Punk - Young Thug
Young Thug has been a trap juggernaut over the past five or six years dropping classic mixtapes like JEFFERY and Slime Season 3. Punk is his latest release and somehow only his second studio album. From his NPR Tiny Desk performance, which previewed some songs off the album, you could tell it was going to be a different sound, and myself and many other were ecstatic to hear it. Thugger is one of the most innovative and influential Hip-Hop artists of all time and it was expected that Punk would only push that narrative.
The first track, Die Slow is a cinematic opener to the album. The instrumental is very minimalistic with only heavy guitar chords and enchanting vocal samples carrying it, which is something completely new and unexpected from Young Thug. He raps about some of the hardships he faced in his life and how it only motivated him to get to where he is now and on the latter end of the track he hits some of his signature eccentric singing. Die Slow is a heavy and unexpected introduction, but it does a great job of ushering in the sound of Punk. The following Stressed has a lighthearted and bubbly instrumental and Thugs singing on this song is some of his best. He discusses some of the stressors in his life and how he deals with them and so does J. Cole in his verse, who was easily the feature I was most excited to hear. Cole's feature is amazing as he uses flows and vocal registers that are reminiscent of Thug himself, and it goes over so much better than you'd ever expect. T-Shyne, who is signed to Thug's YSL label, also delivers a very solid verse keeping up with the topics of stress and fits surprisingly well on the song.
Stupid/Asking is a great moment of vulnerability from Young Thug and might just be the best song on the album. It starts as a guitar heavy track where Thugger is singing his heart out about some issues going on in his relationship and it turns out to be a great emotional ballad. But it finishes as an angelic trap banger where Thug raps about reconciling the relationship. The two parts together make for an astonishingly great track. Recognize Real has another barebones instrumental composed of just a guitar and some light samples woven in throughout. Gunna flows surprisingly well over a beat like this and Thugger gives a great, heartfelt performance with some classic punchlines as well as some deeper lyricism from Thug and Gunna.
The following, Contagious has the most developed and progressive instrumental thus far with dramatic drums and good pacing. Thug gives us another heartfelt chorus and an electric verse where he boasts about his amazing life. Young Thug brings some great energy to a unique instrumental on this track. Peeping Out The Window has a standard sad trap beat with stale piano keys that artists like Polo G, Moneybagg Yo and many others often use. Future gives an emotional chorus although it's not his best and Thug provides an emotionally exciting performance that is way too short. Bslime and Future both give cool verses although neither are anything too special or too great. I like this song but it will forever blend into the sound of basic melotrap for me.
The song Rich N***a Shit is not a bad song, but it doesn't not fit anywhere on this record and removes you from the emotional and spiritual world that Thugger builds. He brings a new level of eccentricity to Pi'erre's beat from his nice flow to his zany animated lyrics and Juice WRLD's feature is good as well he just brings a different energy to this middling track. Livin It Up has a dynamic instrumental with some satisfying guitar and bouncy, enticing samples. Post Malone brings a pretty great chorus to the track and it adds an intriguing mystery to the song. Thug is also great here but A$AP Rocky is the real stand out to me. His short but sweet verse is filled with great one liners and a couple of entertaining flows. Yea Yea Yea has another guitar influenced beat, except it's backed by some solid drums. Thug is flowing uncontrollably, dropping some lyrical gems and crafts a great chorus by layering his chorus over him singing in the background.
Insure My Wrist's instrumental has a great vocal sample as well as some nice piano, drum work and even electric guitar. Thug's chorus is super catchy and his verse is smooth yet exuberant. Gunna also gives us a pretty impressive verse although I would've preferred a second verse from Thug. On Scoliosis Young Thug has a fast flow and an instrumental that matches it with some nice lowkey backing horns. The track has an intense sound, and Lil Double 0 keeps that energy which his vicious verse and hard delivery. The following Bubbly's instrumental is consequential, progressive and dark and it sounds like nothing I've ever heard before. Thug's verse is amazing here but Travis Scott is the highlight with a high energy, fast flowing verse that is truly electric. The beat eventually switches to a bland trap beat for Drake to deliver a standard Drake verse.
The instrumental on Road Rage is fairly bland but Thug is able to bring so much life to it. His outlandish personality, ever changing flow and the use of his vocal register could make any song worth listening to. Faces brings some weight and a fierce sound to the slightly bloated track list. Young Thug gives us another amazing emotional chorus and an even better verse. As a whole, faces is just a pulse of unfiltered energy that also cohesively fits the vibe of the album. Droppin Jewels is another more emotional track with a great beat. Thuggers flow is great and he also gives us some very clever lyricism.
Fifth Day Dead has a vibrant, progressive and mystical instrumental that allows for Thug to lay down a great chorus and some of his best flows yet. The vibe is different here but it still sounds great. Icy Hot is littered with autotune and singing but it has a very dynamic and fun instrumental. Thug's chorus is super catchy; he and Doja Cat both deliver energetic and eccentric verses. Icy Hot may come off as doing too much at first but it's just pure fun. On Love You More, Nate Ruess's chorus is sung impressively and emotionally. The instrumental is bouncy, climactic and perfect for a love song like this. A lovestruck Thugger gives us a fun but super heartfelt verse and Gunna's singing is surprisingly nice on a song like this.
When Thug previewed the snippet for Hate The Game it very quickly became one of my most anticipated songs of the year, and throughout my entire first listen to Punk I kept hoping that it made the cut. The guitar and more emo trap based instrumental work is surprisingly amazing for Thugger as he gives us one of the most memorable choruses of the year. He uses his vocal range to give an amazing, eccentric verse and the whole song is just an earworm. Day Before is an enchanting conclusion to the album with a nice guitar but even better singing from Young Thug himself. Mac Miller also contributes a rock solid verse that is perfect for the sound of the song and I think this ethereal experience was the best way possible to end Punk.
Punk is like nothing we've ever heard from Young Thug as he predominantly uses guitar based minimalistic instrumentals that make the whole record sound enchanting and mystical while managing to hold emotional weight. This unorthodox sound isn't only pushing the boundaries of trap, but Hip-Hop as a whole. Despite this being a solo effort from Thugger he still goes out of his way to put upcoming artists in the spotlight like T-Shyne and Lil Double 0. Punk is great but if you slim it down by a couple tracks it could be even better, as songs like Rich N***a Shit and Peepin Out The Window feel like filler. Song's like that also break up the cohesive sound that the record carries. This is also vocally one of Thug's best performances as he never misses when the mic is in his hands, and his eccentricity will never not be entertaining.