AI YoungBoy 2

AI YoungBoy 2

It’s fitting that events which, for other artists, might serve as career-defining achievements seem to happen, for YoungBoy Never Broke Again, in media res. In 2019, AI YoungBoy 2 became the Baton Rouge firebrand’s first No. 1 album. Only it wasn’t the result of a months-long promotional campaign, carefully rolled out to maximize exposure. In fact, it wasn’t even an album—it was a mixtape without a hit single, marketing gimmick, or any press campaign to speak of. Even its title, which refers back to his 2017 breakout project, suggests that this is not designed to welcome in the uninitiated. And yet it serves as evidence of the way YoungBoy’s pain music connects with audiences on an almost spiritual level. How else to account for the way his tales of crime and vengeance in Baton Rouge—seldom given enough breathing room to appeal to voyeurs—have helped to make him one of the biggest rappers of his generation? The sorrow and longing YoungBoy is able to communicate in the tone of his voice alone transform verses that would otherwise be diaristic into rallying cries. Take the downtrodden “Make No Sense,” where a complaint that is hyperspecific to YoungBoy’s life—in this case, that he can’t stand outside the trap house anymore because his face has graced too many magazine covers—is made emotionally legible, not a boast but a confession. From the time he exploded with the original AI YoungBoy, the artist has moved fluidly between rapping and singing, often to superb effect. But on “Slime Mentality,” he takes this a step further, seemingly prepared to rap, sing, or simply speak the next thing that comes to mind. This suggests an invigorating formlessness, one that might accommodate the messier thoughts coursing through YoungBoy’s head. But by the song’s finish, it has cohered into something nearly pop—a magic trick from a city, in YoungBoy’s telling, that has run out of magic.

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