Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: Atlantic
As an artist, Young Thug thrives in between spaces. His chic, fresh-off-the-runway looks flirt with androgyny. Entire sequences of his raps unspool as nonsequiturs forcing listeners to extract meaning from bars of source code. Even the assorted ad-libs in his songs maximize the slightest pocket of air, exploding and retracting back through crevices in his unpredictable flows.
The records of Young Thug, a.k.a. Jeffery Williams, continue to command the rap zeitgeist, in part because there's so many of them. (Jeffery is his third full-length release this year.) But the real secret to Thug's success is musical: the wild, mush-mouthed flow pours out in songs like "Webbie," a typically skewed sex-and-drugs boast, and the stormy "Harambe," which puts this usually strict amoralist at the center of a soul-tussle between God, the devil and Godzilla.
On his third mixtape release of the year, iconic Atlanta rapper Young Thug makes his big artistic statement. Following Slime Season 3 -- itself an equally competent and Zeitgeist-defining collection -- Thug's JEFFERY (initially titled No, My Name Is Jeffery) is thrilling and essential, one of the best rap releases of 2016. The eponymous album includes ten tracks named after different idols and influencers in Thug's life, from contemporaries like Future ("Future Swag") and Gucci Mane ("Guwop") to icons like Kanye West (originally titled "Pop Star") and Rihanna.
Ever since he stepped on the scene, Young Thug has been classified as a rapper who sings. On Jeffery, that's no longer true; he's a singer who raps. Try as he might, Thugga can't rap more than a few bars here before the melody overtakes him. He's got a song in his heart, and he just has to let it out.So how is Young Thug as a singer? Technically, not great.
What’s in a name? Marcel Proust, in his legendary In Search of Lost Time, wrote “A name: that very often is all that remains or us of a human being, not only when he is dead, but sometimes even in his lifetime. ” Commenting on this line in her work Time and Sense, philosopher Julia Kristeva explains, “Sensation and pleasures that stir up the imagination take refuge in the syllables of names. ” She further discusses the destruction of the proper name, “deflating it into a common noun”, and how in doing so we experience the full power that that proper name held.
The already infamous cover for Jeffery, Young Thug’s third project this year, sees the 25-year-old Atlanta rapper, who can currently be found on billboards in Manhattan modeling womenswear for Calvin Klein, working a purposefully genderless outfit by Italian designer, Alessandro Trincone. His face is masked by a white bonnet of sorts, body engulfed by a baby blue gown, as he strikes a pose eerily reminiscent of one of Michael Jackson’s signature dance moves. The accompanying tracklist photo sees him peeking out from under the same ensemble, beaming his $20,000 smile.
The build-up to the release of Young Thug’s latest mixtape was dominated by debate about what to call him. A trailer for the project featured Thug (whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams) sat in an interrogation room that looked like it was straight out of HBO’s The Night of, while detectives questioned him about his real name. It was gimmicky and a bit daft (he has said he’ll change his name if his mixtape sells more than 100,000 copies), but the real talking point came when the tape was released and Young Thug/Jeffery appeared on the front cover wearing a dress.
Now this is how you drop a surprise album. After six months of inactivity—an eternity in Atlanta rap years—Young Thug has delivered precisely what his audience wanted. Jeffery builds on Thug’s past work, emphasizes his best qualities, and comes on as strong as Young Thug’s first release in six months should; it’s dressed to impress. While many of us still pray Frank Ocean will actually drop Boys Don’t Cry on November 13, Jeffery makes the fact that Young Thug has been sleeping on a major-label debut called HiTunes for almost his whole career entirely moot.
Young Thug plays the name game on his latest mixtape, naming many of its 10 songs after his idols (Kanye West, Wyclef Jean, Rihanna, Floyd Mayweather, Gucci Mane) and using his given name as the album title. The move is apparently part of a rebrand so he can avoid the baggage that comes with his rap moniker. "I didn't want my kids to grow up and call me 'Thug,'" the Atlanta MC explained at a listening party in New York City last month.
Originally No, My Name Is Jeffery – as initially announced by Atlantic Records head Lyor Cohen – the charismatic mumble rap of Young Thug's third retail mixtape (and rebrand) explores the evolution of an enigma. First off, actual songs and their titles – like the album moniker – have changed or disappeared. "Kanye West" was once "Pop Man." Midtempo banger "Floyd Mayweather" didn't feature Travis Scott's vox.