It’s obvious that Young Thug is the star of YSL Records’ new compilation Slime Language 2. Throughout the album’s 23 songs, Young Thug — and a squadron of high-profile guest stars — does the majority of the heavy lifting with his charisma and quick twists of wit.
That doesn’t mean that his artists get overshadowed by the star power present. Rather, the star power is Young Thug’s way of casting some halo effect on his expanded roster (four new rappers have joined since the group’s last Slime Language compilation in 2018).
A handful of them do rise to the occasion; YSL veteran Gunna, Lil Keed, and new addition Unfoonk (Thug’s own brother) acquit themselves admirably on the tracks where they’re left to their own devices.
On “Came Out,” Keed does his best to out-Thug Thug, bending and stretching his voice as much as he can, clearly inspired by his label boss’s own vocal contortions. Alongside Thug on “Real,” Unfoonk turns his sandpaper singing voice into a heart-tugging ballad.
And Gunna makes the most of his established chemistry with mega-star Drake on “Solid” and Young Thug on “Ski,” the album’s two most obvious standouts. “Ski” revisits the loopy energy of “Surf” from Thug’s 2019 album So Much Fun, while “Solid” is a murky excursion in the vein of Drake’s own cameo on Future’s 2020 hit “Life Is Good.”
Elsewhere, Slime Language 2 highlights Thug’s transparently generous efforts to put his people on as much as it does his skills as a talent scout. Sorry if that reads kind of negative, but the loyalty is on full display on lackadaisical cuts like “Slatty,” where Yak Gotti and Lil Duke — two of Thug’s longest-tenured signings — turn in forgettable verses to start the project.
The Lil Uzi Vert-featuring “Proud Of You,” another clear standout, also wears out its welcome by the time Young Kayo’s verse comes in, and Kayo does very little to save it. On “I Like” with Coi Leray, Karlae — Thug’s longtime girlfriend — swings between lightweight crooning and upbeat rapping but gets washed out by her guest star and undermined by generic rhymes (at one point, she quotes Muhammad Ali out of context, making me wince at the Citizen Kane of it all).
T-Shyne shows off multiple flows on “Warrior,” as well as some Young Thug-ish ad-libs, impressing by virtue of his flow’s polish, if not his bars (guest rapper Big Sean steals the show). Strick’s laid-back verse alongside Kid Cudi on “Moon Man” is a slow-burner, with a creeping, “grows on you” quality. These are two of the label’s vets, so it makes sense they have the most technical skill and experience, if not very much to say.
HiDoraah and Dolly White, Thug’s sisters, put forth dry efforts on their respective solo tracks, underscoring the gift and the curse of the YSL co-sign. Thug seems to be a great person, creating opportunities for his friends and families by leveraging his status as one of hip-hop’s biggest draws after years of uncertain footing and controversial reception.
It means a lot that he’d put his reputation — something he fought for and earned over the course of a decade of old-head snipes about his clothes, flow, and rumored sexuality — on the line for his folks. But we’ve likely heard the best from the label in projects like Wunna and Trapped On Cleveland 3 — there’s a reason Keed and Gunna have received the most commercial success to date.
By calling in so many famous friends for support, Thug does put his artists in a position to receive a lot of attention, but perhaps they’d have been better off keeping things more self-contained, giving YSL’s roster more space to showcase their standalone work. The contrast the guests unintentionally create between truly creative, self-sufficient artists and the still-developing talents of Thug’s musical mafia casts the latter in a less favorable light than they should want at the moment.
But there are bright spots and there’s always room for improvement, even among the less original members of the collective. And at least they can be assured they’ve got the support of their head honcho, which is a lot more than many, many rappers signed to other rappers can say — a blessing that may pan out as they work to forge their own paths beyond Young Thug’s footprints in the sand.
Slime Language 2 is out now Young Stoner Life Records / 300 Entertainment. Get it here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.