By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Paper Route Empire; 2017]
Key Tracks: “What’s the Deal”, “While U Here”
For Adolph Thornton Jr., AKA Young Dolph, 2017 has been both a blessing and a curse. His sophomore LP, Bulletproof, had peaked at #36 earlier this year on the Billboard 200 following his close encounter as the target of a shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina. In September, the rapper was placed under critical condition after being shot multiple times outside a store in Los Angeles, which he would fortunately survive. Shortly following his release from the hospital, Young Dolph would go on to announce his fourth full-length project of 2017, Thinking Out Loud.
With this LP, Young Dolph clearly has no intentions of discussing his most recent accident, having most likely written the tracks before it occurred. Instead, the rapper spends most of his time talking about the things that people don’t care about. He makes sure to drill into our heads that he bangs “bitches” and does drugs in nearly every single one of the 10 tracks on this album, often with out of place lines that are guaranteed to make you cringe.
The opening and closing tracks are some of the rare examples where Young Dolph sort of opens himself up to listeners by talking about his struggles growing up, getting in trouble, his family and what not. The closing track, “While U Here”, shows the rapper at his most vulnerable, pleading listeners to tell their family and friends that you love them while they’re still here. It’s sweet, but then you’ll remember that he also said, “She thick as a horse / But she can’t take no dick ’cause when I fuck her she make too much motherfuckin’ noise” and you’ll start to feel weird again.
For some reason, the album has 12 producers, ranging from well-known people like Mike Will Made it and Zaytoven to some guy named DJ Squeeky. The problem with that is exactly like you would expect. There are some tracks on Thinking Out Loud that are great such as “Believe Me” and “Eddie Cane” that diversifies themselves from the others with different instruments including a flute, along with unique beat patterns. On the other hand, you got tracks like “Pacific Ocean”, that roots itself in this bare-bones and repetitive three-note piano melody that will stick with you for all the wrong reasons. While not all the other tracks are like this, a majority keep it simplistic, almost as if these producers were trying to play it safe.
It also doesn’t help that Young Dolph’s execution on vocals is about as dry as it gets. For the LP’s 33-minute runtime, it feels like you’re just listening to someone mumble in a moody tone. Nothing changes with his deliveries, except that he just progressively gets louder and angrier in basically every single song, which gets less interesting and more predictable when listening to. Dolph’s saving grace comes from his guests throughout, with D.R.A.M. making things feel different for once in the chorus of “All of Mine”, as well as some verses from Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign in “Go Get Sum Mo”. Even with those two songs, each one of these guests has certainly made better music, but given the circumstances here, they deserve a pass.
Of all his projects that he’s released so far this year, Thinking Out Loud is Young Dolph’s weakest one. With everything that’s happened to him in 2017, it may be wise to slow down and take his time before heading straight into the next one. He’s certainly deserved it.