A Big Year For Young Thug

A lot of artists move up in the world of hip-hop somewhat gradually. Rap is a genre that still has a sort of unofficial mentoring atmosphere whereby promising young artists are picked up, supported, and ultimately set loose by established pros. Sometimes we’re not really sure what a rapper has to offer until a few albums into his career. But when Young Thug burst onto the scene in 2014, it was pretty clear that he had a sound and demeanor unique and, frankly, weird enough to stand out.

The young Atlanta-based rapper has cited Lil Wayne as his biggest influence, and you can hear it in his work. His high-pitched, sometimes hectic voice patterns, coupled with frequent use of Auto-Tune, give him a sound that resembles a quirky blend of Lil Wayne and T-Pain. Reviewing Young Thug’s 2012 album “I Came From Nothing 3,” Pitchfork described this musical style and determined that “what Young Thug brings to the table, then, isn’t just a weird, experimental approach to rapping, but presence, persona, mystique, and, potentially, star power.”

Well, that star power is becoming more and more apparent thus far in 2015, thanks to various releases and singles. Here’s a look at what the up-and-coming rapper’s been up to.

Release Of “Barter 6”

“Barter 6” is Young Thug’s fourth album, but really it’s his first since becoming a major name in hip-hop, and it started off clumsily thanks to the rapper’s apparent obsession with Lil Wayne. The original idea was to call the album “Carter 6,” as a continuation of and tribute to Wayne’s album chronology. Lil Wayne reportedly wasn’t into the idea, however, and ultimately threatened legal action before Young Thug changed the title to “Barter 6.” Rap-Up painted a pretty nasty picture of this minor confrontation between the two, and also revealed that the “B” replacing the “C” in the album title stands for “Bloods.”

So far, the project itself has received somewhat mixed reviews, with a lot of the praise borders on calling Young Thug a genius in the making. Billboard’s review may have had the best summary of the impression the album leaves, stating that “for rappers, voice often dictates range, and no one has more peculiar ways of using their voice than Atlanta’s Young Thug.” This is a pretty appropriate comment, as those who have heard the album will agree. Ultimately, while very little about Young Thug’s musical style would remind anyone of Kanye West, the album response is somewhat reminiscent of the comments that swirled around “Yeezus,” without the outright declarations of brilliance. It’s just weird, and if you give it a chance it’s pretty good.

Collaboration With Jamie xx

Jamie xx is one of the strangest and most impressive figures in music today. Best known as a founding member of the London electronic group The xx, the now-solo artist (whose real name is Jamie Smith) has produced a fascinating variety of music already. He’s effectively a DJ and remix artist with percussion skills and a gift for crafting arrangements. With The xx, his best-known single, “Intro,” became the kind of mainstream hit most artists can only dream of. Not only that, but it also earned bizarre recognition as the #1 song people want to have sex to, according to a poll on entertainment in the bedroom. And strangely, this combination of mainstream success and niche appeal is a nice summary of Jamie xx’s career so far. With his new solo album, “In Colour,” which is getting raves, it’s safe to say he’s hit the big time.

And it just so happens that one of the most popular tracks on this new solo album is “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” featuring none other than Young Thug. It’s the perfect collaboration between the two (and also features Popcaan), in that you can hear Jamie’s electronic inventiveness, mood music percussion, and Young Thug’s bizarre vocal quality somehow working in perfect harmony. Stereogum is featuring the track along with an interview in which Jamie xx explains how great he believes Young Thug to be—not a bad endorsement for a rapper on the rise.

Continued Single Releases

One of the great things about modern hip-hop is that young artists have gotten into the habit of releasing their own music, whether through YouTube, Soundcloud, or some other medium. In a way this gives fans better access than ever before to artists, and when it comes to Young Thug, his frequent releases of whatever he happens to be working on are more fun the bigger he gets.

Case in point: the incredibly out-there song “Paradise” that leaked this past week, showing off yet another quirky range of vocal activity from Young Thug (he kind of just starts crooning on this one).

That’s a pretty busy slate given that it’s only June. But love him or hate him, you have to respect Young Thug’s apparent eagerness to continue exploding onto the scene.

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