Five Burning Questions: Young Thug & YSL Labelmates Top the Billboard 200 With ‘Slime Language 2’
How do Gunna and Young Thug work together? And what other artists would be good at leading a label showcase set? Billboard writers answer these questions below.
For the second time, Young Thug has topped the Billboard 200 albums chart — following his debut at No. 1 in 2019 with his So Much Fun solo set. This time around, however, he had a little more help from his Young Stoner Life label family.
Slime Language 2, sequel to the 2017 original set, bows at No. 1 this week with 109,000 equivalent album units moved. Though Young Thug is the only artist credited on the set, it comes with a heavy assist from Thug’s YSL labelmates — particularly his similarly chart-topping co-star Gunna, who appears on seven of the set’s tracks.
How do the two rappers work together? And what other artists would be good at leading a label showcase set? Billboard writers answer these questions and more below.
1. Though Young Thug has released many collaboration-oriented projects in his career to this point — including sets alongside Chris Brown and Future, and the original Slime Language in 2017 — this is his first such project (not counting official solo debut LP So Much Fun) to top the Billboard 200. Why do you think this set was the one to put him over the top?
Josh Glicksman: Super Slimey and Slime & B failing to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 is the result of some hard luck and poor timing, respectively. The former arrived on the same day as Niall Horan’s debut album, Flicker, which soared thanks to the always reliable Directioners (the ticket bundle didn’t hurt, either). The latter dropped on a Tuesday, meaning it only had half of a tracking week before first entering the chart at No. 55 – had the team waited for a traditional Friday album release, the debut would’ve been much higher. With both Young Thug and Gunna now undeniable superstars, along with a star-studded guest list, a proper rollout, and few flashy debut albums to block its path, the No. 1 slot was hardly ever in doubt.
Cydney Lee: For one, this album didn’t have much competition the night it dropped, which wasn’t necessarily the case for his previous collab albums. Two, I think this time around people are more in tune with Young Thug and the type of dynasty he is forming with his label and the artists he’s put on. In 2018 when the first Slime Language dropped, Thug was hot — but Gunna, for instance, was just starting to blow up, and be recognized as one of Thug’s most promising protégés. At this point, fans know that a solo Young Thug album (So Much Fun) is almost guaranteed to have a guest appearance from Gunna or Lil Baby. But with a compilation album, we’re bound to see a bunch of Thug, handful of Gunna, pinch of Lil Baby and maybe even a dash of Lil Uzi Vert. It seems that Slime Language 2 is his standout because fans love the camaraderie these artists have with one another.
Jason Lipshutz: Part of the answer is timing — had Slime Language 2 dropped one week earlier, for instance, Young Thug and co. would be staring up at Taylor Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in the top spot, so launching during a relatively quiet release week helped its shot at No. 1. But I also think Slime Language 2 capitalized on the general hunger for a new Thugger-led project. So Much Fun was nearly two years ago at this point, and while Slime & B with Brown produced a smash in “Go Crazy” in 2020, Slime Language 2 represents the first full-length to fully adhere to his aesthetic since 2019 — even as a Young Thug/YSL/Gunna ensemble album — and fans were ready for it.
Neena Rouhani: It’s the diversity of features for me. There’s someone for every type of listener, which should be the case when you release a 23-song album followed by a 31-track deluxe version. You’ve got elusive and beloved rappers that fans are hungry for (Kid Cudi), rappers who we will never be tired of (Drake, Future, Travis Scott), U.K.-faves (Skepta), buzzy newcomers (Yung Bleu, Coi Leray), melodic rappers (NAV, Don Toliver) and of course a plethora of YSL signees (namely Gunna!!).
Andrew Unterberger: Good timing, good momentum and good reception all combine for this No. 1. It perhaps particularly helps that Young Thug is coming off one of the biggest R&B hits in history, but it also seems like his core fanbase isn’t particularly moved one way or the other by the hits that Thug has, or doesn’t. It more just seems like this was the biggest release of the week, was relatively well received by fans, and reflects how Young Thug continues to be one of the biggest names and most reliable performers in hip-hop — and the heavy presence of Gunna, less than a year removed from his own first Billboard 200-topper, certainly doesn’t hurt.
2. Gunna, Young Thug’s primary co-star on the project, is no stranger to full-project teamups himself. How would you generally rate the duo’s chemistry and balance working together on Slime Language 2?
Josh Glicksman: The chemistry and balance is near-effortless, though to be fair, they’ve had plenty of practice collaborating with one another before Slime Language 2. Whether it’s the two of them dialing it up on “Slatty,” staying more reserved on the Drake-featuring “Solid,” or trading the mic back-and-forth on “Paid the Fine,” their energies never feel out of place together on the same track. I just wish we’d gotten to hear a little bit more of it on the backside of the project – if the three highest Hot 100 debuts from the album all feature both Young Thug and Gunna, that’s a good indicator of what the fans are gravitating toward.
Cydney Lee: If I had to give their chemistry on this project a rating, I’d say a 9/10. Thug and Gunna complement each other so well, picking up right where the other leaves off when they rap together. I only deducted one point because of how unhelpful the tracklist is sometimes when pinpointing which songs they are on together.
Jason Lipshutz: Slime Language 2 is no Drip Harder, but then again, few things in this world are. While the Gunna-Young Thug chemistry is not as potent as the Gunna-Lil Baby combo, they make for capable co-stars here, often deferring to each other, the rest of the YSL roster and some heavyweight guest stars instead of dominating tracks themselves. There’s not quite a moment in which Young Thug and Gunna go toe-to-toe on Slime Language 2, but as a showcase for their label, the album posits them as engaging masters of ceremonies.
Neena Rouhani: We can’t talk about Thug and Gunna’s chemistry without mentioning the fact that the two of them just posted bail for 30 people held at an overcrowded jail in Atlanta for minor offenses. So there’s clearly chemistry beyond the studio! In terms of the project, I was such a fan of So Much Fun that anything Thug/Gunna related I compare back to that. “Explosion” and “Solid” were noteworthy for me, but we didn’t get another “Hot” or “Diamonds” or “Surf” which I’m sad about. I’m going to stick to the project though because like with So Much Fun, it may take a minute for certain songs to grow on me.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s certainly a seamless fit alongside one another, and the two particularly glide on some of SL2’s more sublime beats (like “Ski,” the set’s second-highest Billboard Hot 100 debut, which doesn’t even have a splashy guest on it). Sometimes you maybe wish there was a little more of a contrast between the two, but it makes for a coherent listen to be sure.
3. The highest-charting debut on the Hot 100 from the set is, unsurprisingly, the Drake-featuring “Solid,” bowing at No. 12. Do you see the song becoming a lasting hit beyond the splashy debut, or will it largely be a one-and-done based on star power and name recognition?
Josh Glicksman: I don’t know that I see it reaching the chart’s pinnacle by any stretch, but it’s not going to fade away after just a week. If nothing else, it’s easy radio listening: singing along and dragging the last syllable in “hideaway” while slowly tapping the steering wheel sounds all too perfect during a late-night drive. Besides, betting against a Drake crooner chorus – or anything Drake-associated in a song, really – is simply unwise. Plus, who doesn’t love a good Drizzy flex about the size of his house, whether in his lyrics or a music video? Here’s to hoping the “Solid” video breaks out the tape measurer on the distance “from here to my bedroom.”
Cydney Lee: The question is interesting, because I feel like if “Solid” were to be a lasting hit, it would be because of the name recognition and star power. Gunna revealed that this song was originally meant for Drake’s album, which is unsurprising, because it’s the least trap-ish song on SL2, and sounds somewhat out of place. The track is not a throwaway, but it’s not a hit. It’s simply “Solid.”
Jason Lipshutz: “Solid” sneaks up on you in the same way that “Go Crazy” did last year, with an unexpectedly durable hook and a woozy beat that works well as connective tissue on hip-hop radio blocks and streaming playlists. The top 20 Hot 100 debut can be chalked up to Drake’s star power, but I’d bet “Solid” is going to persist into the summer, and potentially even crack the top 10 of the chart if radio adopts it.
Neena Rouhani: I really like “Solid” and I feel like Drake did exactly what he needed to do on the track. The catchy, quoteworthy lines like “I need some head and some moral support from you right away” and “Walking from here to my bedroom, it feel like it’s miles away,” are bound to be tweet and Instagram caption favorites. And yet…I’m not sure if the song will endure. There’s not a whole lot for me that’s super memorable. Considering it’s Drake, Gunna and Thug, three insanely talented artists, plus OZ on production (who’s responsible for stellar cuts like “Sicko Mode” and “Time Flies”), I just hoped for more.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s actually a more inspired Drake effort than I feel he’s offered for most of his guest appearances thusfar this decade: “Walkin’ from here to my bedroom, it feels like it’s miles away” is both an impressive flex and a very relatable problem, depending on how you interpret it. If anything, I wish the rest of the song was a little more memorable to support it — as is, I don’t think I see it sticking around radio or streaming for particularly long. Then again, I’d have said the same thing about “You’re Mines Still,” and that’s turned out to be one of the biggest R&B hits of 2021, so.
4. Forgetting Drake (and Gunna) — or the number of other big feature names on the project, including Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott and Big Sean — who’s a lesser-known artist featured on the project whose guest appearance you think is worth spotlighting?
Josh Gliskman: Unfoonk shines throughout “Real” and carries the first half of the song solo without any problems whatsoever. The strained rasp serves as a nice change of pace to the more polished, autotuned vocals showcased throughout much of the album, as does the guitar-heavy production. An honorable mention goes to Thugger’s younger sister, HiDoraah, too, as I’ve been singing “Hey, how you doin’? I just wanna know your name” ever since the album dropped – and when this pandemic ends and I can meet new people again, I just might greet everyone with that introduction.
Cydney Lee: YTB Trench for sure. He SLID on “Paid the Fine,” and held his own considering he was accompanied by the holy trinity: Young Thug, Gunna and Lil Baby. Trench does this thing where he sing-raps which makes his voice sound melodic. Because of this and his handful of features on the album, I think he will prove to be a promising young artist to watch out for on the YSL roster.
Jason Lipshutz: “I Like” serves as an intriguing showcase for both rising YSL singer-rapper Karlae and “No More Parties” breakout Coi Leray, a melodic sex jam rife with double entendres, slinky hooks and enough room for a Plies shout-out. On the Slime Language 2 track list, “I Like” functions as a rhythmic change-up, but the song hints at bigger things to come for both artists involved.
Neena Rouhani: Thug’s 8-year-old daughter Mari Mego’s appearance on the deluxe set’s “Yessirskii” is probably the one who caught me most off guard! Beyond the feature just triggering ALL the feels, the song is actually really catchy and fun. She’s got a lot of charisma. I love to see a parent supporting their child’s dreams in such a major way. If you haven’t already seen the video of Young Thug telling Mego she made the album, watch now and thank me later.
Andrew Unterberger: Slightly cheating, since the song’s already been out for a bit, but I love the hook on “That Go!” from T-Shyne, which meets the energy of one of the most hype beats on the set (and a top-notch opening verse from Meek Mill) with impressive verve. Get this guy on more blockbuster releases ASAP.
5. Now that we’ve seen Young Thug, J. Cole and various other rappers find chart-topping success with this project format, which other star artist do you think is overdue for leading a label showcase full-length set like this?
Josh Glicksman: Why not Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records? Combine Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and .Paak – and a seemingly endless supply of potential guests, ranging from anyone at TDE to .Paak’s Silk Sonic co-founder, Bruno Mars – with some patented Dr. Dre production and watch the hits unfold.
Cydney Lee: My initial response to this would be Kendrick Lamar with TDE, but I think Drake spearheading an OVO compilation album would be insane. I can’t even begin to imagine how this project would sound but I know for a fact it would be one for all the hopeless romantics (me) of the world.
Jason Lipshutz: A Top Dawg Entertainment full-length in 2021 would be enormous, especially considering Kendrick Lamar’s prolonged absence from the spotlight, SZA’s newfound top 40 appeal and the flashes of brilliance from artists like ScHoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad. A guy can dream, right?
Neena Rouhani: I’d love to see LVRN do another project, now that they’ve got dvsn on board. Between dvsn, 6lack, Summer Walker, Shelley FKA DRAM and Boogie, that project would be insane. LVRN is really establishing themselves as a force and a showcase would really solidify all the insane talent they have at the label/management company. Until then, I’ll continue blissfully bumping their holiday album.
Andrew Unterberger: How about Bad Bunny? The Latin trap superstar is probably a little tired after leading three solo LPs in 2020 alone — not to mention now supporting a breakout career in the WWE — so let’s have Rimas Entertainment veteran labelmates like Arcángel and Jowell & Randy help him shoulder the load for his next set, while also letting some of the label’s younger talent take a turn in the spotlight.