Young Thug can’t win. Either people say he’s too weird or not weird enough. His new project, Barter 6, is the first he’s officially backed since last September’s Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1, but it feels more like an extension of that tape rather than a departure from it. And that’s a good thing.
Barter 6 is what Tha Tour wanted to be. There was too much middling Rich Homie Quan on there and at 20 tracks, the tape was just too long. It was essentially the Young Thug show with Quan there for support (a claim later proved by the fact that Rich Homie Quan eventually separated from Rich Gang and claimed he never signed any papers with Birdman). Ironically enough, the guy who produced RHQ’s “Milk Marie” on that tape (Wheezy) handles eight of the thirteen beats on Barter 6, and his chemistry with Thugger helps the contained circularity of the tape. Barter 6 is 51 minutes long, but it feels as tight and to the point as Earl Sweatshirt’s new 30-minute album.
At this very moment, Young Thug is a perfect storm of stardom. “I swear every time I dress myself it go motherfuckin’ viral,” he says on “Halftime,” and his awareness of that fact is as important as the fact itself. That each of the five videos released from Rich Gang’s Tha Tour garnered at least two millions views each speaks less to their individual value than to the burgeoning buzz that Young Thug has created for himself in the past two years. Hate him or love him, everyone is watching what he does.
Thug knows that this is his moment – notice how he’s in the spotlight on the cover. Lyor Cohen’s new record label 300 is throwing its full support behind Thug as one of their biggest artists, and seeing how Barter 6 is his first major label release, Thugger rightfully doesn’t take too many risks across 13 tracks. There is no smash hit like “Lifestyle,” though “Check” is catchy enough to become one, while T.I.’s unnecessary inclusion on “Can’t Tell” merely clutches at the glory of “About The Money.” Barter 6 is safe, in relative terms, and it excels as such because it never gets too far away from its core. Now that Thug’s got tons of promotion behind him, fans want him to be even weirder than before? Let the kid get comfortable first.
The “weirdness” that so many seem to fetishize does appear on Barter 6, like when he says, “Pussy niggas hold their nuts, masturbatin’ on you” on the hook for opener “Constantly Hating.” On “Halftime,” Thug’s bridge spools into a bubbling vat of Autotune, turning what should be a corny line (“Hey, let’s have a good time!”) into a fascinating pile of melting radioactive vocals. And what to make of the latter half of the last song on the tape, “Just Might Be”? His hybrid melody rap has never been so on-point.
The project has its missteps, too. “Dome” doesn’t add anything to the tape, Jacquees disrupts the up-tempo “Amazing,” and guest appearances from Lil Boosie and MPA Duke don’t live up to Young Dolph’s booming verse on “Never Had It.” But to expect perfection from Barter 6 is unfair; one can feel the pressure bearing down on Thugger two years after “Stoner” and “Danny Glover,” though he doesn’t show any signs of sweat. Those who wanted a project full of bigger songs like that might have to wait for Thug’s official album this August. For people who want an intro to what Thug is all about, and for those who were confident he could hammer out his style better than he’s done on projects past, Barter 6 is more than satisfying. It’s an excellent encapsulation of what makes a rare talent such a special gift to the stunted rap world of today.