Atlanta is a haven for eclecticism in the rap scene, but Young Thug’s sing-rapping weirdness has always felt special. Thug isn’t limited to a particular sonic space— he’ll steal hits with his features (‘Hookah’ and ‘About The Money’), and drop leaned-out Gucci Mane dedications with Metro Boomin the next (‘Free Gucci’).
Metro Boomin is notably absent on Barter 6, but it would be an injustice to suggest that Thugger relies on his style, nor any of his other collaborators. The songs here are a turn away from the club-ready hits of Rich Gang: Tha Tour and 1017 Thug, and lead single ‘Check’ captures the stoned pace and unforgiving emotion that I loved on ‘Free Gucci’. Beats like ‘Halftime’ hit a little harder, and the four tracks with frequent collaborator London On Da Track are unsurprisingly highlights, but the aptly named Wheezy holds his own, producing no less than eight songs.
On tracks like ‘Can’t Tell’ Thug’s warbling hooks are transcendent, backed by his own chorus of ad-libs and the occasional Birdman bird-call. Birdman makes his presence felt with these ‘brrrrrrrs’ and two prominent features on the album, and he not-so-covertly implicates his beef with Lil Wayne in the album’s title. But Birdman raps differently to Thug in that he simply raps to be present, briefly reminding you that he’s still there, hustling hard as ever. Next to him, Thug dazzles with flows that alternate between the sedated (‘Dome’) and rapid (‘Just Might Be’). When he raps fast it seems necessary, not forced—thoughts are spilling out so fast that he needs a double-time flow to keep up.
Thug’s charisma doesn’t quite carry all thirteen songs. While it’s not bad, ‘OD’ is a few steps short of the cloud-rap classic it could have been, and ‘Amazing’ sounds like an unfinished demo with an average contribution from Jacquees. The rest of the features are more inspiring—highlights are a riled-up Young Dolph rounding out ‘Never Had It,’ and some Boosie gravitas in ‘Can’t Tell’. Yeah, I was a little put out when Thug jacked master Wayne’s album name, but the quality of a album like Barter 6 negates these antics. It has an extremely coherent sound, losing the messy improvisation of Black Portland (which is, albeit, my favourite Thugg project) in favour of something more polished, as forecasted in Tha Tour. It would be foolish to write off Barter 6 as a half-arsed side project.