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42 Dugg - Young & Turnt 2 (Deluxe) Music Album Reviews

The whistling, shit-talking Detroit rapper has found nationwide appeal without abandoning the core elements of his city’s homegrown style.

Seconds into 42 Dugg’s Young and Turnt Vol. 2, you hear him whistle. It’s not a particularly skillful whistle—it’s the type of airy sound you usually make by accident, and actually, at first it was. “I don’t even know why I did that shit, I ain’t even gonna lie,” the 25-year-old East Detroit native said in an interview. But regardless of how amateurish it may be, I can’t imagine a 42 Dugg song without it.
The whistling, shit-talking rapper has accomplished what once seemed impossible in Detroit: he's found nationwide appeal without abandoning the core elements of the city’s homegrown style. It wasn’t always this way. After being granted his freedom in 2017, Dugg began to put out unmixed and offbeat music—common in Detroit. Even though he was raw, he had a vivid touch that recalled influences like Jeezy. It made him a rising Midwest star, one who would subtly evolve when he arrived in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, Dugg formed a friendship playing high-stakes dice games with the emerging Lil Baby, who helped the Detroit rapper’s rugged raps reach the ear of Yo Gotti. Together, Lil Baby and Yo Gotti signed 42 Dugg in 2019, and released his mixtape Young and Turnt, a strong record that began to bridge the gap between Detroit and the South.

Dugg hit his stride earlier this year on a pair of great rap songs from the deluxe version of Lil Baby’s My Turn. On “Grace,” Dugg’s confessional verses are the main attraction, delivered in the same lethargic style popular among East Detroit rappers like Babyface Ray and Peezy. Then there’s the electric “We Paid,” where an animated Dugg overshadows Baby: The opening line has since become his breakout moment: “Fore I go broke like Joc/Fuck with that dog like Vick.” (Just don’t bring it up around Yung Joc.)

Young and Turnt Vol. 2 was originally released in March, but like so many major rap records in 2020, it has been updated with a deluxe edition. In its first form, the mixtape was an easy end-to-end listen, and miraculously, the added nine songs don’t take away from the fun, even though it’s clear that they’re meant to juice streaming numbers and capitalize on his rapidly growing fanbase.

Of the original 14 tracks, the most ambitious are the ones which attempt to balance Dugg’s Atlanta influences with his Detroit flair. “Not a Rapper,” featuring Southside production that sounds like it’s been collecting dust since the Obama era, should have been the typical forced major label album cut, but his signature Midwest flow—always a step ahead of the beat—keeps the song fresh. The balance isn’t perfect though; “Ride With Me” takes a swing at a scratchy melody which should be forever reserved for Atlanta crooners.

Dugg is by far at his best when he’s making traditional Detroit rap songs with a little bit of big-money polish. On “Habit,” Dugg reps his city hard: The track has bass-heavy production from local legend Helluva, and Dugg, spits the rich, boundary-pushing stories that are the norm in Detroit: “Prolly serve fentanyl to five thousand fiends.” He’s even sharper when he’s reflective. “Fell out with my best friend over six grams/Now I ain’t got a best man but I got fans,” he raps over the soulful vocal sample and jittery bassline of “It Get Deeper.”

The deluxe tracks aren’t as focused, and a pair of unnecessary remixes end the album with a whimper. Dugg stumbles back into some of the same missteps as the original record: “Free Dirt” sounds like it could have been recorded by any rising ATL rapper with a Coach K endorsement, and he once again makes us suffer through lousy vocals on “All My Life.” But there are moments that justify the deluxe’s existence beyond making Dugg’s pockets fatter. The Detroit street record “Light This Bitch Up” seems ready to soundtrack a Michigan State football postgame, and “Big 4’s” has an introduction almost as good as his breakout moment on “We Paid”: “I seen niggas hatin’ way before I ever had tints.” And, of course, none of it is complete without the whistle.
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