How Young Thug's YSL Label Put Family First On 'Slime Language 2'

How Young Thug's YSL Label Put Family First On 'Slime Language 2'

05/03/2021

On the star-studded compilation Slime Language 2, released by Young Thug’s YSL Records imprint, the rapper takes a backseat and invites his protégés and peers to take center stage. For now, fans will have to wait for Thugger’s hotly-anticipated next album. But with Slime Language 2, we see the power of his vision. With 23 tracks on the original, and eight added to the deluxe, the label compilation is packed with appearances from artists of all stripes, yet Thug’s signature energy ties the project together from start to finish. It speaks to the prevalence of his influence and the development of his YSL label over the years.

The exact number of people involved with the album is tough to pin down, though one imagines there was a significant amount of coordination involved. In total, 33 artists worked on Slime Language 2, while Wheezy, and London on da Track handled production. “Slime wanted to let the whole family shine so that’s why you see so many of his artists on there. That’s who he is as a person, he just wants to see everyone else win,” Wheezy told Rolling Stone.

Young Thug announced the creation of Young Stoner Life Records in 2016 and quickly began work on building what feels like a creative family unit. Many of the label’s early signees were siblings of Thug or at least longtime friends. On social media, YSL artists regularly appear on each other’s pages, and it’s common for them to collaborate on and boost each other’s projects. In order for them all to produce an album together, that closeness became more important than ever. With several moving parts, like working with numerous artists on each track, the album required particularly robust diligence with file management and recalls. YSL’s in-house engineer Bainz recorded and mixed most of the songs. He says the most challenging part was mixing so many tracks with such quick turnarounds. In some cases, the team only had two hours to mix the largest tracks, adding pressure to the process. “But the best and most fulfilling part is that we’re all family. Everyone genuinely wants each other to win and to be a part of that journey together is something special, that I’ll never forget. Thug has done such an amazing job leading our team and bringing the whole label up,” Bainz says.

Bringing the whole label up proved rewarding when the album, a sequel to its August 2018 predecessor, topped the charts immediately. The album hit No. 1 on the RS Charts last week. According to YSL Vice President Geoff Ogunlesi, who led A&R on the project, reaching No. 1 was always part of the plan. He spoke to Rolling Stone about what it took to get such a big record out the door.

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Tell us a little bit about the cover art. What was the inspiration behind showcasing the YSL collective in a family-style portrait, and also is that the entire crew?
Yeah, it is everyone. In talking about the album and talking about the label as a whole, one word that always kept coming up is family. We kind of say, it’s the family first, a label second. So we felt that with this cover, we really wanted to showcase that and showcase what we already know to be true. And also having a moment with everybody being seen on this cover because covers and music last a lifetime. So we just felt that it was a really iconic moment to capture.

What was it like working on an album that features 23 songs from a mix-and-match collection of rappers? What did you find most difficult with so many different people involved from so many different areas?
I think the most difficult thing was just making sure everybody was happy with the finished result. And what I mean by that is, everyone from the members of YSL first, and then to the outside features. I realized how important music is as an art form — it really is art. So for me, everyone has to feel good about the product at the end of the day. There were a lot of artists and a lot of different moving parts. I guess that was probably the trickiest part — just making sure everybody felt good about how they were represented and about the final product.

Was there anyone specific artist you had been hoping to one day work with, that ended up on this project?
Kid Cudi. Everyone else I’ve worked with in one way or another. Either we’re on their projects or they’re on our projects. They’re all people that are within our universe, or within reach. Even though Kid Cudi isn’t an immediate thought within our universe, it also wasn’t a reach. It really came about in an organic and a natural way, like everything else that Thug, Gunna, and YSL do. But Cudi was definitely an interesting addition.

Thugger is known to put out songs, hundreds of songs, super quickly. I think from the outside it could look like this was an album that took years to produce, but I’m assuming it was much faster than a lot of us think. How long did production take for this album?
In terms of narrowing down what it was going to be, started about almost six months ago. I guess you could say the mental planning for it is over a year long. Thug and I sat down and kind of mapped out what we wanted the year to look like and Slime Language 2 coming out was part of that. Debuting at No. 1 was also part of that. In terms of a vision, it’s over 12 months long. But in terms of when we started, that was around the end of October, early November.

What was it like to work with Bainz (mixing engineer) and Wheezy (main producer)?
Wheezy is someone I’ve known for seven years at this point and someone that I consider not even just a collaborator or a colleague but like a brother. Again, it’s all a family vibe. Same thing with Bainz who I’ve known for almost four years at this point. So we’re all just really in sync, and we all spend a lot of time together, so it’s all just very organic. It never feels like work.

Speaking more to that family aspect, a lot of people view Young Thug as a prodigy and then Gunna, and many others, as his protégés or his mentees. What is it like to witness that relationship in person? Is it really as authentic as it appears?
It’s incredible and authentic for sure. I’ve been working with Thug for seven years and I remember when I first met Gunna and watched his rise, watching Keed rise, watching Duke and all of the new artists rise. It’s incredible because of the way that Thug leads. He leads more so by example than anything, and he has this great way about him to give advice, but not preach, and then to lead the way. And people within our family really just soak it in. It’s honestly very inspiring.

Would you say that Thug allows for everyone who’s working with him to have their own creative freedom in production?
Completely, Thug has the utmost respect for all of his artists and the utmost trust in all of his artists. He doesn’t sign anyone that he doesn’t believe in. So when it came down to it, for a lot of the songs, he let the artists kind of pick which ones they wanted to put in. He doesn’t stifle or get in the way of their creativity or their artistry. It’s all part of their growth, and him being such a visionary and such a distinct artist himself — he understands that better than anyone.

With so many people involved in this project, I’m sure something funny or bizarre came up. Can you spill any stories?
One is YTB Trench. He signed a few weeks before this project came out. So you have a 19-year-old kid from Cincinnati who came down to see us in Atlanta and hasn’t really left our side since. He’s still in Atlanta this second. And then within three weeks, he has a remix to one of his songs with Thug on it. And then he’s on a song with Thug, Lil Baby, and Gunna. And he’s on a No. 1 album, on the first album he has ever been on.

How is this project different from any other project you’ve worked on in the past?
Out of all the projects that I’ve worked on — and it’s been a lot — I think this was one of the most incredible experiences for a number of reasons. One, because this is something that we saw in our minds and in our hearts, and in our spirits. Again, I kid you not. We said this album will go No. 1 a long time ago. And I think the best thing about it, about a vision like that, is you don’t always have to focus on the how. You set something in your mind and in your heart, and when everyone agrees with it, and when everyone is in-sync, and when everyone is aligned with that same mission, you come through. So, to have this album go No. 1, and in such a distinct fashion, with everybody involved, everybody that is a part of this family, is something that is incredible, and I’m incredibly grateful for. And incredibly grateful to Thug for continuing to lead by such a great example, to put faith in me, to be a part, and to play a role in piecing these things together. I think it’s really just the beginning of what is going to be an amazing journey for this label and this team.

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