On Young Thug‘s collaboration with the Cash Money Tony Soprano-type Birdman, and humble mumbler Rich Homie Quan, the Atlanta yelper’s delivery is best celebrated as pure wordless expression — because his sub-Lil Wayne pantomime shtick is growing old. And now that rap is apparently on the verge of its ass-eating era (shouts to Kanye West and Kevin Gates), even Thug’s penchant for cunnilingus raps isn’t all that admirable. Not to mention, his truly clueless comments on Ferguson at the BET Hip-Hop Awards cloud the tape. As one of the few rappers to pen a song about Trayvon Martin, dude should’ve known better.
But oh man, a whole history of visceral pop voices rockets from Thug’s vocal chords: Weezy, for sure, but it also sounds like singular singers as disparate as Robert Johnson, Hasil Adkins and Lee “Scratch” Perry (no, really). Meanwhile, Birdman appears a few times to rap really, really well (“I’mma Ride”), though he mostly just stays on-brand by monologuing luxury. (He also pronounces “toilet” as “terlet,” like that guy in that one Richard Yates story.) The success of Tha Tour Pt. 1 is pretty much up to the rather underrated Rich Homie Quan, whose voice is complex (he invents a new kind of openhearted trappy alt-R&B on “Flava” and “Tell Em”), dynamic (his howl on “Milk Marie” is pretty much the same as the sexy guitar sound that punctuates its beat) and deeply affecting.
“Freestyle,” the tape’s highlight, features Quan confessing “My baby momma just put me on child support/ Fuck a warrant ain’t going to court/ Don’t care what them white folks say, I just wanna see my little boy/ Go to school, be a man,” and it’s as if he’s injecting the shitty details from his life with a sing-song quality so they don’t hurt so much. That Birdman introduces those lines by blabbing about “top-floor-type shit,” and Thug lazily cribs the melody from Quan’s 2013 track “Man of the Year,” shows just how this inspired, addictive, though muddled mixtape rolls. Young Thug is more than willing to play along with Birdman and waste his eccentricities — although, he’s starting to tone his mania down, which is a bummer. But Quan rises above the tone-deaf tough talk, and raps as if he’s staring at his shoes, embarrassed about something he did or should’ve done but didn’t. His crushed croon affords the trio’s trap tape some necessary emotional weight.