Release Date: Feb 5, 2016
Record label: 300 Entertainment
I’m Up clocks in at just over 35 minutes, which might seem short, but Young Thug uses his time wisely, finding a way to fit just about any topic known to man into his work. Take opener “F Cancer”, for instance. The song addresses the disease in the first line as a “shout out to Boosie” and subsequently moves into rapping about strippers, whipping in the kitchen, smoking cookie dough, and bath time, among other topics.
Young Thug's scattershot release strategy is a refreshing change of pace from the painstaking, calculated approaches of an entire generation of legacy builders and self-mythologizers, guys pining after their place on rap’s coveted (and entirely subjective) Mt. Rushmore. But it can be a nightmare for those seeking continuity from the virtuoso, both inside and outside of his camp.
Titled Slime Season 3 until the last minute, I'm Up is Young Thug's Billboard-charting 2016 mixtape, and it's a lean one, running a mere nine tracks long. That angel on the cover is the MC's friend, Keith Troup, who was slain in 2015 and gets a moving tribute in the mixtape's highlight "King TROUP." The rest of the best comes from the empowering music that reflects the mixtape's title, with "Special" being a prime example of motivational music in the druggy time of Future. Also check the Boosie Badazz tribute "F Cancer" and listen for prime productions from Wheezy and Metro Boomin.
Pay no mind to its messy rollout, impromptu title change, or last-minute album cover swap-out. Ignore the fact that what you get here, in lieu of the promised third installment in his Slime Season series, is essentially a measly nine-song consolation prize, a proverbial ticket stamped “sorry for the wait.” But Young Thug isn’t anyone’s textbook example of a rapper; he’s always been something of a wildcard, thriving off unorthodox recording processes and freewheeling sensibilities. “Sometimes, some songs you wanna start smooth,” he says in a video describing his recording methodology.
No weapon, word or subtweet has managed to prosper against Young Thug. Whether he is being labeled gay or straight, a troll or an unassuming genius, his popularity continues to grow just like his discography on the heels of his latest mixtape, I’m Up. The release (adjusted from the previously announced Slime Season 3) follows a jab at Future’s excessive string of releases (an oxymoronic truth if splitting hairs is permissible; I’m Up is Thug’s fourteenth full-length project) and suits all attention spans’ best interest with a lean nine-song tracklisting.
The video for “F Cancer (Boosie),” the first single from Young Thug’s latest mixtape offering, I’m Up, is the best kind of fever dream. The skeletal Atlanta rapper spills out of an ambulance in pink scrubs and $30,000 in jewelry. A bored nurse follows an empty gurney into an empty McMansion, no hospital. Eventually, Boosie shows up — the song opens, “Hey, f**k cancer / Shout out to Boosie,” in reference to the Baton Rouge cult hero’s kidney-cancer diagnosis.
If Young Thug is, in fact, an alien, then his is a planet of 50-hour days and generation-long seasons. The otherworldly rapper has cut enough great songs in two Earth years to fill seven lifetimes, pulling in sounds more likely to be heard echoing through the mysterious depths of the cosmos than the front page of Datpiff. Since splashdown, its been questioned whether his twisted dialect is truly meant for human ears, some hip-hop purists bemoaning his eccentricities as too distant, too other, and too unintelligible.
At this point it's nearly impossible to avoid comparing Young Thug and Future: the two Atlanta-based masters of melodic trap each dropped a trio of excellent solo projects in 2015, and have now released a fresh project within 24 hours of each other. But unlike Future, whose new top-notch project EVOL doubled down on his melancholic strengths, Thugga has offered up a half-baked album that largely neglects his improvisational dexterity. I'm Up is serviceable: tracks like "Fuck Cancer," "King TROUPE" and "Hercules" exude the classic Young Thug ethos, combining a vast assortment of croons, yelps and lyrical esotericism.
Better known as Young Thug, Jeffrey Lamar Williams is the wildly prolific Atlanta rapper with eccentric fashion sense on a mission to keep hip-hop weird. Since 2011 he has released 15 mixtapes – last year’s excellent ‘Barter 6’ was his breakthrough – and revealed that women’s clothes make up 90% of his wardrobe. A product of the same Atlanta scene which has given the world Future, Awful Records and rap trio Migos (who pop up repeatedly on ‘I’m Up’), the 24-year-old’s flow falls somewhere between the syrup-lined ribbit of Lil Wayne, his biggest influence, and the icy burr of collaborator Gucci Mane, whose 1017 Brick Squad Records signed Thug in 2013.
Young Thug has been at risk of overexposure since last fall. He followed up his brilliant retail mixtape (that was considered album) Barter 6 with two collections of loose tracks he recorded that never found a home on a full project: Slime Season and Slime Season 2. The mixtapes were released a month apart and were longer than his actual album. Forty tracks in about 40 days is a little much even if the tapes contained some of his best songs.