any other young rap group in recent memory, they sound like absurdly talented young guys fucking around in the studio, trying to impress and one-up each other at the same time. But that makes it almost sound like they’re an after-school project, like they’re kids with no direction, and that’s not the case. In terms of their group chemistry, their gift for hooks, and their fast-rap command, they remind me of nothing so much as peak-era Bone Thugs — the difference, of course, being that they’re using their gifts to make fun strip-club and drug-dealing anthems rather than beautiful gothic deathscapes. I imagine that Travis Porter, the other young goofy Atlanta rap trio, the one who spent years cranking out regional hits and building a grassroots fanbase for themselves — are listening to Y.R.N. and getting fucking terrified.
The greatest gift Migos consistently display is an ability to bark out simple, repetitive hooks that turn simple word combinations into unshakable earworms: “Versaceversaceversace Versaceversaceversace Versaceversaceversace,” “Hannamonatana Hannamontana Hannamontana Hannamontana,” “Katrina? Call FEMA! Katrina? Call FEMA! Hurricanewrist hurricanewrist,” “China! Town! China! Town!” The hook on “Adios,” an amazing robotized mispronunciation of the title, is the greatest hook Future never wrote. When it’s time to get serious, as on the dead-people dedication “R.I.P.” or the crushed and emotive “Thank You God Outro,” they switch the tone without losing the elastic propulsiveness that they showed on all the fun songs; that automatic impulse to skip the serious songs just never shows up. “Thank You God Outro” has a hook as ferocious as on any of the previous songs, but they’re saying, “Idon’tknowwhytheLordsavedme Idon’tknowwhytheLordsavedme, thank you God, I’m famous.” And maybe they’re overstating their case a bit there, but they probably will be famous soon, and they sure as fuck deserve to be. If this isn’t your go-to driving soundtrack this summer, you’re doing summer wrong.
Download Y.R.N. here.