Release Date: Mar 25, 2016
Record label: 300 Entertainment
Over the last five months, a rap game Civil War has been raging in Atlanta, arguably hip-hop’s center for creatively fruitful and commercially viable music right now. The participants, rappers Future and Young Thug, are the city’s two biggest exports, and they’ve helped shape everything from their region’s aesthetic to the country’s radio and streaming trends. Where Future is cool with playing up the supervillain role — regularly churning out songs about lethal uses of pharmaceutical drugs, slandering his baby’s mother, and representing for society’s low life — Thug, his crosstown rival, has almost inadvertently positioned himself at the opposite end of that spectrum.
Young Thug has released a trilogy of trilogies in his short but prolific career (I Came From Nothing, 1017 Thug, and Slime Season) and each has taken a similar arc: start off by masterfully paying homage to a vogue style, release an uneven sequel that betrays novel experimentation, and finalize the trilogy by emerging with a new sound all his own. Though less than half the length of the first two Slime Season installments, Slime Season 3 is the most realized aesthetically and suggests exciting things for the forthcoming Hy!£UN35. The bouncy post-“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” journey was revealed at Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo release event, when Young Thug was handed the aux cord (the 2016 version of passing the torch?) to play some of his unreleased music, opting for Slime Season 3 starter “With Them”.
Nobody seems to know exactly why Young Thug chose Oedipus — the Greek mythological figure who unknowingly killed his father, married his mother and gouged his own eyes out after realizing what he'd done — as the mascot for his esteemed Slime Season trilogy. But at the very least, the Freud-endorsed theme has helped visually represent the enthralling rapper's evolution: while the cover art for the first mixtape was eye-catching but clearly thrown together, the painting for Slime Season 3 (which was allegedly made by a fan and used without permission) exudes clarity, focus and finesse. SS3 is a brief affair, with eight songs over the span of 29 minutes.
Slime Season 3 is the last in a series of hard-drive dumps following a massive security breach that scattered hundreds of Young Thug songs across the Internet. After Lyor Cohen cryptically announced plans to "bury" the mixtape, Thug literally held a funeral procession at SXSW and eulogized it later by saying, "All good things must come to an end. This is the birth of something new…HY!£UN35," alluding to his oft-rumored debut album.
Hype, speculation, and scandal have always surrounded the 24-year-old virtuoso known as Young Thug and now that 300 Entertainment CEO Lyor Cohen seems to be fully behind the YSL brand, things have, surprisingly, only gotten weirder. The stoner’s much-ballyhooed latest work, Slime Season 3, has had one of the oddest rollouts this side of The Life of Pablo. The typically subdued rapper enjoyed his first ever radio run, premiered a song at Madison Square Garden during Yeezy Season 3, pump-faked with the initial release date, before announcing the new release date with a mock funeral procession during this year’s SXSW.
Last year saw a strange dichotomy emerge on the pop landscape. While Kendrick Lamar was constructing an album-album, of classical proportions, other artists were starting to embrace the internet as not simply just a platform for exposure, but as a means by which to access and interact with the obsessions and fantasies of their fans. Slime Season 3, the final installment in the mesmerising Slime Season series, is further proof that Young Thug emerges, and thrives, in a rare place between these extremes.
Young Thug wasn’t always “indecipherable” — he was something lesser. His work as far back as 2011 originally cast him as a baby Lil Wayne: Thug’s voice was a dead ringer, and his songwriting took Wayne’s knack for laconic punchlines as the standard. Wayne imitators are a dime a dozen; how unfortunate it would’ve been if Young Thug didn’t evolve into the innovative quagmire that’s still one of music’s most compelling forces.
When it comes to winning over the people who are either utterly confused by his music or vocally opposed to it, Young Thug is kind of in a no-win situation. One chief complaint is that his releases are in serious need of some trimming, cutting through the mass of tracks in search of the essential jams. But, then again, his unpredictability is among his chief assets; a streamlined, digestible Thugger record would almost seem like an oxymoron.
Young Thug’s third instalment of his Slime Season series is curious. It comes after February’s I’m Up, a mixtape originally titled Slime Season 3 before it was changed at the last minute. In all likelihood, they are part one and part two of the same project. They have nine tracks each, which is paltry compared with the 40 served up on the first two mixtapes, but combined, it makes more sense.
AS A GRAND FINALE to his celebrated trilogy, Slime Season 3 is rather quaint. Eight songs that fail to reach 30 minutes, Young Thug’s latest release pales in comparison to Slime Season 1 and 2. It’s this brevity though that’ll allow anyone curious enough about hip-hop’s latest mystery man to seek out answers to the numerous questions they most certainly have.
Since Young Thug’s emergence onto the rap scene back in 2011, he has been hit with remarkably contrasting reviews. One school of thought casts him as being the essence of what is crippling hip-hop while the other praises him for an innovative sound and hyper creative output. But whether you like him or not, his impact on the current rap scene is undeniable.