Young Thug has probably the most generic rap name imaginable; it’s like a character that Finesse Mitchell would’ve played on a halfassed SNL skit in 2005. When you see a name like that, you imagine you know just about all you need to know about its owner without knowing anything. But the real Young Thug might be the weirdest major figure on Atlanta’s street-rap scene, which is not exactly hurting for weirdos. Young Thug’s on-record persona is pretty much a perma-high pill-gobbler who talks standard trap stuff but who gets so deep inside his own brain when he’s doing it that he sometimes forgets what he’s talking about midsentence. In his style, I hear echoes of Lil Boosie (the yippy, high-pitched voice) and Future (the disorientingly thick slathers of Auto-Tune), but the best way to describe him is every bad artistic idea Lil Wayne has had in recent years (or every idea that has nothing to do with butt-rock guitars, anyway), stretched out and distended and transformed and expanded until they become their own universe. There’s the joyously inept singing, the gargled half-rhymes, the processed mumbles that trail off into unintelligibility, the unpredictable bursts of raw emotion, the thoughts that simply don’t follow each other. But in Young Thug’s case, those decisions don’t stand as laziness or coasting. They sound like the work of a man absolutely committed to his most absurd impulses.
On a fundamental bar-for-bar basis, Young Thug is, of course, a completely garbage rapper. But he’s interesting garbage, Found Magazine garbage. He’s not coffee grounds or Taco Bell wrappers; he’s the pieces of a torn-up letter scattered around a parking lot, scraps that you try to tape back together even though you can’t find all the pieces. Consider, for instance, “Picacho,” which, I think, is about how Young Thug’s diamonds look like Pikachu. The chorus, near as I can tell: “My diiiiamonds, they say Pikachu / They gon’ wink at you / I’m a boss, bitch, I’ma walk through and just peek at you.” And he yells this with a naked sort of need that doesn’t quite convince me he has any idea what he’s saying, all over a twinkly strip-club synth beat so chintzy that it almost sounds like a karaoke backing track. Or “Murder,” on which Thug repeats the title over and over, slurring his words so hard that it sounds like he’s saying “Murmur murmur murmur murmur she wrote.” Which, actually, seems pretty appropriate.
Earlier this year, Young Thug linked up with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Bricksquad crew, and in the past few weeks, his particular strain of bug-out intensity has enlivened excellent and already-lively mixtapes from Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci himself. But 1017 Thug is a different thing entirely. I half-expected Gucci’s influence and his coterie of thunderous producers to ground Young Thug’s style enough that he’d make something closer to traditional street-rap. Instead, the opposite has happened; he’s dragged the entire Bricksquad crew into his freaky orbit. On “Shooting Star,” for instance, Gucci decides to drown himself in Auto-Tune, just like Thug, and coos about how he doesn’t know what day it is and how his whole crew is on No-Doz. On “Fuck With It,” the recently ascendent regretful-tough-guy type Young Scoot claims to “speak five different languages, even guapenese.”
There’s every chance you’ll hate 1017 Thug. It sounds enough like a standard Atlanta rap mixtape to be recognizable, but just different enough that it just sounds wrong. I’m not even sure I can justifiably recommend the tape, but it keeps ringing around in my head long after I’ve stopped listening to it. It’s an utterly absorbing mess, and the world could always use a few more of those.
Download 1017 Thug here.