For an artist as purposefully unpredictable as Atlanta’s SEX, there aren’t many readily visible common threads to draw upon when scouring through his extensive catalogue. Young Thug exists in his own universe. As does Jeffrey. SEX seems to be the most evolved form yet, yet we wouldn’t be so quick to assume it’s his final frontier. So bare with us as we try to piece some clues together here.

Thug has always had a penchant for the Trilogy, has he not? I Came From Nothing, 1017 Thug, Slime Season - I’m sure we’ll even see I’m Up 2 & 3 in due time. Plus, Thugga Mane La Flare 2 would’ve already happened if Gucci hadn’t been cloned. Same with Rich Gang: Tha Tour pt. 1 and Rich Homie Quan. And why not? When you’re as prolific as Thugger’s been during the first half of his 20s, it might start to feel like there’s never a lack of content. Of course, it hasn’t proved to be that simple; as we all know, one’s methods are often highly dependent on their desired outcome. And for a while there? It didn’t seem as if Thug desired much outside of the comfort of cult fandom and in-the-know industry praise. This not only continuously hindered any forward momentum he’s gained during his elusive rise top, it has seemed to ingrain in him a desire to always skirt outright commercial success.

That is, until conclusion of the Slime Season series. With the rollout of Jeffrey and his subsequent efforts, there seemed to be a more refined approach to his presentation. With Jeffrey and Beautiful Thugger Girls, he also started to get a taste for orchestrating true pop culture moments. It still wasn’t all smooth sailings though - Thug still operated under the inexplicably suffocating guidance of 300 Entertainment. However, since reconciling with his kindred spirit, Future, there seems to be a concentrated effort to position Jeffrey - and now SEX -  for superstardom.

Joint tapes with DJ Carnage and Future, Calvin Harris, Chance the Rapper & Chris Brown collaborations - inevitably, his first #1 placement finally arrived in the form of a left-field feature for Camila Cabello. And now, with Hear No Evil, a 3 song EP featuring Nicki Minaj, Lil Uzi Vert and 21 Savage - also known as three of the highest streamed recording artists alive - he seems to be melding these two schools of thought in an attempt to forge new cannon. Prolificacy has been his forte, but he seems to be receiving more and more joy from precision these days. Meaning, he seems more focused than ever before, strategically placing himself in pop discussions while choosing to live on the fringes of the mainstream.

Thug’s loyalty to his base camp - another common thread throughout his work - is a large part of why he’s starting to turn what’s been perceived as aimless trajectory into a calculated ability to casually flirt with the mainstream while always remaining captivating to his core fanbase. It’s why lines like “we don’t do radio, no Funkmaster Flex now”, hit so hard; they’re being delivered by a documented renegade. Thug is the kind of guy to see an opening to flood the market, but then pull back to to let an artist of his, Gunna, take the city by force instead. He’s the kind of guy to turn down a $1 million dollar offer from Gucci Mane on principle alone. And those kind of acts doesn’t go unnoticed.

The same applies to the music itself - while the features on Hear No Evil flirt with the pop-rap world, the producers help root the sound firmly in Thug’s World. Southside needs no introduction at this point and DJ Spinz - a frequent collaborator of Future’s - first linked up with Thugger back in 2014, when they created one of Thug’s most underrated loosies, “I Just Might.” While Charlie Handsome and Rex Kudo may seem to be the exception to the rule this time around, the three have actually collaborated on Beautiful Thugger Girls’ “Me or Us” - which was initially teased in early 2016.

Where they could’ve come up with a straightforward Top 40 hit, “Anybody” instead plays like a ritualistic funeral dirge, sonically the child of Thug’s own breakout anthem “Danny Glover,” and his self-proclaimed idol’s deceptively influential single nearly a decade prior, “Lollipop.” As predictable as it can get by the time Nicki’s verse rolls around, it’d be dishonest to call it safe. “Up,” featuring his spiritual protege Lil Uzi Vert, is a psychotic break on wax; Thug taking coke and channeling demonic “HEE HEE”’s while declaring “I forget about superstardom/I’ll take my dog’s charge” is probably the most frightening thing we experienced this past Friday the 13th, second only to his equally hallucinogenic third verse - reminiscent of a skit straight out of Eminem’s Relapse or something - where he mutters “I don’t give a fuck, I got a prostitute Granny” right before squealing “I got some girl, and that shit stuck in my veins.”

The false sense of security provided by the Nicki collab was doubly effective because a Thug and Uzi collab, on paper, seems innocent enough. When that proves to be the complete opposite, we’re left breathless, looking at - *adjusts glasses* - a song with 21 Savage for a bit of reprieve. Sheesh. Thankfully, “Now” ends up being what has to be one of the more triumphant collabs these two have in the vault. All in all, this brief offering proves to be quite a dynamic experience, even if it leaves diehard fans salivating for more.  

And that’s where we come in - what if there’s more to this rollout than meets the eye? Only time can reveal what’s brewing inside this ATLlien’s mind, but with the “3”s Thug & his team were posting prior to the release of Hear No Evil, it does make one wonder. How does that old idiom go again?

See No Evil

Hear No Evil

Speak No Evil

Oh, okay. We see you Thugger. Plus, just think of all the artists that have co-signed King Slime over the past few years, with nary a follow up track blessing us peasants. Most recently, it was Childish Gambino and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie pictured with Thugger. But don’t forget Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Rihanna - freakin’ Elton John!

If - and we understand that this is a big if - this is a three part series Thug is about to unleash on us, what other collaborations are you guys looking forward to? Both the “Anybody” sign video and Thug’s last verse on “Up” pay respects to his deaf brother - Deaf Greg - keeping in line with the overall theme of the project. Do you think the remaining installments will do the same?

Make sure to let us know what you think down below!