Review: Young Thug, "Barter 6

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It's not about ancient swap markets as I'd hoped for, but Young Thug's Barter 6 is still worth a visit.

Young Thug just might be the most interesting man in rap. The ink-strewn body, the beach-blond hair, the fashion faux pas, the memes about his Delphic rhymes, and the drama surrounding his recording contracts and records all make for stories that engage.

Take Barter 6, for example. Young Thug originally planned to title his latest mixtape (album?


mixbum?) Carter 6 (after his idol Lil Wayne), inviting conversations about his true motive: Is it a nod to Wayne, a coup or both? Further complicating issues, Wayne has seen his own album Carter 5 suffer in label limbo. Meanwhile, there's an ongoing legal battle between Birdman and his erstwhile son. In a power move, Birdman effectively positioned Young Thug as Lil Wayne 6.0.

Surprisingly—and this is the part where Weezy might start scratching his dreads—Young Thug proves to be a worthy impersonator. Thug takes the most eccentric strain of Wayne's flow, his drawl, and amplifies it. The outcome: Young Thug sounds like a Jamaican parrot on a spaceship that only picks up BET.

You won't like Barter 6 if you hold it up to the time-honored hip-hop touchstones of lyricism and substance and allathat (not that you shouldn't). If you assess him on his own terms, however, you'll find Barter 6 breezy, mellow and occasionally entertaining. What works well for Thug on Barter 6 is his commitment to melody.

He leans all the way into his sound and wraps his flow around the music until he becomes one with each song, as perfectly exemplified on "Numbers." If there was any doubt about Young Thug's ability to carry an album, it has disappeared.

Barter 6 is the first Young Thug project that sounds like a Young Thug project. No excessive radio reach-outs. No bogus collaborations. No trend-chasing anthems. Just Young Thug at his most nakedly personal and passionate. And it's probably a good thing that you don't understand most of his rhymes, as they would probably wilt under scrutiny. "I like fish in water," he appears to be saying on "Halftime."

Barter 6 is a mostly solitary affair. The handful of guest rappers on this thing blend right in with Thug's energy. None of the guests tries to rock the boat. Instead, they allow themselves to be pulled into Thug's orbit, and this yields a more cohesive effort.

If this is mixtape I know a few rappers who could use production this lush. The beats best suited for Thugger's canorous flow are slow-rolling trunk rattlers with a dash of melody. "Od" is the perfect example of this: a woozy moment of solitude in which despair and hope merge into a strangely soothing concinnity.

Thugger's bizarre coupling of worlds and words aside, he has a tendency to drift toward the prosaic. There's a sense of familiarity on Barter 6 that makes it less riveting with increased spins. In other words, there's nothing on Barter 6 that strikes you as wildly exciting or entertaining. It sounds like the latest chapter of a book in progress.
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