Flow on DatPiff: Young Thug and the Digital Abyss

Dan from the Internet considers sacrificing lambs to the ghost of Steve Jobs
By    August 31, 2016

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Dan from the Internet feasts for no reason.

When the streaming wars end and Apple finally makes music ownership obsolete; after all the outmoded MP3 rips of obscure rappers are left to rot on hard drives, the last thing we will mourn is how much black music we lost. Mixtapes by their nature are transient, they aren’t meant to last. That is why Young Thug’s discography could meet such a sad end. There is no definitive work. Most projects exist as unofficial leaks, mixtapes mashed together from disparate points in his career, or failed singles that never seemed to catch on. Young Thug projects reward die hard fans and punish casual listeners, his genius obscured by sheer volume. No, My Name is JEFFERY is no different, a mixtape disguised as an album, that spends too much time preaching to the converted.

The internet doesn’t know what it wants. If you try hard enough the internet can close the gap between what’s good and what isn’t in, like, 15 minutes. I don’t want to live in a world where Young Thug drops a bad album either, but I’m an adult. I’m used to disappointment. At a certain point you have to stop making albums into what you want them to be and accept them for what they are. JEFFERY is only one of five mixtapes used to hide the fact Young Thug’s popularity is stagnating. Why wouldn’t it? 300 has dropped half a dozen singles and a debut album only to backtrack when the first week projections came in. JEFFERY deserves to be genius because Young Thug is genius. It just isn’t.

Young Thug has always been a transcendent pop star posing as a rapper. Pop is less restrictive in a lot of ways: you just have to get from point A (hook) to point B (the next hook). It doesn’t matter how you do it. You’re not hampered by a rigid 16-bar structure. Kanye and Drake learned that early. “Webbie” and the Wyclef-featuring “Kanye West” are the album’s two true pop songs, and each forces Thug radically out of his comfort zone. The results–some of the best melodies and performances of Thug’s career–are inarguable. Duke and Thug’s vocals on “Webbie” are something completely special, impossible to place yet perfectly familiar. The Billboard Hitmakers give Thug the one beat on the album provocative as the artwork. The hi-hats, obnoxious synths, keys, and strings crammed into the beat should be an absolute mess, but somehow, it all works. It’s a real moment.

Wyclef’s feature also provokes Thug in ways his contemporaries like “Travi$ Scott” and Young Scooter never could. Wyclef comes close to duplicating the same energy of Thug and Popcaan’s last collaboration, but the song’s hook is missing the last element to really bring it together. “Kanye West” shows how much a legend like Wyclef can bring out of Young Thug, and suggest that more collaborations in that vein might be crucial moving forward.

It’s when Thug falls back on his inner circle that the album faulters. TM88 and Wheezy produce the bulk of the album and Young Thug goes back to relying on old habits. There are only so many ways to innovate over trap hi-hats; to his credit, many of those innovations have been his. Songs like “Wyclef Jean,” “Floyd Mayweather,” and “Future Swag” drone on without breaking much new ground. Quavo at least sounds excited on “Guwop,” but Thug raps like an artist that’s released 5 albums of material and still can’t get a release date. The cover and the name change (Ed.- from Young Thug to Jeffery, which has yet to be carried out in full), while sincere, feel like misdirections from how uninspired the album is.

An album doesn’t have to stand the test of time to be great. It just shouldn’t age like milk before it gets here. JEFFERY will appease long-time fans, but looking at the sales projections, it remains to be seen if Thug can drum up the interest necessary to take him to the next level, or even to Target shelves. Every non-album Young Thug drops inevitably buries his best work further and further down in his catalog.

By failing to commit to one album or one single, 300 has backed Jeffery into a corner–a corner he seems willing to fight his way out of only by throwing more music at the problem. Every mixtape is effectively Young Thug and co. shoveling bits and pieces of a classic album down an infinite hole.

Mixtapes just don’t last on Apple Music; albums do. Young Thug has all the potential to break hip-hop open and leave it better than he found it. I’m just not sure if JEFFERY will get him there.

 

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