Swizz Beatz released his new album, Poison, on Friday. It’s a star-studded yet restrained affair. Swizz has made a lot of friends in his two decades in the game, and he uses his collaborators well here. In most cases, that means each guest rapper is doing the best version of what they’re known for. Nas’ “Echo” delivers what most were hoping for on Nasir, skating over a soul sample and looped guitar; Pusha T is at his darkest on “Cold Blooded“; 2 Chainz continues his streak of making any song sound like a 2 Chainz song, no matter the style of beat, on the frantic, destructive “Stunt.” Amid these performances, though, is a Young Thug turn that does something new.
Much has been made of Thug’s waxing and waning star power in the past few years. He is the most thrilling stylist of his generation, capable of breaking down the basic parts of what constitutes rapping into near-abstractions, then rebuilding those parts into novel forms. On “25 Soldiers,” though, he opts to deliver a pair of verses that are relatively straightforward.
It’s an appropriate choice for the spacious beat Swizz has given him. Instead of relentlessly experimenting with his flow throughout the song, Thug opts to do one thing instead of many. He raps deliberately, leaving negative space between his bars rather than his typical breathless tightrope walk.
This is not a Young Thug I want to see every time he touches a mic — and never fear, the Thugger we know pops up several times on Metro Boomin’s Not All Heroes Wear Capes today, and he hasn’t lost a step on what usually makes Thug Thug. But it’s a savvy choice here. Poison is largely a classicist’s affair, and Thug proves that he can switch gears to fit that style with ease. The last time he rapped with such precision was on his guest verse last year on Drake’s “Sacrifices.” While fans wring their hands about his potential star power, Thug continues to turn out performances that show he’s one of the most versatile rappers working today.