It’s finally happened, the moment I’d always hoped for but never quite thought possible: Young Thug is a bonafide star, and his post-1017 Thug fame couldn’t be more deserved (though I’m still arguing I Came From Nothing 2 is his best work yet). But there’s a tendency to get caught up in his “wackiness”—which, yes, is there, and it’s awesome—and gloss over the fact that Thug isn’t riding to the top off his yelpy voice and zany adlibs alone. The dude can rap, and on Black Portland, his collaborative tape with Atlanta underdog Bloody Jay, he does so in a narcotic, cryptic mumble (“Florida Water”), an inhuman rapid-fire barrage (the beloved “Danny Glover”) and while screaming at the top of his lungs like he knows this dull earth is no place for a guy like him (“Signs”). That said, this is a project by two rappers, and it’d be a mistake for to ignore the contributions of Bloody Jay, who’s easily as enigmatic as Thug. (Jay’s Blatlanta 2 tape, on which the transcendent “Let’s Go Play” originally appeared, was grievously slept on last year.) Like Thug, he’s got a voice that occasionally goes completely off the hinges and a penchant for connecting unexpected dots to make a weird and sublime picture: Are you a author? That’s why you get goosebumps when you see me, no RL Stine he raps on “Movin.” In fact, his flow’s even more avant garde than Thug’s; it’s like he takes pleasure in building rhythmic mazes only so he can find his way out, as on his choppy, borderline spoken-word verses on “Nothing But Some Pain.” This is the Platonic ideal of a collaborative tape: no one’s carrying the bulk of the weight, and two weirdos bring out even weirder sides of each other without sacrificing listenability. For me, this is the best rap tape of the year so far.
Highlights: “Florida Water,” a sickly-sweet, mush-mouthed ballad, the chorus of which all but renders English obsolete. “Signs,” a howling, Three 6-sampling beast where the two alternately lose their shit and big up each other. “Let’s Go Play,” a showcase for Bloody at his best.
WTF: An overwhelming majority of this tape is kind of a glorious WTF, so instead, some advice: go listen to Bloody Jay “Strange World” when you’re done with the tape.