Young Thug has been compared to everyone from Tupac and Andre 3000 to Prince and Michael Jackson to David Bowie and Little Richard. The man draws pictures instead of writing down lyrics. He goes for days without food. He doesn’t care about sex and says gender doesn’t exist, and 90 percent of his wardrobe is women’s clothing.
For several years after he exploded onto the scene with 2014’s “Stoner,” the only thing more interesting than Young Thug’s personality was his music. He regularly delivered jaw-dropping verses filled with lines that made you think he’s the only rapper capable of putting words together like he does (who else would say “I look good as your dad on a Friday” on a rap track?).
But the flame that burns twice as bright burns for half as long — and it’s starting to feel like Young Thug is getting burnt out.
On Sept. 9, shortly after news broke that he was charged with eight felonies including possession of a firearm and intent to distribute meth, the Atlanta rapper announced there would be a new album coming in two days. On the Rvn finally dropped Monday at midnight, and at just 6 songs and 21 minutes total, it’s only an EP.
It’s not the confusing album rollout that signals Thug’s waning dominance — those are nothing new to his fans — but the fact that “High,” the best song on the EP by far, was recorded in 2016. Even though On the Rvn has fewer guest appearances than Thugger’s feature-heavy 2018 releases Slime Language and Hear No Evil (which may change soon), half the tracks on the EP are not what you’d expect from Young Thug himself, rather from the many young rappers running with the style he helped create. He even complains about the rappers he helped popularize passing him in commercial success on “Real In My Veins,” but it’s sandwiched between generic rap braggadocio and gets lost in the noise.
On the Rvn‘s opening track “On the Run” is a worse version of Tay-K’s “The Race” and isn’t worth much discussion. “Icey” and “Real In My Veins” are along the same lines — good flow, nice melody and not much to say in the way of lyrics. Sonically, they appear to be prime Thug songs, but there are no how-the-hell-does-he-do-that moments like his 11-second “skrrt” ad-lib on “Halftime” that lasts between two mentions of his cars.
The EP sharply picks up in quality with “Climax,” featuring fellow Atlanta rapper 6lack. Thug stretches his vocal range to nearly unrecognizable limits on the chorus, which is delivered over an amazingly catchy beat interpolating Shiloh Dynasty’s “Losing Interest.”
Then, on “Sin,” we’re treated to a high point of Jaden Smith’s budding music career. Beyond dressing in women’s clothes, it seems like Jaden was taking notes on how to emulate Thug during his charisma-filled verses over London On Da Track’s beat.
Then there’s the ultimate track, “High.” This song is a remix of the 1972 Elton John track “Rocket Man” (John is a long-time fan of Thug’s). It’s a solid wall of sound. Once you press play you are hit with an auditory experience the likes of which you have never dreamt of before.
I do not have a strong enough grasp on the English language to properly describe this song to you. It’s clearly the best song on the EP, one of Thug’s best songs and in contention for the best song of all time.
It’s frustrating for the EP to include something as groundbreaking as “High” but also such generic songs as “On the Run.” Is his genius running out? For now, he’s got enough in the vault to keep stringing me along, waiting for the day that he’ll finally live up to his full potential — a day that has yet to come.