Courtesy of Frank Schwichtenberg via Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 4.0

The most influential rapper of the last decade released his second studio album, “Punk,” at 12 a.m. PST. on Friday, Oct. 15. The title, cover art and overall album promotion were true to Young Thug’s left-field approach to music. From gleefully destroying a Rolls Royce with his disciple, Gunna, to reinventing Octavio Ocampo’s “Forever Always” piece, it was evident that Young Thug wanted to grab our attention ahead of the release of this project. Being such an established artist with so much respect in the game, it would be easy for Thug to try to recreate what’s worked for him in the past; but Thug has once again pushed himself to reinvent music. While this is by no means a punk album sonically, if any rap artist evokes the non-conformist and eccentric values of the punk subculture, it is Young Thug. Compared to Thug’s debut studio album released in 2019, “So Much Fun,” the subject matter and tone are drastically different.

He opens the album with an unorthodox but extraordinarily raw and vulnerable song, “Die Slow,” that details many of the traumatic experiences he faced in his childhood. The song deals with a series of heart-rending subjects touched on throughout the album: death, imprisonment, family and pain. By being so unabashedly honest from the beginning, this track sets the tone for the type of album Thug wanted to put out. 

“Punk” plays as a very balanced project all the way through, with enticing features from major artists spread evenly throughout. The first exciting feature comes from J. Cole on the track titled “Stressed.” Cole, who is no stranger to introspective rap, delivered a great verse where he opens up about his views on money and acknowledges familial responsibilities. Another brilliant guest appearance came from Future in track six, “Peepin Out The Window.” Future simply floated on this mellow and melodic beat managing to add some bars briefly addressing police brutality and parenting. The festivities continued with more visits from chart-topping artists. Two of rap’s most significant icons, Drake and Travis Scott, joined the mix in “Bubbly,” an energetic tune that helps balance out the frequent sad acoustic guitar samples that make up a good portion of the album. Not to mention equally strong showings from Gunna, Post Malone, A$AP Rocky and Doja Cat.

One of the most admirable things about this project is the performances from the late hip-hop superstars Juice WRLD and Mac Miller. Many members of the rap community have expressed their sorrow and astonishment over the loss of these two artists. As an OG in the game, it was beautiful to see Young Thug give us a chance to hear their voices again. Juice’s verse comes on one of the more fun songs on the album, “Rich N***a Sh*t,” in which Juice switches his flow a few times and chronicles his fast lifestyle. The golden voice of Mac Miller closes out the album with a memorable verse over a calming acoustic sample that is sure to cause the eyes to well up.

The 20-track album has its lackluster moments as Thug venture’s into more poppy hooks and melodies in the second half of the tracklist. Songs like “Hate The Game” and “Love You More” featuring Nate Reuss, former lead singer of pop-rock band Fun, aren’t terrible by any stretch. However, these tracks start to drag a little and really feel like the last songs of a lengthy album. These tracks also highlight some of the not-so-great aspects of “Punk.” The beat production was honestly dull in a lot of songs, and that was only saved by unique vocal ability, entertaining voice inflections and well-executed features. 

Verdict: A rap career isn’t commonly known for longevity and graceful aging. Young Thug defies a lot of stereotypes about rappers in this album by delivering a maturely nuanced and complete work filled with entertaining features and jolts of hype upbeat records in between for us to enjoy.