On his sophomore album, Young Thug chooses a more low-key affair filled with acoustic guitars and playful vulnerability, often to mixed effect.
“Punk” opens with the track “Die Slow,” which, strangely enough, begins with Thug speaking about his childhood and family’s struggles over a solemn acoustic guitar. Thug doesn’t begin to rap until midway through the song, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
What comes next is a mixture of highs and lows, which is to be expected with a 63-minute runtime. However, the highs are very rewarding and overcome the lows when Thug decides to push the envelope.
On “Stupid/Asking,” Thug croons over a guitar beat about relationships and infidelity and creates a twisted sort of love ballad that somehow manages to work despite being over five minutes long.
“Yea Yea Yea,” is another highlight that shows Thug happily gliding over a muted backdrop of guitar and drums. However, it’s the simplicity of the chorus and overall song that showcases Thug’s talent for wringing a concept for all it’s worth, unlike his acolytes.
Gunna or Lil Baby could’ve easily turned this into a subpar song because of their inconsistent lack of personality. Although in Gunna’s defense, he provides serviceable verses on two rather good tracks, even if they’re not memorable.
The following track, “Insure My Wrist ft. Gunna,” hits the mark, mostly because of the production and background vocals of an uncredited woman singing. “Recognize Real,” features an intoxicating Young Thug verse in between a deadpan Gunna chorus that somehow manages to fit together.
The biggest letdowns on this album are the big feature tracks.
“Livin It Up,” with Post Malone and A$AP Rocky sounds like a bland, radio-friendly single that could’ve easily graced a DJ Khaled album. “Stressed,” continues to show that J. Cole and Young Thug do not have chemistry and, unfortunately, there isn’t a Travis Scott chorus this time around to save them.
Meanwhile, “Love You More,” which features Nate Ruess from the pop band fun, sounds like an equally bad twin to JAY-Z’s “Young Forever.” The Doja Cat-featured “Icy Hot,” has some fun vocal performances from both artists, but the chorus is laughably bad.
“Bubbly,” which features Drake and Travis Scott, starts with a strange but exhilarating beat that both Thug and Scott ride extremely well. It would’ve been nice to see Drake rap furiously over the same beat, but instead his verse transitions to a beat change that doesn’t provide the same energy. It was revealed that Lil Baby had forgotten to send his “Bubbly” verse back to Thug, which is unfortunate because he might’ve been better suited for this song over Drake.
Two other features that do manage to stand out are Juice WRLD on “Rich N***a S—t,” which features a thumping trap beat from Pi’erre Bourne, and Future on “Peepin Out The Window.”
The closing track, “Day Before,” features the late Mac Miller on a guitar-driven track. Miller’s guest verse isn’t exceptional by any means, but it fits the production rather nicely. Thug bookends the album with another story from his past about how he grew up.
“Super different, I even stood out on my own partners / Since a kid I been a dresser, Thousand Island,” he said.
While “Punk,” is a strange title for this particular album, it almost seems as if Thug purposefully chose this name to lead listeners astray from what they had been expecting and remind them that he is still the ultimate enigma.