Will Thugger's new mixtape-album tip the scales in his favor, finally? Probably not.
Everything about The Barter 6 is enigmatic.
Firstly there's its author, Young Thug. The septum-pierced, face-tattooed Atlantian emcee seemingly came out of nowhere just a few years ago, quickly earning endorsements from the likes of Kanye West, Drake, Gucci Mane, and an apparent apprenticeship with Birdman. Even Thugger’s trademark delivery of caws and sighs is a mystery in and of itself, often filtered through auto-tune and/or weed smoke. Given his meteoric rise, it’s as though Thugger is too cool to be bothered by diction or emphatic deliveries. It’s a polarizing style, sure, but its earned him the respect of his peers and accolades like being included on Spin’s and Rolling Stone’s Top Songs list in 2013.
Also enigmatic is the history behind the subject of this piece: the once debut album, now additional mixtape of Young Thug. Originally an album named Tha Carter VI, it wasn’t long before an anonymous party (almost definitely Wayne himself) forced a quick makeover to the project, claiming copyright infringement. In just a weeks time, Tha Carter VI was renamed to Barter 6 and mysteriously classified as a mixtape, not an album, with Thugger promising a complete album this forthcoming summer.
And so as it always is with enigmas, we're left with questions. The most pressing regarding Barter 6 has to be - if this isn’t the Young Thug debut album we were looking for, what is it?
It’s not a war cry. Bloodthirsty pockets of fans eagerly awaiting an all-out assault on Lil Wayne will be disappointed by Barter 6 and Weezy loyalists are likely to feel trolled. On Barter 6, Thug leaves most of his venom behind in favor to toasting to his being the new toast of the town. Maybe Thugger’s braggadocio and the Birdman affiliation (who shared a sour one with Weezy) makes disses inherent this time around, but save for a few small traces back to Weezy ("Pussy boy, I’ll leave you dead and call it Dedication"), beef is not the theme of this record. By its end, the most memorable jab of the mixtape is probably the title of the mixtape itself.
Barter 6 can be ruled out as one of those career defining debuts, also. Critics and fans alike were looking forward to a compilation of new music from Young Thug that shifted the polarity one way or another. Instead, Barter 6 is bound to simply burrow each team’s respective flags further into the soil. Young Thug fans will be pleased to have a fresh batch of buzzing minimalist beats from Wheezy and London the Track, on which the emcee’s contributions are so simultaneously musical and numbing that they play like audio Xanax. If that’s your thing, then the mixtape will be fulfilling for you. If not, it will continue not to be your thing and the abhorrent attitude towards the project and its success (it is likely to debut charting in the Top 10) will only grow more fervent.
This is the fever dream that is Young Thug, whose personality, music, and general presence in the game walks a fine line between genuinely impressive and just plain white noise.
This fine line, which lies between the jazzy-scatting and the novacaine nature of the artist's sound, actually makes for a stronger result on Barter 6. Add too much to either side of the scale and the results are either migraine or coma-inducing. It’s not that it’s too much of a good thing, it actually feels like the opposite-- too much of a bad thing, a guilty pleasure. Like too much alcohol. Or Doritos.
Tracks like “Dream” and “Check” traverse this highwire to an effective degree, establishing ambience perfect for pre-gaming or windows-down cruises. Each of their hooks are equally hypnotic, with “Check” especially utilizing Thugger’s flow aptly, complete with foley art and spiraling lyrics. “Dome” does the opposite, puffed so full of dead-air and lyrics like "Jingle Bells baby, you can ring on me," that, when coupled with a one-word chorus, just feels too lazy to not be offensive. “OD” is a song about undying gang loyalty that nearly makes it passed the finish line before stifling its own legitimacy by taking detours to fall victim to the same vices that haunt every other Young Thug track (see: cunnalingus, which by track 11-- the point is already well-received).
All of the concern and controversy that has bubbled around YT and his Weezy beef is still on the burner, getting closer and closer to a boil. It seems that every day Lil Wayne makes headlines dissing Thug, and yet a whole album by Thug can barely make reciprocating news. With the impending release of Hy!£UN35 and the Weezy feud ongoing, it is possible that Young Thug have set himself up for failure in the event that Hy!£UN35 doesn’t deliver the way Barter 6 was expected to. Taking swings at bigger players in the game requires a firmer grip on the jugular than exemplified here. More “Constantly Hating” and less “Halftime”.
If there is one thing that both detractors and supporters of Young Thug can come into agreement about by the end of Barter 6, it’s that if you were looking for a sampling of Thugger that would help you (or convince others) to take his music seriously when put up against the work of his peers (even though many of them have already given him their own stamp of approval) then you’d be better off for holding out for August’s Hy!£UN35. Yes, Barter 6 features some tracks to soundtrack your next boozy evening, but it doesn’t feature anything to change anyone’s mind. Neutral folks will stay neutral and fans or anti-fans will stay just as vigilant.