The first step of listening to Young Thug is to discard any and all expectations. The next is to prepare. For what? One can never be entirely certain. At minimum, brace for a reintroduction to the polymathic Atlanta rapper—over 20 projects in, and he remains incalculable. There's a tiny bit of precedent for Punk in the country melodies of 2017's BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS, but even its title is a bait-and-switch. There's plenty of guitars, though they are acoustic rather than electric, and they tend to pulse more than thrash. From the outset, his aim is to disarm. An air of solemnity hangs over the album. Sometimes it makes sense, as on “Contagious,” a reflection on the highs and lows of fame, or “Stupid/Asking,” a two-part lovesick ballad that doubles as a display of Thug's singular vocal charisma. At other points, it seems almost opposed to the subject matter—the flex-filled “Insure My Wrist,” the gorgeously sappy standout “Love You More”—because Thug has always intrinsically understood the power of contrasting tones as a means of drawing out a range of emotions. Perhaps the biggest testament to his shape-shifting finesse, though, is the way the thunderous roar of songs like “Rich N***a Shit” and “Bubbly” doesn't interrupt the concept but instead feels essential to it; the range is as much the point as the aesthetic. Still. In the end, any words that could describe Punk—pensive but playful, measured yet mercurial, bluesy folk music dressed up as trap rap—feel woefully inadequate to capture Thug's present essence, let alone his past, and certainly never his future. Perhaps that's the most punk thing of all.

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