How does the most polarizing figure in hip-hop not named Kanye West
only sell 19k copies in the first week of their supposed major label debut? By confusing the fu** out of fans of course. So far, Young Thug
has made a career out of baffling entertainment, from his flamboyant style of dress to his bizarre slang, but did it finally fall short on his long anticipated Barter 6
? (Okay, maybe not long anticipated.) To be fair, I would rather be listening to his oft-promised and much delayed collaborative album Metro Thuggin
produced by Atlanta upstart Metro Boomin, but I'll take what I can get. This is a guy who came out of the gates swinging with instant classics and a handful of damn near close ones. From "Danny Glover", "Stoner", "Lifestyle" and the very underrated "Old English" featuring A$AP Ferg and Freddie Gibbs, Thugger has shown his potential to be one of the hip-hop's strongest voices. So, of course, Thugger decided to once again go to left field and give the people what they didn't want.
After changing the name from Carter 6
to Barter 6
cause some guy named Lil Wayne
was threatening to sue, Thugger and his label 300 Entertainment
hyped this work up as his major label debut until after
the album dropped, it turned out to only be a retail-mixtape (Drake
much?) Talk about confusing. Was this purposeful misdirection or a ploy to avoid bad press for the terrible first week sales? Either way everyone is calling it an album so I am too.
Thugger once again finds himself doing whatever the hell he wants on Barter 6
. While most fans seem annoyed by his lack of tenacity and his eagerness to attack each track like it's the last one he will ever record, the switch up is actually a genius ploy by Thug to show his versatility. No one wants to be a one trick pony except Flo Rida and Pitbull, and Thugger knows innovation leads to durability. Thug may claim he doesn't want to be rapping for a long time, but when you're rich enough to afford the drugs and lifestyle that he has received because of his talents on the mic, I call bulls**t. Barter 6
is far from perfect. At times, it is just plain bad, but the potential is there. Not every rapper with infinite hype can be like Kendrick
and drop a classic the first time around [Ed. note: and the second time around]. Hell, Thug probably knew this. Why else would he seem higher than usual all over the album? Riding chaotic but definitely slower beats, Thug is saying fu** it and doing it his way, and his way is still better than most.
Album opener "Constantly Hating" is the most relaxed I have ever heard Young Thug. The calm beat is a nice switch from his usual trap music trope. It's surprising to hear his lyrics with such clarity as many of his detractors will note that they can't understand him. Thug definitely took notice and decided to enunciate even in his triple time flow. The whispering delivery shows an experimental vibe I pray the album will continue. Spoiler alert: it does not. That's fine though cause this amazing hook of, "But really what is it to do/When the whole world constantly hatin' on you?/Pu**y ni**as hold their nuts, masturbatin' on you/Meanwhile the fu**in' federal baitin' on you/Ni**a tell me what you do/Would you stand up or would you turn to a pu**y ni**a?" Thug knows he has a lot to prove, and he won't back down. With Birdman delivering a decent verse, this is the perfect start to Barter 6
Unfortunately the rest of the album for the most part falls short of this opener. With standard trap beats albeit in a slower manner, Thug fails to continue to innovative beat wise. While some are amazing like "Never Had It" and "Dream" Thugger finds himself rapping over things that anyone can rap over; that isn't what he should be doing. People may dislike Young Thug, but he is a talented vocalist. His ability to kick a variety of flows in a vast amount of different speeds is something that should be respected. His lyrics are very vulgar but often hilarious. When he shouts, "We can wrestle just like Randy Savage" on "Never Had It," you realize hip-hop is keeping wrestling alive in the urban community more than ever now. Maybe it's because -- like wrestling -- most rappers are 100% fake internet goons, but I won't accuse Thugger of that. His ability to be offensive -- like when he spews, "Catch me boolin' with my dogs, just like Michael Vick," on "Dream" -- alongside his hilarious material is interesting. He definitely has the ability to elicit a wide variety of emotional responses from his audience regardless of what may appear like similar content repeatedly.
"Od" is my favorite single. Maybe because it's close to "I Feel Like Dying" by Weezy in content or maybe I just love really seeing into the mind of Thugger? He sounds more passionate than usual, laying his soul out on the line for the world to hear. It's impressive and honorable. He is taking steps to peel back his layers. It's nice to see him step out of the box. For the most part, Barter 6
sounds like sketches of songs he made incredibly quick. I'm not saying he didn't try, but Thugger could have put more thought into his beat selection at minimum. While he does his best Future impression by singing on damn near every track, you realize this dude has been holding back. You get angry when you hear Jacquees sing hook duty on "Amazing" instead of Thugger.
With many forgettable features, including the usually great T.I. and Lil Boosie, Thugger is the star of the show. He never sounds bored, though he does sound relaxed, which is my main complaint towards the album. Thugger, even with his massive hype, should be fighting to stake his claim as the best. On some tracks he seems like he is on auto-pilot like the turnt up trap single, "Check". Thugger knew his verses would hit nicely and get a good reaction from the listener, but maybe he should have tried to make them react in a different way. With too many standard trap beats coupled alongside decently experimental singing, Thugger probably didn't think too hard during the recording process which isn't a problem if this was a free mixtape, but it isn't. Having the fans pay for something that doesn't seem 100% genuine can be frustrating. With his upcoming "true" debut coming in August, maybe he will take notes and try and deliver a different project. Something that shows more growth than confidence in his singing and a lazier flow. We know he is fighting to be the best hook man in rap with one of the most fresh voices and flows around. Thugger needs to look inside himself and ask "What more do I have to say, and how else can I say it?" So young into Young Thug's career, I'm worried we already know the answer.
Check out the self-directed video for "Check" below and pick up Barter 6 here