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Chris Brown/Young Thug - Slime&B Music Album Reviews

Rap’s trickster god and R&B’s least tolerable person collaborate on a mixtape with no discernible upside. 

Of the many strange pop-culture artifacts to emerge from quarantine, a collaboration between Young Thug and Chris Brown probably falls higher on the plausibility index than Beyoncé shouting out OnlyFans or the name X Æ A-12, but their new mixtape, Slime&B, still feels beyond explanation. It’s hard to imagine it existing in a world less dystopian than the one we’re in now. The title implies a meeting of the minds and a marrying of their styles, yet this is a clear mismatch. Brown, while still commercially viable, has been slumping creatively. Thug is at the height of his success and near the peak of his powers. To work with Brown, Thug must sacrifice a ton of what makes him special and engaging. Why go from So Much Fun to so little?
Thug is no stranger to this kind of project. On Rich Gang Tha Tour, Part 1, he and Rich Homie Quan formed an unlikely yin-yang duo that seemed linked even when unyoked, and even though he often lacks chemistry with frenemy Future, their collaborative tape, Super Slimey, was still like watching two sluggers at a home run derby bat flipping every time they go yard. They were two of rap’s preeminent talents in their primes, independent but together.
Young Thug teaming with Chris Brown doesn’t have the same upside. Brown is a deposed R&B king-turned-heel whose continued hitmaking is offset by his inability to grow or show restraint, in his music or in his life. He is an incompatible, and in some cases unwelcome, partner for rap’s mischievous trickster god—indeed, someone’s already made a version where he is entirely cut out of the tape. The two of them don’t share any meaningful connection, and they mostly come across as self-indulgent.

Young Thug, for his part, sounds jaded and disengaged. Roping Thug into Chris Brown’s world of frictionless songcraft limits the possibilities for what the rapper can do; he’s rarely seemed as bored as he does on “Trap Back.” Thug says he recorded his verses in a single day; honestly, it sounds like it. (He was spotted shooting hoops with Brown the day before they announced the tape.) He is so prolific and explosive that it’s easy to imagine a lot of his best rapping happening like this, but his verses and hooks here are aimless in an idle sort of way. These are “nothing else to do” bars without real inspiration. Even if the point of this project is simply to kill time, listening shouldn’t feel like a waste of time.

Nor does his proximity to Brown push him to deliver on his singing. When Thug is locked in, as on the Swae Lee duet “Offshore,” he sounds like he could make all the chairs swivel on The Voice or pull a T-Pain at the Tiny Desk moment. But his performances here are just flat and spiritless, paling in comparison to the no-holds-barred crooning of his “singing album” Beautiful Thugger Girls. These two just don’t have any chemistry at all; on “She Bumped Her Head,” Brown sounds like he’s encroaching on Thug and Gunna’s space, trying to squeeze himself into a role likely meant for Lil Baby.

Thug and Brown find common ground in the cut-the-line VIP lifestyles they lead, how that celebrity gets them laid (often), and the nature of their stroke games (always great, apparently). But there aren’t many songs that really sell the Playboy Mansion debauchery they’re aspiring to. Songs about being too wasted (“Undrunk”) and about not being wasted enough (“No Such Thing”) cancel out. And after half an album of womanizing, Chris Brown comes up for air just long enough to disavow the entire thing: “Poppin’ bottles in the club/Fuckin’ models, doin’ drugs/And I can’t do this anymore/I feel like an animal,” he cries. Granted, he does so on his knees trying to win a woman back, but still, it is a severe U-turn. Young Thug, missing the point entirely, plays the song differently, fully coveting the way of life that Brown is questioning. Neither of them seems to be paying any attention, so why should we?
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