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Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan and Birdman Tha Tour Part 1 Self-released

here’s no denying that Young Thug – possibly Atlanta’s most original rapper – has had a benchmark year, but you could equally argue that he’s failed to quench the post-Danny Glover fanbase’s thirst for a solid full length of new material. With his incarcerated former mentor Gucci Mane having access to a seemingly bottomless vault of old Thug verses, we’ve been relentlessly bombarded with content that probably wasn’t meant to see the light of day.Take the recently-released 1017 Thug 2, for example. Dubiously billed as the sequel to Thug’s thrillingly bizarre breakthrough mixtape, it dropped with no public acknowledgement from the rapper, could only owned if purchased via Australian iTunes and was accompanied by artwork featuring Young Thug’s head poorly photoshopped onto Wiz Khalifa’s body. A bit of quality control was in order.

Enter YMCMB mogul Birdman, who’s blessed Young Thug with his Midas touch for this seminal mixtape with regular collaborator Rich Homie Quan. A smoother counterpart to Thug’s infantile, slippery yelps, Quan’s slightly-mumbled croon evokes an affecting blend of pride and sadness, and together the Atlanta duo perform in a rhythmic, adventurously melodic style that renders distinctions between ‘rapping’ and ‘singing’ useless. Thematically, there’s plenty of trap house bravado here, but it’s lines about subjects relating to the heart – tender sadness, lip-biting lust and the euphoria of rags-to-riches glory – that really leave a lasting impression. When Thug plays the lovestruck kid (“I put my heart in your pocket, you can break it’) on opening track Givenchy, and Quan details a child custody battle on Freestyle, these emotions are delivered with an appropriate rawness.

Tha Tour Part 1 is a 20-track, 84 minute-long tape, so like the majority of the stuff you can download from Datpiff or Live Mixtapes, there’s a couple of filler tracks that could have been trimmed, and the omission of Thug and Quan’s instant-classic Lifestyle doesn’t go unnoticed. But overall, Tha Tour Part 1 is as great as any of us could have hoped, and it’s hard to think of another 2014 rap-orientated release that sounds as fresh as this.