This past Friday, Atlanta-based trap artist Young Thug released his sophomore studio album, Punk.
Considering how important of a name Thug is, it’s hard to believe we’re only on his second commercial release.
Thugger made a name for himself in the mid 2010’s, amongst a sleuth of Future and Migos clones, with his zany production, unintelligible lyrics and good sense of humor.
As he continued his career, he continued to stand out in a wildly oversaturated field of Atlanta trap artists. Not even the clones he raised and put on his YSL label have ever been able to outshine Thuggers eccentric flows, wild vocal range, or catchy hooks.
Young Thugs influence goes deep, too, with artists like Lil Baby and Gunna among his proteges. When it comes to trap artists, Thug is near the top tier.
Thugs mixtape catalog is extremely prolific, with classic entries such as Barter 6 and Jeffery. Thugger shows an appreciation for the avant garde on these records, while fitting pretty easily sonically into the instrumental flavors of mid 2010’s Southern influenced trap, with enough of a twist to make the beats standout, and a ton of different personalities, ideas and voices Thugger switches between.
Young Thug is also the head of YSL records, which drops compilation projects of pretty consistent quality, all focused on raising up new Atlanta talent.
Punk follows the release of 2019’s So Much Fun, which really lives up to it’s name. Bubbly production, wild performances, great features and a pretty solid focus on making fun music made this record an absolute blast to listen to.
Every song here is punchy, energetic, and has a generally feel-good attitude that perfectly compliments Thugs yelpy delivery. So Much Fun, as the name implies, is a blindingly entertaining listen.
Despite success in this consistent sound, Thugger decided to take a different approach to Punk, one that focused more on guitar ballads and softer songs.
This is not totally surprising, as Thug has dropped very capable ballads in the past, and 2017’s Beautiful Thugger Girls tape had guitar work all over it, but it was still shocking to hear the entire album dominated by gentle percussion, heart wrenching lyrics, and sweet progressions.
The opener “Die Slow,” for instance, features a reflective guitar progression, angelic background vocals and nostalgic lyrics. The instrumental palette is almost reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s Blond, with Stricks feature and background vocal just adding to this comparison, but the track is no where near as gratifying as anything from that record.
A pretty decent tone setter, but not really a standout track for me.
“Stupid/Asking,” however, is one of my favorite Thug songs in recent memory. Thugger sings from the point of view of his significant other, and tells a very compelling story of how terribly Thug treats her. The instrumental still sounds like a Frank Ocean clone, but this is exactly what I would want that cross over to sound like. Young Thug delivers a genuinely impressive vocal performance, and the gentle guitars compliment his voice incredibly well.
The transition into the equally good “Asking” section sees Thugger rapping over a rolling percussion section and chipmunked vocal sample with a catchy flow, and incredible falsettos.
This track is legitimately super impressive for it’s full runtime.
The following track, “Recognize Real” is also pretty solid, if predictable, with it’s Elliot Smith-esque guitar lead, sad lyrics and lots of monet mentions.
Surprisingly enough, Gunna carries himself on this track with attempts at singing that go over surprisingly well.
The clear stunner, however, is obviously Thug himself, who’s voice effortlessly fits over the instrumentation. This really is a standout verse just for Thuggers vocals alone.
Aside from these tracks, however, I don’t really have much else to say about Punk. The rest of the tracks here are pretty uniformly guitar or piano based ballads and quite frankly, the vast majority of this record is a slog to get through.
Track after track of generic, boring, moody trap with no real interesting idea.
Most tracks, ‘including “Yea Yea Yea,” and “Contagious” are insanely dull, with the occasional track being so terrible its noteworthy.
“Livin it Up” was a standout for me, due to the terrible Post Malone chorus and Ed Sheeran-core beat, as well as “Hate The Game” for its stomach turning vocals. Punk has some of Thuggers worst material to date.
Not only is the sound at the core of Punk boring, whenever Thugger ventures outside of this sound, it doesnt turn out well. Tracks like “Icy Hot” and “Bubbly” are both trademark Thug, but both lack any real ideas that make them worth the listen.
While it starts strong, Thug missed the mark on Punk.
Punk is devoid of life, to put it frankly, which is very uncommon for a release from Thugger. Boring songs, weak concepts and a lack of focus make this record a considerably weak one in Young Thugs discography.