- Young Thug - Jeffery/I’m Up
At this point in Young Thug’s career he’s probably still not established enough for 300 to finally sanction a debut (Jeffery sold a modest 18K copies first week - only 1K more than last year’s Barter 6), but he is an undeniable entity that can be found modeling Calvin Klein billboards in Manhattan, in Usher music videos and on Erykah Badu’s timeline. He’s one of the most influential artists in the game; a mainstream that once ridiculed his progressive style can now be seen recklessly aping his old tricks, all while he continues to confuse them with new ones. (Sidenote: you can read a great summary of his career thus far here under the “Pick Up the Phone” write up). When Young Thug yelps, growls or croaks, it feels genuine - and authenticity isn’t easily mimicked. His first release of 2016, I’m Up,was overlooked upon arrival because fans were expecting Slime Season 3 and instead were hit with a feature heavy EP of sorts. Stigma aside, I’m Up is a subtle, understated project that has the best one-two punch out of any of his 2016 releases - “For My People” and “King Troup.” The latter, an anti-gang violence PSA and one of Thug’s most moving ballads to date, features some of his best writing ever. Comparatively, the lauded Slime Season 3 is honestly a cohesive but watered down compilation of old material. However, there’s a reason his worst project out of the last half a dozen or so he's released just since 2014, brought in so many new fans and ended up being his most commercially successful release to date: people are playing catch up. They missed out on the magic of Rich Gang: Tha Tour pt. 1 because they were too busy clowning on “Lifestyle”; Barter 6’s “OD” or “Numbers”came and went while they laughed at the tape’s first week sales. In fact, the same people unanimously praising 2016 material as his best probably haven’t even heard leaks like “The Promise,” “Makaveli;” or “Myself” yet! For the uninitiated, the Kanye West co-signed “With Them” is his “hardest” song (“did you see when he played it at MSG?” they’ll ask you, doey eyed with nothing but good intentions) and the transition from Thugger to (No, My Name Is…) Jeffrey is him “finally” taking music seriously. Which is, obviously, all a lie - but no harm, no foul, right? The reality is that 2015 was a magical year for the Atlanta rebel, a kind of year few rappers not named Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. ever experience. And compared to last year’s whirlwind of defiant mixtapes and stunning leaks, 2016 doesn’t even began scratch the surface of what makes Jeffery Lamar Williams a singular talent. But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped honing his craft - as you can tell, it’s quite the opposite. His latest offering, Jeffery,sees him attacking the senses with precision in a way that his unpredictable material of the past just wasn’t capable of doing on a consistent basis. Thug is a better songwriter now than ever before, a true romantic and a poet in the purest sense, with increasing control over his elastic voice - just look at the phenomenal second verses of “Harambe” and “Webbie,” or the transcendent hooks for “RiRi” and “Kanye West.” Although he’s reined in his eccentric persona (Alaska Airlines incident aside) and cleaned up his image, he still refuses to starve his urge to experiment. All this to say that y’all messed up big time by not embracing him originally the way you now do his children, the Lil Yachtys and Lil Uzi Verts. Because where he was once detached and in his own world, ambivalent towards our premature judgement, he’s now firmly landed on ours and seems to be gunning for the throne.