Future And Young Thug Joined Forces, And The World Didn’t Change
For me, the weirdest thing about Young Thug doing a full album with Future is that Young Thug has already done a whole album with a fake Future — and the album he made with the fake Future happens to be the best thing he’s ever done. In fairness, it’s probably reductive to call Rich Homie Quan a fake Future; he’s done enough in his career to be considered on his own merits. But when Thug and Rich Homie teamed up for the Rich Gang: Tha Tour Part 1 mixtape three years, ago, that was mostly how he’d made his name, sing-rapping in a grizzled, melodic style that seemed directly descended from what Future was doing. Tha Tour Part 1 might’ve been what changed that. Today, that tape stands as a classic of 21st-century rap music, its ideas flying in every direction, its chemistry evident from the first listen. Thug has never sounded better than he did on that tape, his voice cracking and breaking and yipping and bouncing, his words finding their own internal logic. The partnership didn’t last. The tour advertised in that mixtape’s title never happened, and Thug and Rich Homie started beefing with each other soon after. Since then, Thug, who seemed to reinvent himself every two months, has settled into a comfortable groove. And now that he’s made a full album with the real Future, the result can’t help but fall a bit flat.
Super Slimey, the collaborative mixtape from Future and Thug, is being marketed as a big deal. It got the same sort of rollout — last-minute digital release, a few hours after both rappers announced it on their Instagrams — that Future and Drake’s all-star team-up album What A Time To Be Alive got a couple of years ago. And it should be a big deal. Future and Thug are two influential giants of Atlanta rap, and they have plenty in common. They both sing nearly as much as they rap. They both blur things to the point where the distinction between singing and rapping is entirely obsolete. They both use a fuckload of Auto-Tune. They’re both nakedly emotional. They both sound their best on Metro Boomin beats, and Metro has used both of their voices for tags. (“If young Metro don’t trust you, I’ma shoot you” was Future; “Metro Boomin want some more” was Thug.) They both rose to prominence around the same time, and they both came up under Gucci Mane. And given that the two were Twitter-beefing with one another last year, Super Slimey should, at least on paper, feel like two vast forces coming together. It doesn’t.
Partly, that’s a supply-and-demand issue. Future and Thug just make too much music for some of us to get too excited at the prospect of new Future and Thug music. Future has already released two albums in 2017, and Thug has released one, as well as an EP. For most artists, that would be a heroic level of output, but that just makes this an average Future year and a slow Thug year. It’s also an issue of timing. Neither Future nor Thug are in the space where they’re constantly reinventing themselves or reshaping the face of rap. They’ve done that. It happened. Now they’re luxuriating in the world that they helped to create. Thug, at least, still has the potential to do new things; on June’s Beautiful Thugger Girls, he was playing around with new sounds and melodic ideas. But both are established brands with their own interlinked aesthetics, and that’s what they give us on Super Slimey. There’s not really a single surprise on Super Slimey, unless we’re talking about the moment where Thug refers to the killer from Halloween as “Myer Michaels,” the sort of verbal typo that I love.
But the real reason that Super Slimey feels minor, I think, is that neither one of them put that much effort into it. When Future and Gucci Mane put out the Free Bricks: Zone 6 Edition EP last year, Gucci announced that they’d recorded all six songs of it the night before. That made sense. And Super Slimey has a similar tossed-off feeling, like it’s something that Future and Thug put together over a few productive days. There’s no “Jumpman” here. There’s no “Lifestyle,” either. Most of the songs don’t even have hooks. I don’t hear any urgency on the album.
Thug, at least, shows enthusiasm; the energy jumps up a couple of notches whenever he bursts onto the track. Future remains deep in his zone; interestingly enough, he seems way more locked-in on his two solo tracks. (Future does, admittedly, get the line I like the most: “Check on Google, I’m out my noodle, I feed shrimps to all my shooters.”) Metro Boomin, the best collaborator either rapper has, is entirely absent, which is notable when you consider that he just gave Future his biggest-ever hit in “Mask Off.” And as similar as the two rappers can be, they tend to express vastly different feelings. Thug feeds off of the joy of discovery, while Future stays in codeine-blues territory. Maybe, if they’d put more time or focus into their collaboration, they could’ve found some stronger common ground, but the two of them sound disconnected throughout.
So Super Slimey is an autopilot album for both rappers, a result of two once-challenging artists who, at least at this moment, don’t seem that interested in challenging themselves. But I still like listening to it. It’s not an event, but most good rap albums aren’t events. And these two are so gifted and so compelling that anything they make together is worth hearing. The album has a vibe to it. I’m pretty sure these two made the album in an actual studio together; it’s not a case of the two of them emailing files back-and-forth between each other. It’s a subtle thrill to hear them doing ad-libs on each other’s verses, to hear them pushing each other. The beats, from producers like Southside and Fuse, are basically generic trap, but they’re high-end generic trap. Those synths have a melodic, cinematic sheen to them, and both rappers know how to sink right into them. The only guest on the album is Offset on “Patek Water,” and whether or not his presence has anything to do with it, that song has a charge that’s mostly not there on the rest of the album.
But the thing I like best about the album is the sense of shared struggle. Future and Thug both rose up from desperate circumstances to become rich and famous, and they’ve both rapped about the trauma that comes from making that kind of transition in your life. There aren’t a lot of emotional moments on Super Slimey, but the ones that are there are about that. Future and Thug both know that they’ve had the same sort of ascent, and the Super Slimey moments that linger are the ones that, however obliquely, address that. “I spend a couple mil on my niggas behind the wall,” Thug raps at one point. And on the final track, “Group Home,” Future makes it a little more explicit. “You can’t cry over scars this permanent,” he growls, his voice hoarse and passionate. And a few lines later: “We change the weather, stick together like we from the group home.” Among many other things, then, Super Slimey is a dispatch from two guys who have been through hell. I hope they keep sticking together.
1. Big K.R.I.T. – “Keep The Devil Off”
It’s been so long since I’ve heard a Southern rap beat this elaborately orchestrated that, upon hearing it, I almost feel overstimulated, like I’ve got to just lie down for a while and hum to myself. That’s a great thing.
2. Young Dolph – “Go Get Sum Mo” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Gucci Mane, & 2 Chainz)
There’s something perversely thrilling about getting Ty Dolla $ign to show up on your big all-star posse cut and then not letting him sing lead on the hook. Dolph is still a relative B-lister, but a song like this shows the message that he’s ready to compete with anyone, even an on-fire 2 Chainz. He should keep sending that message.
3. Lud Foe – “New”
Lud Foe has been bubbling in Chicago for at least a year, and this song is the moment where I feel like I get it. It’s urgent like a slap to the head.
4. Conway – “Nash”
Conway’s new More Steroids mixtape is an unfocused disappointment, but this is its hardest moment, and it is extremely hard.
5. Pouya – “Daddy Issues”
It’s slightly offputting to hear grimy white guys rap about vaguely predatory sex stuff, but I like this guy’s extremely ’90s singsong, and I feel like he’s about to be a very big deal.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
I don't care what the so-called "experts" say this is looking fishy pic.twitter.com/9rtGMQ4ZLp
— jay smooth (@jsmooth995) October 19, 2017