Review Summary: If you're looking for a good album to end your summer turning up to, or for a big budget Young Thug project that delivers, this is it.
2016 has been a banner year for Young Thug. By March, he had released Slime Season 3 and I’m Up, mixtapes that are short and hard hitting, filled with vapid bangers with replay value. These tapes cemented him as arguably the new rapper-to-beat in the lead up to his full length major label debut album, and during the six month “wait”, lesser known (and generally mediocre) tapes, a string of singles, and even some mainstream radio airplay, with the release of “Pick Up The Phone” featuring Travi$ Scott and Quavo (of Migos) only added to the hype. The stakes were high, and when the album was finally released, I, for one, was ecstatic.
After I saw that the album had been released, I scrolled through Apple Music, and when I found the album, I wasn’t even sure where to start. There’s the album cover of Young Thug in a frilly purple dress and umbrella hat in front of a blank background; Within minutes it became a full blown meme, with people comparing it to a Swiffer duster, a character from Street Fighter, and even the character Yao from Mulan, in an iconic scene where he is dressed in drag. Then there’s the tracklist, which is a playlist of songs “named after all my idols”, a list that apparently includes Wyclef, Rihanna, and even Harambe the gorilla.
‘Did Thugger blow his one attempt at a debut album? Is he actually gay, or crazy? Was this all a publicity stunt to distract from a poor release?’ I thought uneasily as I hit play.
But then I started listening to the album. Right from the get-go it is apparent that each song is an ode to the artist who bears its respective title. “Wyclef”, the first track, is clearly an ode to Caribbean sounds and to Wyclef Jean (who is strangely featured on a different song on the album), with Thug sing-rapping over a catchy, but pretty generic reggae-guitar riff. However the riff, when fitted with horns, African drums, and synth beats along with a bass, and when paired with a memorable hook, makes for a good opening, and in one attempt Young Thug arguably makes a better American stab at reggae than Drake could on an entire album.
There’s “Future Swag”, which offers Thug’s best Future impersonation - and its a pretty good one at that. The beat is a copy cat of Metro Boomin, the common Future collaborator, the chorus sounds like a dead on Future hook - with his unmistakeable style of dead pan repetition, and Thug even contours his voice to sound even more like Future on the hook than some Thug and Future detractors like to claim the two “mumble rappers” sound. You can tell Thug views the fellow Atlantan as an inspiration, but none of these ‘odes’ could prepare me for “Guwop”.
“Guwop” plays like a ballad, and contains questionable lyrics, such as “I dig everything that you’re saying/ I dig everything that you’re doing too/ I dig the way that you look at me/ and you dig the way that I look at you/ I just wanna grab on your butt/but,” which he croons in the first verse. Since his beginnings as a rapper, Young Thug’s sexuality has been debated due to his eccentric style - he often dresses in women’s clothing - and lyrics which throw around homosexual ideas or acts. And while Young Thug is engaged to a female model, antics such as wearing a dress on an album cover, or writing lyrics for a song about a personal inspiration which walk the line between admiration and romantic love have made him somewhat of an anti-establishment hip-hop figure, indifferent towards the hyper-masculine demeanor of most popular rappers.
But at the end of the day, Young Thug’s music was never meant to be analyzed in depth and taken to heart. Thugger has always been about debauchery and irreverent raging, and the only mindset to have while listening to his music should be to “turn up for the girls/turn up for the boys/turn up for the club/turn up on the drugs” (Swizz Beats). “No, My Name is Jeffery” is in no way a marked shift away from the style of “turn up anthem” Young Thug has grown to perfect. If you're looking for an album with lyrics that will be analyzed for years to come, look elsewhere; but if you're looking for a good album to end your summer turning up to, or for a big budget Young Thug project that delivers, this is it. As much as Drake or Kanye have tried to make their own cases, it seems that 2016 might undeniably be the year of the Thug.
Hits: Floyd Mayweather, Future Swag, Wyclef Jean
Misses: Harambe, Webbie