I told Wayne I was ready for the paper like Usher
He said cool, sit back, stay away from busters
Now Thug got the big (?), I am a gusher
I am not the best but I am better than others
Young Thug there on “Achieve” (from I Came From Nothing) at one of his many sincere moments in regards to Lil Wayne. That last line in particular being unusually honest for a first mixtape, a place where otherworldly boasts from young rappers are in abundance. Given the nature of the Barter 6’s release, not to mention his influence on his protégé Thugger, irrespective of any mentions by himself, its difficult to not start with Wayne. There’s no doubt that between 2006 and 2008 Weezy was the best rapper alive. During his infamous Dedication mixtape series he released “Whoever You Like“, which could be seen as the elder stepbrother to Thugger’s “Who’s on Top“, which originally appeared on ICFN2 in 2011 and was revived for the bookend of the Rich Gang mixtape last year. That the track sounds at home on both, released three years apart, speaks volumes about Thugger’s pioneering qualities.
It’s highly likely, still, that we won’t have another YM-CM collaboration , but is perhaps a good thing given that Barter 6 is definitively the first release that breaks free of the Wayne mould. Thugger’s trajectory has evolved into the equivalent of stealing a tank on GTA and turning the turret 180 degrees so it faces backwards, firing missiles like no tomorrow to accelerate forwards, leaving scorchmarks on every rapper left behind (including Wayne: “Pussy boy I’ll leave you dead and call it Dedication“). Plus, at just 22, Thugger is already far more melodic with his singing than his self professed idol (“Everybody who rapped, I wanted to be like. Pretty sure I don’t want to be like them now, though.”) There is no sure way you could say, especially now, that his rapping is better than his singing. The two have never been as blurred since the arrival of Young Thug.
Thugger in the booth works on a matrix code canvas, utilising/creating as many flows as there are unscanned QR codes in London. In the space of “Amazing”, Thugger leaps through four different flows (including an unmistakeable Future one; someone else for whom he is full of admiration) expertly, each with distinctly separate emotional pangs that hit separate ribs of the cage that protect the vital organ that’s usually reserved for “So Far Gone” couplets. He is a phenomenal referencer, frequently dropping idiosyncratic bars that may not be fully unravelled even after multiple listens: “Kid cudi fuck her all day and all nite / Riding in the fast lane, I’ma Luda (Skrrr)/When I put ice on I am sub-zero“. That last one being a throwback to the only genius annotation that mattered, Thugger seems to thrive on diamond-based metaphors.
The production is far murkier than past releases, emanating from an alphabet soupy “Ew Ew Ew” abyss. It allows him to experiment more than on past releases: this is him radiating ideas more than ever before. Present as standard is the mercurial London On Da Track, but much of the credit goes to rising Atlanta producer Wheezy (another hidden shot at Wayne?) is on a staggering eight songs on Barter 6, (who also produced Rich Gang’s “Milk Marie“). There’s so much space on this record, which Thugger fills comfortably, and although the pace feels like he’s in third gear, it’s purposeful; no need to be going national speed limit when you’re on a 2am drive and making sure the album closes before you reach home. The slower pace sees Thugger at his most accessible and only a fraction more minimal than say OVO’s SoundCloud structure in 2014.
On “Dome” the hook has him singing “Ya” in a heartbreaking manner, channelling a coyote like a spirit animal — he will probably be the only rapper to reference that animal in 2015. Also on “Dome” is the record’s most impressive feature artist, the relatively unknown Duke, whose Super Saiyan energy is much akin to Zuze from “Treasure”: “No Christmas Eve, caught him by surprise, he was still yawning/I’m running the city, you running that loner, I’m running with owners/I’m not even thinking I’m right off the dome.” Elsewhere, T.I. gets an E for effort on “Can’t Tell”, while Boosie delivers another solid verse to tide you over before his album drops next month.
“Halftime” serves as an ill interlude ahead of the second half that sees Thugger going “FourFiveSeconds” on “Amazing” to the ethereal “Just Might Be”. “Numbers”, however, is the highlight of the album’s final act, its intermittent thunderstorms rumbling across familiar and calming “Shooting Star” keys.
The only downside is that there is more Birdman (who manages to knock “Constantly Hating” from the mantle of best song of the LP/decade) than Rich Homie Quan. In fact, there’s more everything than Rich Homie Quan; he doesn’t feature whatsoever. Given the turbulent nature of his relationship with Thugger recently, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it’s a disappointment all the same; even more so if the lack of a feature is a sign of things to come.
Thugger’s contract situation was once fraught: it still is, but less so. A new #HiTunes album is on the cards for an August release on 300 records — it’s difficult to know what it’s going to sound like, given all of his releases on Cash Money have been synonymous with their own sound. With Barter 6, though, it’s never been a bad time to admit we’re thankful to be alive while Young Thug is creating music.