Young Thug Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls 300 / Atlantic
Young Thug doesn’t have a comfort zone. A restlessly eccentric artist, he’s not afraid to change course, to experiment, or even to fail. The elasticity of his catalogue keeps him tethered to hip-hop even as he bungees into genres like dancehall-flavoured pop with the likes of Jamie xx and, now, country music.
In this latest round of rappers reconciling with the acoustic guitar, Post Malone may have first mover advantage. Still, to suggest Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls is an example of trend hopping proves absurd with one listen. Countering pre-release speculation, the record pops far more than it twangs. Following the performative accent work of opener Family Don’t Matter, the album discards that pretence like playing off a wardrobe malfunction. Here, Young Thug is on his Taylor Swift, not his Johnny Cash.
Can you blame him? Countless contemporary white artists have gleefully exploited hip-hop’s prominence as America’s freshest commercial well to draw upon in recent years. Rappers in turn are driving huge hits for some of the most banal pop acts, the safe-as-houses sorts you might catch disparate generations of uncool types bopping along to.
With all this wilful blurring underway, it seems more than fair for one of rap’s most versatile and dynamic figures to pivot towards the perceived mainstream. And while Future beat Thug to that mark a few months ago with his candied RnB set HNDRXX, E.B.B.T.G dazzles in its tightrope effort to remain endearingly odd while cruising into accessibility. Admittedly, sometimes it’s strange to encounter Thugger skewing towards the conventional. Booming ballad Relationship arrives with an instantly memorable Future-sung hook in tow. The music box trap beat of On Fire sounds not all that far removed from Fifth Harmony’s Down. It backfires on For Y’all, coming off corny amid the hokey horns and saccharine strums. He fares better on She Wanna Party, vacillating between scream-singing, falsetto, and a genuine, unexpectedly orthodox vocal style.
Thankfully Young Thug hasn’t tempered his brash, loose-lipped lyricism, calling out a letdown of a lover on the hilarious You Said, making boastful Fifty Shades ad libs on Tomorrow Til Infinity, and invoking both masturbation and Popeye’s on Take Care. Even with casual references to AIDS and facesitting, Do U Love Me screams summer single with afrobeats-inflected production by regular collaborator London On Da Track. These frequent moments of delightful absurdity keep this glossy Young Thug reboot unapologetic and honest.