Despite Skeptics, Slime Season 3 Confirms Young Thug’s Place in Rap

Paul carbonella

Young Thug’s quick rise to the forefront of trap’s current pantheon in the last two years is at least partially a product of his unpredictability. The eccentricity of his personal life and esthetic combined with his penchant for leaking hundreds of throwaway (and not-so-throwaway) tracks and unannounced projects is enough to make die-hards scour the Internet for loose bits of old and new content. Slime Season 3, the third in a series of name-making trap mixtapes, has the Atlanta star at the apex of his rapping career.
One of Thug’s strongest qualities is his beat selection. His harsh voice sounds best over DJ Mustard-esque bassy synth stabs and classic trap piano straight from an FL Studio sequencer. Producers such as Mike Will and London On Tha Track, consistent collaborators with Thug, have seemingly perfected his production esthetic here, especially on songs like “With Them,” and “Digits.”

Young Thug is often compared to Lil’ Wayne, and those comparisons are relatively fair. Their creative processes are reportedly similar, with both artists notorious pseudo-freestyling over hundreds of beats for each project, and the fact that Thug has publicly stated his admiration of Wayne’s music (he once said Lil’ Wayne was “all I listen to” before their infamous beef last year) surely invites those comparisons. But it’s probably more accurate to say Thug is unconsciously a continuation of Wayne’s legacy for rap’s newest shift. On tracks like “Worth It,” Thug sounds like the Wayne we’ve wanted and expected for years—like if instead of Wayne going off the rails with bad rock-rap records and strange, pandering skateboarding esthetics, he simply expanded the limits of his music and sound, choosing beats that more readily appealed to this current transitory and exciting period for hip-hop.

At the same time, there has never been anyone like Thug. His abilities are unique and fully his own, with lines like, “They didn’t know me well so I left ‘em with wishes/ You know its a drought when you grind and can’t flip it/ I’m livin’ big, I swear to God I’m Liu Kang kickin’/ Montana” on “Digits”—so purely Atlanta, yet his lines and sound somehow stand apart from Atlanta trap’s current tonal trends.

Slime Season 3 should silence fierce critics of Thug, who dismiss him and undermine his contributions. This mixtape exhibits an incredible wordsmith bending the foundations of rap music into new forms, and doing so with near-effortless finesse. It’s possible that his strangeness and overt newness is his main detractor for those skeptical critics, but he perfectly fits into and often shapes the sonic context of today’s rap music with his beats, voice modifications, and flamboyancy. The truth is that hip-hop culture and music are rapidly changing more than ever, and the once-formidable (and mostly unwarranted) gap between “conscious” and “unconscious” is closing fast. Young Thug and Slime Season 3 are a powerful reminder of this.