Sunday, August 28, 2016

Young Thug - JEFFERY (2016)

After years focusing my public efforts solely on the comic book industry, I found I missed writing about my first love: music. What follows is the first piece of a new series called “Hip-Hop Revue”, analyzing recent Hip-Hop/R&B topics, albums, and personalities.

(Updated to reflect correction in name change from JEFFREY to JEFFERY)


Young Thug’s newest mixtape has caused a lot of commotion, but not necessarily for the tracks (which are amazing) or the album concept (which is great), but rather the cover featuring Thugger in an Asian-inspired outfit complete with a ruffled skirt, white blouse, and Raiden-style parasol hat. I’ve only recently started listening to Young Thug, and while I thought Slime Season 3 was fine, it wasn’t the genre-bending collection of songs I was expecting. JEFFERY (or, No, My Name Is Jeffery depending on where you look) feels like the fledgling MC is growing into his own conceptualism more than ever before.

Every song on this mixtape sounds different, from the reggae-inspired “Wyclef Jean” to the robotically methodical “Future Swag” and the calypso-infused “Pick Up the Phone (feat. Quavo)”, and nearly every track is a winner. With the exception of “Harambe” – a track that relies on incoherency to a fault – JEFFERY is an accomplishment. Thugger has found a comfortable balance between more traditional hip-hop values (drugs, money, women, etc.) and genre innovation akin to Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, and Vince Staples. Each of those acts has a unique sound, and Thug is no different – he simply slips his cleverness between catchy beats and contemporary pop techniques.

Lyrically, Thugger can’t touch the likes of Sahtyre or Talib Kweli, but that’s not what he’s aiming to achieve. As important as the vocals on a hip-hop track are, Thug is part of a niche in that treats beats with equal import – his vocal cadence often prioritizes framing the effervescent beats and saturated melodies flowing through every song on JEFFERY (yes, even “Harambe”). “Play with my money, I’ma let these niggas do you” isn’t going to win Young Thug any awards (nor is “Middle finger, stick it up / If you ain’t never gave no fucks” on “Pop Man”), but the different elements of “Wyclef Jean” belie the complete package and how incredible the track is as an album opener. And as weird as the above mentioned “Pop Man” lyric sounds, knowing the song is about Kanye West gives context to the narrative Thug is building.

JEFFERY pushes Young Thug into his own future that eschews the hard-lined “rules” of hip-hop through genre experimentation and continued dedication to curating meaningful beats. Like I said – I haven’t been listening to Young Thug for that long, yet what I see in him is the same drive for innovation that pushes Eric Andre to flaunt his sometimes-disturbing weirdness, a desire to experiment not unlike Georgia’s of Montreal or House of Leaves author Mark Z. Danielewski. Perhaps I’m over-postulating due to how quickly I’ve listened to most of his mixtapes, but the evolution of sound and style I’ve heard in Thugger’s library is astonishing.

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