In many ways, 2016 was the year of Young Thug. He put out three commercial releases, all of which debuted in the year’s top five Rap Albums chart. In addition to a total of seven collaborations on Bankroll Mafia with T.I. and friends, Thugger landed a guest appearance on Kanye’s “Highlights” from The Life of Pablo which they performed together on SNL. Some strange controversies also helped keep Young Thug in the limelight, whether he was posing in a dress on the cover art of his own JEFFERY or comparing airport employees to peasants and ants on video. Pair this publicity and abundant supply of music with plenty of touring and you’re left with a year full of Young Thug headlines.
What people forget, or perhaps don’t realize, is that Thugger had an even more prolific 2015. He also dropped three projects within that calendar year, all of which are significantly lengthier than his 2016 releases. This was the same year that some lunatic leaked over one hundred fucking songs from Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan studio sessions. Over one hundred songs. So, if you think we got a lot of Young Thug music in 2016, think back to 2015.
While I love his work from 2016, my favorite Thugger project is still Slime Season and, in many ways, the three projects he released in 2015 are better than the ones we got last year. The general lack of familiarity with these superior projects from 2015 is partly because only one of them was released commercially, resulting in less promotion for Young Thug’s music that year.
As a gesture to give the tapes their well-deserved recognition, I compiled the top 15 songs from Thug’s outstanding 2015 trifecta of Barter 6, Slime Season, and Slime Season 2. Whether you slept on his earlier work or you are new to Young Thug, take a dive in and let me know what you think of the list.
Quarterback f/ Quavo, Offset, & PeeWee Longway
Everything about “Quarterback” sounds like it was intended for a horror movie soundtrack. Young Thug’s staccato whispers over an ensemble of relentless reverb and snares is nothing short of pleasantly chilling. Backed by two of the Migos and the dark horse PeeWee Longway, “Quarterback” makes for a great posse cut and is quite possibly Sonny Digital’s best production to date.
Amazing f/ Jacquees
The balance found on “Amazing” situates it as a standout against the other mellow tracks from Barter 6. Wheezy provides a simple backdrop of strums and drums that allows Thug to showcase a fun variety of milder flows and tones. This gentler approach complements the rest of the track nicely, including Jacquees’s incredibly smooth vocals—a pleasing contrast to Young Thug’s raspiness.
A 2015 Young Thug list cannot be complete without “Best Friend,” not simply because it is the biggest hit of his career, but because it is everything Young Thug. For anyone else, the formula of singing, rapping, moaning, yelling, and incomprehensibly ad-libbing all over a looped harp would be disastrous. Thugger, however, manages to pull it off in a way that results in a clear triumph and an undeniable highpoint in his extensive catalogue.
“My Baby” is a prime example of how Thug uses his voice as an instrument to offer more sonic texture and depth to an already well-produced track. The effortlessly fluid transition between high and low rapping vocals is executed with perfection throughout, particularly on the chorus. He also skillfully stretches and shortens syllables unpredictably, establishing a spirited cadence that further contributes to the already lively tone.
Wondagurl’s stripped down production on “Freaky” provides Thugger with a relatively blank canvas. Although he does exercise some reservations in his approach to the instrumental, Thug accomplishes a playful melody throughout the chorus and verses that sounds fantastic over the heavy bass. In this way, “Freaky” is a demonstration of Young Thug’s one-of-a-kind creative vision in composing songs, a critical component to his overall appeal as an artist.
Be Me See Me
The consistent quality of work produced when Metro and Thug team up is a testament to their irrefutable chemistry. “Be Me See Me” is quite possibly the highlight of this chemistry as it succeeds impressively in all of its bold endeavors. The gripping chord progressions and overall variety of sounds is something excitingly daring, even for Metro’s standards. Thug crafts an incredible chorus of unrelenting syllables that sounds great and, more surprisingly, still manages to makes sense. Hopefully we get Metro Thuggin someday, but, until then, we have excellent collaborations like “Be Me See Me” to hold us over.
(London on the Track)
In comparison to what we usually get from him, “Power” is a much tamer version of Young Thug. The track is quieter and generally less surprising than his other work, but it still pumps palpably with menacing braggadocio and intensity. In a sense, “Power” makes a clear case for Thugger’s competence in crafting more conventional hip-hop cuts while incorporating just enough of his outlandishness—a unique and happy medium that is sure to impress a broader audience of listeners.
Never Made Love f/ Rich Homie Quan
(London on the Track)
“Never Made Love,” one of Thugger’s many underappreciated hip-hop ballads, is a wavy combination of singing and rapping that speaks to his seemingly endless versatility. In a way, it feels like all of the track’s collaborators agreed to push themselves just outside of their comfort zones while recording. Thug and Quan channel a semblance of romantic sincerity in their vocals that contrasts noticeably with the careless extravagance common to their other work. London, the song’s biggest star, finds success with captivating sounds that are markedly outside of his wheelhouse. One can only hope that Rich Homie and Thugger eventually reconcile to recreate the innovation found on “Never Made Love.”
Young Thug has supplied his listeners with an abundance of hard-hitting tracks, but very few have managed to eclipse the excellence achieved on “Stunna.” The fierceness of Isaac Flame’s production alongside Thugger’s vocals is sure to make the listener’s head knock within seconds of the song starting. Thug seamlessly weaves his own tell-tale nuances into the track, transforming what could otherwise be qualified as your run-of-the-mill banger. He effortlessly incorporates a barking hook and plenty of dynamic pitch changes that establish “Stunna” as a unique take on the banger subgenre.
(London on the Track)
“Pull up with that K out of the coupe / I like my bitch brown like her mah fuckin boot.” The pure urgency of Thug’s voice in the opening lines of the first verse in “Draw Down” is utterly riveting. His ability to make the most banal hip-hop tropes fresh and exciting through a well-placed shriek of a lyric is nothing short of impressive. And London’s work here is simply next level. The production’s thickness is practically tangible and only reinforces the sinister tone that is delivered to perfection on “Draw Down.”
I’m not going to pretend I immediately liked this song. Truthfully, my first several times coming back to Slime Season I regularly skipped it along with “Calling Your Name” and “Wanna Be Me” since they contrasted so sharply with the other darker material on the tape (side note: “Wanna Be Me” is still one of the few Young Thug songs I genuinely dislike). I also won’t pretend that I understand this song. At times, the lyrics hardly make any sense. But the eccentricity and lack of direction on “That’s All” work towards an overwhelmingly enjoyable sense of carefree fun. “That’s All” is undeniably odd, even for Young Thug. But that’s what makes the track so special—a hidden gem in Thugger’s ever-growing repertoire.
It is safe to assume that there are no other artists, particularly hip-hop artists, making songs that sound quite like “Wood Would” outside of Young Thug. His crooning acts as the tour guide through Wheezy’s mesmerizing production, taking the listeners on a seemingly improvised journey through the track. Whether they are trying to make out a mumbled lyric or simply surprised at an unpredictable ad-lib, “Wood Would” constantly engages its audience. It is difficult to pin down if the song is skillfully genre-bending or simply bereft of genre altogether. Is it a ballad? Is it even hip-hop? This uncertainty is part of what makes “Wood Would” such an unmistakably fascinating and noteworthy release from Young Thug.
With That f/ Duke
(London on the Track)
“With That” is, more or less, what a listener should come to expect from a Young Thug song. Triplet flows, sudden pitch changes, and peculiar lyrics are just some of Thugger’s go-to tactics that occupy its landscape. While they are in no way exclusive to the track, the execution of these techniques is striking. Thug smoothly transitions between several distinct styles from the first hook to the end of the first verse alone, keeping the listener engaged solely by the ample supply of techniques being employed. Without sacrificing any ambition, Young Thug feels more polished than ever on “With That,” separating it from the other slow-burning bangers that make up the majority of Barter 6.
Again f/ Gucci Mane
(London on the Track)
“Again” was the leak preceding Slime Season that got me particularly hyped, and rightfully so—it simply doesn’t miss. The hook is catchy, the production somehow suitable for a myriad of settings, and the lyrics as satisfyingly braggadocios as ever. It manages to channel the aesthetic of a hip-hop banger while sounding relatively subdued, a fascinating balance that London has down to a science. And although the opening Gucci Mane verse was originally on his own Trap House 4, the chemistry between him and Young Thug on “Again” still feels authentic. It’s Thugger and Guwop. Again.
(London on the Track)
If Young Thug has made one flawless song in his own idiosyncratic subgenre of hip-hop, it is “Check.” The song is perfect. The carelessly arrogant intro that crescendos effortlessly into the chorus is bound to get any listener out of their seat. The ad-libs are so well-timed and well-placed that they contribute a whole new element to the track without overwhelming it. The chorus is irresistibly contagious, the punchlines modestly clever, and the flows are as fresh as they are numerous. London hits a homerun behind the boards, arranging piano chords with echoes and sirens to construct an instrumental of vivid texture and complexity. “Check” is a masterpiece, a combination of Thugger’s strengths done to perfection. It is aging beautifully and will be a standout in his discography for years to come. Sheeeesh.