Young Thug exists at an unfortunate intersection; one where his chart record fails to match his notoriety. Young Thug released three records last year which were all received well but still failed to propel him to the next level of pop eminence. But luckily for Thug, he possesses a versatility that allows him to distance himself from projects and personas that have failed him in the past. Thug’s image is as fluid as they come as is his careening, caterwauling vocal, allowing him to switch between rapping and singing at a line’s notice. So the subtle confirmation of a ‘singing album’ titled Beautiful Thugger Girls comes as both a logical pivot and an intriguing concept.
Thugger Girls isn’t a huge departure from what we expect of Young Thug though. Thug’s flexible voice remains an instrumental facet but rather crucially he digs further into the base meaning of his songs, ensuring that his personality is kneaded deep into the tissue of this album. It results in some terrific hooks and some extremely redolent imagery.
Alongside that imagery, warped further by Thug’s vocal ticks, there’s plenty to digest in terms of genre-hopping. Staples of Thug’s diet continue to exist. In fact many of the songs here could sensibly exist on his previous records, propelled forward by hissing trap beats and brooding reverb. But Thug’s decision to simultaneously tap into a pop mindset results in a rich, rewarding listen. The third track ‘She Wanna Party’ really unleashes Thug’s infectious joy over light synths and sizzling percussive touches. A similarly ecstatic cut, ‘Do U Love Me’, could easily be a leftover from JEFFERY with its bawdy songwriting only outdone by Thug’s seemingly split-personality delivery.
It’s moments like these that have got Thug this far but a decision to condense it for a poppier audience thankfully doesn’t feel forced. As we venture deeper into Thugger Girls, Thug deviates further from his previous work, taking more risks in search of bigger rewards. ‘You Said’ looks to early-2000s rap and R&B for its reference points and positively offers more than just a homage and smooth stoner slow-jam ‘Get High’ features a particularly superb verse from Snoop Dogg. And take away his skittish rapping on ‘Me Or Us’ and you’re left with sweet guitar licked balladry far from the bombastic soundscapes of his previous songs.
Compared to the remainder of his back catalogue, Thugger Girls is Thug’s most minimal record to date. Even when he falls back into old routines and textures, the sound is dialled back to allow Thug to sprawl magnificently. The chaos is directed into more meaningful declarations even if they have to be forced through more visual, sexual imagery first. But importantly, Thugger Girls is all about feel, whether Thug is trying to coax someone into bed or figure out whether the love is mutual. Thug needed to strip back the layers to reach that peak emotion and access his rawest songwriting and even when his jittery personality poses problems to that seriousness, you can’t help but relate to Thug amidst this ambitious pop experiment.