The first two installments of Young Thug's Slime Season series arrived a little over a month apart last fall, providing a good display of both Thugger's speed in the studio and his versatility. The first one had him stretching his style in every direction, from the Flockaveli-style aggression of "Rarri" to the stately piano balladeering of "Power" and "No Way" to the minimal Cali bounce of "Udiggwhatimsayin." The second was much more measured in its approach, despite being four tracks longer. It's a lot to ask for the wildly unpredictable Thug to stay on the same page as himself for 80 minutes straight, but Slime Season 2 is probably as close he'll ever get to accomplishing that (at least in terms of marathon-length releases). It was a one-two punch that, first, displayed Thug's creativity and lack of fucks given, and second, his ability to reign it in for the benefit of a cohesive project. 

Although his next two releases, February's I'm Up and March's Slime Season 3, are each about half the length of either previous Slime Season tape, they follow basically the same pattern: the first was all over the place, the second's a little more monochrome. Whereas I'm Up featured ten separate guest vocalists, and only two of its tracks had Thug rocking solo, SS3 crams all three of its features onto one track and lets its star take control for the other seven. Wheezy produced five of nine I'm Up cuts, and continued his trend of lacking a well-defined style, experimenting with tempo and arrangement so much that consecutive tracks "For My People" and "King TROUP" sound like the work of two completely different people. This time it's London On Da Track, who at this point has crafted an almost instantly-recognizable sound, who controls the lion's share of the tape and gives it a piano-heavy vibe that persists throughout. But as was also the case with SS2, Thug uses these less crowded, more uniform surroundings as a springboard to some of his most inventive vocal work yet.

I'm Up tasked Thugger with being the glue that held the tracks together. On SS3, he's playing lead trumpet in the Live-Evil era of the Miles Davis Band. Opener "With Them" reminds us just how effortlessly he's staying ahead of the pack with his flows, peppering lines like "I wanna fuck her but she play more games than the NBA" with half-beat pauses afterward, and then stutter-stepping through "You can't take jack, fall into this mouse trap." He's not switching up his flows as much as Bankroll Fresh (who he shouts out on "Memo") or packing in as many syllables as Quavo, but he sounds more natural and conversational in his delivery than anyone else who's spent the past two years ignoring standard flow patterns. He saves his most adventurous rapping for the tape's craziest-sounding song, "Drippin," where he adopts a patois, stretches syllables, squawks, screams, slurs, croons, and explores just about every imaginable delivery in between too. What he recalls most on this track is comedian Rick Miller's routine of performing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 25 different voices, except it doesn't seem like that was at all his intention when he entered the booth. He just went for it, and it worked. 

With an approach as off-the-cuff and lacking in filters, Thug is an artist who'll inevitably make missteps on every release. Although SS3 isn't without faults, they're less glaring than those on I'm Up, which included some tracks that felt half-baked or sloppy; this time, the project's flaws are pretty much limited to two final tracks that don't go quite far enough in their ambitions. "Tattoos" and "Problem" are fine-- if both appeared on 1017 Thug, they'd be standouts-- but after hearing Thug do entirely new things with his voice in SS3's first half, we're so spoiled that these two passable tracks fall somewhat flat.

I realize that my expectations for Thug at this point are ludicrous: I'm Up was a little too unpredictable, SS3 is a little too boring; Thug goes too far on this track and not far enough on another. We're all incredibly lucky to have him as an Earthbound rapper, let alone one who records and releases at such a furious clip. But with his flashes of brilliance brighter than ever and his laggy moments of playing catch-up with himself still persisting, it's difficult to be a fan without envisioning your own ideal version of Thugger, one that builds on everything that you've found exciting about his career and sheds everything you've deemed inessential or bland. For me, the only full-length of his that hit those marks was Barter 6, which I felt was a definite evolution from 1017 Thug, but didn't get too carried away with its ambitions. But that's just me. Every Thug fan I know has different favorite tracks and tapes, and that's the beauty of his work. We latch onto a specific phrase, ad-lib, interaction with a beat, and that's it: the seed has been planted and nobody can tell you shit about why another one of his tracks is better. His style is built on spur-of-the-moment bursts of inspiration in the booth, and the connections his fans have with his songs are similarly quicksilver. His talent is elusive and sometimes frustrating, but any diehard will tell you that there's nothing quite like the feeling of listening to your favorite Thug song for the fiftieth time and hearing something new. You simply can't have one without the other. 

At this point it's more difficult for me to critique and assign scores to each ensuing Thugger project than those of almost any other rapper. It's not because my opinion of him seems to be the complete opposite of his many haters (believe me, people have been commenting "FIRE PATRICK LYONS" on every Thug track I've posted since my first day at HNHH), but rather that there seem to be so many different opinions of Thug among his biggest fans. Hell, ask me my favorite track on any of his projects and you'll most likely get a different answer than you would've a week ago. Slime Season 3 is a really strong, consistent tape that I currently enjoy more than I'm Up, and that's all I can say with any finality right now.