Review: Young Thug & Bloody Jay – Black Portland

If you’re unfamiliar with the newer generation of artists who are jockeying to be Atlanta rap’s heirs apparent, it looks as though 2014 will provide plenty of opportunities to get acquainted. Early January’s Lobby Runners was an enormous group effort from three (!!!)  DJs and six (!!!!) rappers gathered under Peewee Longway‘s watchful eye. Tracks and features from Longway, Young Thug, Migos, Johnny Cinco, and Rich the Kid, among others, make the tape a treasure trove of all the newest artists Atlanta has to offer. Just last week, Longway released Frequent Flyers 3, another collaborative effort featuring a healthy dose of Chicago talent like King L, Lil Herb, Johnny May Cash, and Spenzo. Migos are slated to drop the DJ Drama-hosted Solid Foundation through Gangsta Grillz sometime next week as well. The most recent of these types of projects is Young Thug and Bloody Jay’s recently released Black Portland. Hopefully, teaming up on the 11-track mixtape will help convince listeners why their talents can’t be slept on any longer.

Black Portland, as Bloody Jay recently explained, is a representation of the innovative attitude the duo brings to the occasionally banal landscape of cookie-cutter Atlanta rap. After all, that mentality is what’s generating hype in the first place: “We’re on fire right now in the streets of Atlanta, and we’re stoners, so you know, we’re the Blazers and Atlanta is Black Portland,” he mentioned in a recent interview. Their manager Propane added that in the spirit of the NBA logo used for the mixtape cover, “They’re the ones that are making the sound that’s going on right now. They’re the trailblazers of the culture. Everything falls in line behind them.” Frankly, it’s true. Thug’s space-alien verses, with their sing-song squaked adlibs and lyrical puzzles, are a great counterpoint to Jay’s also-excited but more uniform delivery. You get the full effect on tracks like “No Fucks,” where Bloody Jay amazingly boasts “me and blood posted at the spot with more P’s than peter piper pick a pepper” and Young Thug expresses indifference about streaking mud from his shoes on a $100,000 rug. While Bloody Jay’s presence on the tape seems to subdue Young Thug somewhat, the inverse is also true—Thug tends to bring out the weird in Jay, so between the two of them the different shifts in pitch, cadence, and tone make it sound like there are nine rappers on Black Portland instead of two and a guest hook from Future. “Florida Water” has Thug and Jay doing their best Lil B ballad impersonation, replete with non sequitur ad-libs and short half-melodies that make the track terrifically easy to sing along  to without knowing any of the lyrics.

Despite a great showing from both Thug and Jay, it becomes abundantly clear by the end of Black Portland that Young Thug has the possibility to graduate to a higher level of success. The severely underrated “Danny Glover,” where he compares the height of his money to two midgets, has been endorsed by Drake and Kanye West, and a remix featuring featuring Nicki Minaj surfaced today. With rumors of a seven-figure deal under Future’s Freebandz label, it’s quite possible that Young Thug’s career is only just beginning to see the first fruits of its potential, with Bloody Jay not too far behind either.

Young Thug and Bloody Jay’s Black Portland is out now. Download via Livemixtapes.

Gabriel Herrera

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