Review by Justin Peterson
RIYL: Lil Wayne, Rich Gang, Migos
Best Tracks: Hercules, F Cancer, Bread Winners
Young Thug has been an enigmatic presence in hip hop ever since his breakthrough single “Stoner” introduced his weirdly catchy mumbles to the masses. Ever since his cannon-shot to fame, he has remained an unpredictable artist that continues to surprise. His latest release, I’m Up, might have had one of the most confusing rollouts I’ve ever seen. Probably because everybody was expecting a completely different project.
If you expected Slime Season 3 to come out of February 5, like Young Thug himself said it would, then like me, you were scratching your head at what showed up online. The threequel to his two popular 2015 tapes (which were excellent) proved to still elude our ears, and instead I’m Up, a nine track project, took its place. This happened due to a sub-tweeting feud with Future, since apparently every hip-hop feud is now done on Twitter. Either way, Slime Season 3 is still on the way, and while I’m Up isn’t the strongest Thugger project in recent memory, it’s new Young Thug, something that’s hard to complain about.
All in all, I’m Up feels like a bunch of loosies strung together for the hell of it. The mixing isn’t nearly as good as either Slime Season tape, and feels like a serious step down from the low-key minimalism of Barter 6. There also just isn’t enough Thug. The tape is littered with features, only about half of which have worthy verses. Young Thug could put out a twenty plus record with barely a guest, but not on I’m Up. It has a crowded feeling, and when almost every Young Thug verse is better than the guests, you wonder why he doesn’t just body the track himself.
Thankfully, there are enough great tracks on I’m Up to save it from itself. “Hercules” is classic Young Thug with Metro Boomin production; it has an insatiable hook and features some of Thug’s best writing. “Bread Winners” is the best use of a feature on the project. Young Butta’s verse on the track demolishes the song and every other feature on I’m Up. He rips apart the dense beat, juxtaposing with Young Thug’s auto-tuned insanity, making the track the highlight of the tape. The two features from Migos’ Quaavo and Offset also make me crave the elusive MigosThuggin tape more than ever.
It does get boring at some points on the tape, but even if Thugger isn’t stealing the show, his producers are. Other than his usuals Mike WiLL Made It and Metro Boomin, his popular cohort Wheezy is really coming into his own. He makes “King TROUP,” a track that could have been a drag, fluid in a way reminiscent of the Barter 6’s minimalism, giving Young Thug a little room to breathe on an otherwise relentless tape.
At this point in Young Thug’s career, you’re either going to love him or hate him. The artist is really nothing but pure fun, and to me it’s hard not to like him. He brings excitement to a genre that can take itself too seriously at times. I’m Up isn’t a masterpiece. It doesn’t try to be anything but be fun, and so far it’s the most fun I’ve had in 2016 so far. It’s a great warm up for Slime Season 3, and given Thugger’s track record I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him this year, which is nothing but exciting.