Young Thug’s career trajectory since his 2011 mixtape, “I Came From Nothing 2,” is reminiscent of a star emerging from the darkness. In 10 years, he has become one of the most influential rap artists of our time, and his albums' releases feel like events in their consistency and scope. His latest album, “Punk,” exemplifies an array of different musical styles and comes on the heels of his last release, “Slime Language 2.”
Stylistically, Young Thug has not changed much since his last project because he knows what his audience wants and expects. Interesting vocal inflections, bars that focus on his wealth and happiness and unexpected similes are trademarks of Young Thug songs, and Punk is no stranger to this.
“Had to gamble my life, rollin' the dice/My name got a price, but talk to me nice/I got my money right,” he raps in "Recognize Real." At this point in his career, you’re aware of his successes and his failures, and it's rewarding for his fans to resonate with the man they know and love.
“Icy Hot (with Doja Cat)” is one of the most pop-sounding songs on the album, which is Doja Cat’s specialty.
“He call me Doja Rat, I chewed through all his cheese/ He said my tiger bomb, gave him that icy hot,” she raps. Sex-infused bars are Doja Cat’s bread and butter, and she and Young Thug bounce bars off each other to an atmospheric and intense Wheezy beat. This sound shows the power of two comfortable titans in the music industry and illustrates how far Doja Cat has come since her 2018 breakout hit “MOOO!”
“Bubbly (with Drake & Travis Scott)” is a braggadocious hit that focuses on their achievements in the music industry, which is a shared experience all of them have.
“Been on the charts for 500 weeks, so somebody love when I speak,” Drake raps, which is a clear testament to his longevity and success. While these three have collaborated multiple times before, this one makes so much sense and solidifies the message of the song and the unique situation they find themselves in.
Young Thug is no stranger to releasing multiple albums in the same year, and 2021 has been a great year for him. His Black Entertainment Television performance with Gunna was popular and eye-catching, and he has mostly stayed clear of controversy and seems to solely be focusing on music.
Rappers especially often fall into antics or false ideas of what their fans want and fail to deliver on these raised expectations of themselves. Young Thug’s bravado comes from his confidence in himself, and it feels less like postering and more like genuine conviction.
The cover art takes inspiration from Octavia Ocampo’s 1987 surrealist painting, “Forever Always,” which shows an aged couple staring into each other’s eyes while Mexican characters sit in repose behind them. Young Thug’s “Punk” cover shows two profiles of his own face, while he plays instruments and rolls dice in his own repose.
The cover is a unique homage and illustrates how much influence Young Thug and his team repurpose and utilize. Young Thug’s cover art has typically been inventive and unique. For 2019’s "So Much Fun," he used 803 hand-placed copies of himself to form his face.
Young Thug releases albums less out of necessity and more because he knows they will sell. He keeps his fans happy by providing them with what they want, and this album relies heavily on his strengths and star power as an artist.
Young Thug's formulaic album releases are one of his greatest strengths, and he no longer has to prove anything to anyone. He has achieved so much in his career, and his audience is solidified and established. While his raps may not be as groundbreaking as they once were, Young Thug recognizes that he no longer has to wow his audience. His fans will stream and buy his work regardless, and his career trajectory and output continue to rise.