The only thing essential to Young Thug’s artistry is his voice. Style gets switched up, beats come and go, but that voice is forever.

It’s the only true link within Thugger’s sprawling discography. It’s the reason he can make a country album (Beautiful Thugger Girls), even if his definition a country album is a few acoustic guitars, sing-song warble (which he does whether an album is ‘country’ or not), and a video for the lead single in which he rides around on a horse. For this to be an even somewhat coherent move approved by Young Thug’s business mentor, and occasional antagonist, 300 Entertainment CEO Lyor Cohen, something’s gotta keep things together. That thing, that indefatigable, infinitely-faceted, ever-morphing thing, is Young Thug’s voice; the Siren within rap’s Greek mythology.

The Slime Season series, which is already three editions deep and set to grow soon with the coming (and still unannounced) Slime Language, has been the most lucrative platform for collectors Thug’s rarest flows, a space in which the Atlanta rapper roams free. Throughout the trilogy, he’s unencumbered by album formats, verse-chorus structure, or even, at times, any human language. (A caveat: Super Slimey, the collaborative Young Thug album with Future will be ignored here as a relative blip on the radars both Thug and Future, and the rare release in which both mostly phone it in without finding the inspiration that ten comes so easily to both them.)

The Slime Season series works, in some part, because there’s no pressure attached to it. The Slime Season series is a series cutting room floor rejects that Cohen and Co. put out after a massive amount Young Thug music leaked onto the Unternet. Perhaps hoping to serve as a distraction, or as some B-sides now elevated to top-billing status, this series proves that even Young Thug’s castfs are in a class amongst themselves.

The first Slime Season, released in September 2015, is the most scattershot the mixtape trilogy, but what is Young Thug if not a cannonball dropping head-first into the norms rap’s traditionalists? In a way, Slime Season is the purest distillation Thug’s career: a record both expansive and reductive, 18-songs long featuring mild burnouts (“Overdosin”), long-fabled gems that have done rotations online — essentially, tracks for fans who still can’t believe “Pacifier” hasn’t found an on-record home (“Draw Down”) — and certified hits that remain flawless to this day (“Best Friend”).

Slime Season 2 came out on Halloween that same year, the mid-point a creative run that saw Thug flush his system in the form three albums varying greatness (the first two Slimes, along with 2015’s effortlessly cohesive and enthralling Barter 6). Each contained enough standout work to make the music spree a truly awe-inspiring performance; a historical moment during which Thug churned out a creative streak that brought comparisons to mixtape-era Lil Wayne the mid-2000s.

While Slime Season 2 is also culled from older tracks, it’s more cohesive than its predecessor, more in-tune with the gloomy and molasses-thick aesthetic vision that Thugger never strays particularly far from. This makes the record more balanced, the standouts not quite representing the ecstatic highs Slime Season, simply because the surrounding work aligns so easily with the general murk the album. Slime Season 2 also scans as a more personal disc — Thug’s one-liners are as bewilderingly f the cuff as ever (“I wanna bang like a pistol,” “Hey, I”), but he more ten lasers in on personal reflection than ever before. “Flaws” is about Young Thug’s stunning success despite the shortcomings that have plagued him, while on “Beast” he mourns the death his brother from the perspective his now-fatherless nephew. The tape’s steady hand comes courtesy Thug’s engineer, Alex Tumay, who also served as executive producer on this project. The focus and precise eye for detail serves Thug’s f-the-wall delivery perfectly.

Slime Season 3, from March 2016, is the closest in the series to a proper album, a tight, brisk, eight-track disc that nestles up awfully close to the still unclaimed status that is Young Thug’s ficial debut LP. The fact that such an event hasn’t occurred remains staggering, but all indications point to the upcoming Slime Language being the one. And if one is looking for hints as to what that LP might hold, Slime Season 3, with its casual array earworm hooks and emphatic sing-rapping, is likely an indicator (as is a tape like 2016’s Jeffery). The set begins with “With Them,” a track that features an all-time Thug line: “I wanna fuck her but she play more games than the NBA.” It’s the sort witty logic that informs Thug’s best work, descriptors that wouldn’t ever cross the mind the casual thinker, but the sort one-f that dovetails into hyper-specificity, moments that ultimately become the paint that Young Thug uses to splatter his canvas.

With the sprawling aim the Slime Season series, it’s hard to predict what musical direction Slime Language will head, especially considering the last edition came out in 2016. But, these three records are a distinct entity within the Young Thug project: loose and meditative, honing in on the codeine-laced sludginess that so expertly counteracts Thug’s more spastic flows. Slime Seasons 1-3 reach a singularity few other Thug projects reach, or, frankly, even aim for. The forthcoming LP is likely to follow this model, bold yet calculated, pulsating with a gloss an ficial release most similar to the refined Slime Season 3.

Young Thug’s discography since then has reached serious peaks (the aforementioned Jeffery, parts Beautiful Thugger Girls), and middling valleys (Super Slimey and this year’s tossed-f Hear No Evil EP), but considering 2018 was the year Thug was planning to step away from music in a symbolic gesture towards his deaf brother, the surprising return the Slime series — media snakes for everyone! — is a cause for celebration. Whether or not you differentiate between commercial mixtapes and ficial LPs is a question Drake-ian semantics; regardless, Slime Language is already a bountiful surprise. The record is still on the way, but snake season has arrived.

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