A beginner’s guide to… Young Thug

Before getting stuck into Thuggers' new album 'So Much Fun' (out now!), get your head round the magnificent strangeness of his career so far...

Jeffery Lamar Williams is a 28-year-old from the American city of Atlanta who, since releasing debut mixtape ‘I Came From Nothing’ in 2011, has become one of the most exciting rappers in the game. His gender-fluidity, eccentricity, surrealism, unique vocal delivery and devotion to his own myth have turned him into a hip-hop icon. And 17 more mixtapes later (plus three EPs, 15 singles and 38 appearances as a featured artist), he’s finally got round to releasing his first album proper, ‘So Much Fun’, on August 16. Before getting into that though, here’s how to tackle the unwieldy Thugger discography…

Start with this game-changing mixtape

‘Barter 6’ (2015)

‘Barter 6’ was supposed to be called ‘Carter 6’, but had to be changed at the last minute because Lil Wayne – Thugger’s idol turned frenemy – threatened to sue him (Wayne was, after all, the creator of the albums ‘Tha Carter’ through to ‘Tha Carter V’). This anecdote gives you a nice little insight into the aggro side of Young Thug’s personality. And this mixtape will give you a nice little insight into what he’s best at: blow-your-mind-wide-open vocals (on ‘Halftime’), really very deeply skewed pop (‘Check’, ‘Can’t Tell’), giving little nods to country music (‘Amazing’), and world class self-aggrandizing on lyrics like “every time I dress myself it go motherfuckin’ viral” (also on ‘Halftime’).

Then watch this video

‘Best Friend’ (2015)

By far Thugger’s biggest tune (although it’s been a slow burner, and only got to number 45 in the US charts when it came out), ‘Best Friend’ has lots going for it: menacing production from Ricky Racks and Yung Shad, “swagonometry” being rhymed with “bumble bee”, many unintelligible lyrics, and its creator looking fiiiiiiine in the video.

Then listen to the song he says he wrote in eight minutes

‘2 Bitches (Danny Glover)’ (2015)

Eight minutes!

Then go in on his debut mixtape

‘I Came From Nothing’ (2011)

To truly understand the mercurial majesty of Young Thug, you need to get a grip on how much he’s changed. On debut mixtape ‘I Came From Nothing’ he raps kinda like… a regular rapper (biggest influence: Lil Wayne). Which, given the freakery he consistently experiments with these days, is disconcerting. It’s across the next two tapes in the ‘I Came From Nothing’ trilogy that he starts playing around with his flow, and autotune. These are the origins of a master of disguise.

Next, watch him fix this model’s look at a fashion show (while smoking a doob)

Scroll to 9.23 for the goods.

And finally: check out the album on which the mask slips juuuuuust a little

‘Jeffery’ (2016)

The fact that ‘Jeffery’ has tracks called ‘Wyclef Jean’, ‘Floyd Mayweather’, ‘Swizz Beats’, ‘RiRi’ and ‘Kanye West’ is very much a red herring. Less of a red herring is that it’s called ‘Jeffery’, Young Thug’s real name, because this is an album on which the man the legend drops some of the facade (but only some – he still appears on the cover in a dress), and melts a little because of his love for fiance Jerrika Karlae. “Bae drink your lean with me, bae fall asleep with me” he raps on ‘Webbie’. And it really is lovely.