When Young Nudy first appeared on 2015’s Slaughter King, one of his cousin’s formative mixtapes, he contrasted 21 Savage’s now-trademark menace with an air of nonchalance that was genuinely captivating in its own right. Once he followed up his modest debut mixtape, Paradise City, with the first of the Slimeball series, Nudy rocketed to regional fame. Minor hits like “Yeah Yeah” established him as a unique, forward-thinking voice in the game; Nudy was intent on occupying his lane and his lane only, wielding an inimitable flow that often sputters to life with absolutely no warning. And with Pi’erre Bourne by his side - a young talent who has recently become an industry darling following his work with Playboi Carti - Nudy’s subsequent mixtapes (last year’s Slimeball 2 and the critically-acclaimed Nudy Land) garnered him an almost cult-like status amongst fans of the East Atlanta cannon. 

Where his previous projects sported increasingly bigger co-signs, there are absolutely no features on Slimeball 3. It’s a strategic move; this conscious decision to stand on his own on the cusp of mainstream success could have easily been a fatal turn for a lesser artist, unnecessarily exposing the flaws of a burgeoning talent. Yet with Nudy there’s no hesitance, no sense of uncertainty, as he skillfully traverses the bare canvas, coloring freely and confidently.

Not only is there no supporting cast, Pi’erre’s usual level of assistance has been tempered as well. Adhering to tradition, Pi’erre still has sole production credits on the opening track “One Dolla” (which might actually be the best of their collaborative Slimeball intros, Nudy’s distinctive stream of consciousness flow on full display), but for the rest of the tape Nudy enlists a slew of talented producers in his place, even bringing Metro Boomin out of his recent hiatus of sorts. With producers like Wheezy, Maaly Raw, Rex Kudo, and CuBeatz added to the fray, there was a chance that Nudy’s usual mystique would be soiled. Yet, either by his own sheer will or the producers’ collective inclination to not fix what isn’t broken, the usual palette of sounds found on a Slimeball project is thankfully left intact. 

The hooks on here are uniformly great and Nudy's melodies are better than ever. The singles, “Do That” and “Sherbert” are obvious examples, but album cuts like “Know What’s Happenin” and “ABM” serve to prove his consistency. He may not always have something to say - sometimes the verses are just bridges to the promised land that are his hooks - but even when the verses falter, Nudy almost always catches an inspired pocket (see: “Zone 6”). The subtle crooning found on “Middle Fingers” makes it an instant earworm. The stutter flow on “Friday” elevates it above a standard homage to the Ice Cube flick to a comical cinematic experience of its own (“Friday’s on my pinky, n****/Heavy D, I’m smokin’ cookie, n****/Ice Cube, beat that shit out you n****,” is comedic gold and just plain great writing).

More often than not, Nudy’s charm is undeniable. Sometimes the lyrics are a silly string of braggadocious wordplay: “I get it for the low, call me Shawty Lo/And I got your hoe, goin’ low/She gonna suck slimeball slow/Real slow, I didn’t love your hoe.” But when he’s got a solid topic at hand, the more traditional aspects of Nudy’s rapping get a chance to shine. For example, the Maaly Raw produced “InDaStreet” is a 3-minute diatribe on the increasingly diluted street rap lane. “Yeah, your momma raised a pussy n****, soft ass n****, you a wanksta,” he seethes, utterly fed up with the bullshit. In a world of Tekashi69s running amok, by the time Nudy claims “hell nah, they don’t beef,” complete with an exasperated “pshh” ad-lib that doubles as a gun sound, it’s hard to imagine any other rapper questioning his authenticity.   

Changes in tempo, such as on “Robbin and Gettin,” or experimentations with delivery, like on “Mercy With Doubt,” are welcomed diversions from the usual. The penultimate track, “Right Now,” produced by Metro and Wheezy, is a dark and atmospheric taunt that begs to be replayed and scoured for every elusive punchline. Artists like Nudy, as well as Chicago's Valee, are both innovators, their combination of acrobatic flows, hushed-delivery and animated ad-libs currently setting trends left and right. All in all, Slimeball 3 feels like a full realization of the idiosyncrasies scattered across his previous efforts.   

Now all we need is that collab album with 21 - 4LBUM soon come!