Young Thug - 'I'm Up' Review
Further proof that Young Thug is jolting new life into hip-hop
Better known as Young Thug, Jeffrey Lamar Williams is the wildly prolific Atlanta rapper with eccentric fashion sense on a mission to keep hip-hop weird. Since 2011 he has released 15 mixtapes – last year’s excellent ‘Barter 6’ was his breakthrough – and revealed that women’s clothes make up 90% of his wardrobe.
A product of the same Atlanta scene which has given the world Future, Awful Records and rap trio Migos (who pop up repeatedly on ‘I’m Up’), the 24-year-old’s flow falls somewhere between the syrup-lined ribbit of Lil Wayne, his biggest influence, and the icy burr of collaborator Gucci Mane, whose 1017 Brick Squad Records signed Thug in 2013.
He’s worked with everyone from Justin Bieber to Jamie xx and barely a week goes by without some kind of Young Thug track surfacing online. He’s even on record as saying he can write a perfect song in just 10 minutes. It certainly puts a three-year wait between Kanye West albums into context. You can mention Thug and Kanye in the same breath as they have recorded a reported 40 songs together in the past three years. A legal agreement barring anyone discussing the material before release means nothing has surfaced yet – other than Thug’s admission that Yeezy compared him to Bob Marley.
Because of their scattershot nature, Thug’s mixtapes aren’t definitive artistic statements. Instead, you get momentary snapshots of a rapper on the rise and a window into his bizarre lifestyle. As such, ‘I’m Up’ represents Thug’s most accessible and immediate work to date.
It opens with ‘F Cancer’, a diss track for the Big C that soon gives way to Thug bragging about himself (“//Got a lot of followers, a perfect leader//”) and listing Codeine-laced drink lean and prescription painkiller Percocet among his favoured drugs. His voice acts as part of the production on tracks like ‘Special’ and the blissed-out ‘My Boys’. Via a woozy, slurred purr punctuated with the odd yelp, he presents a grab bag of melodies and lyrical non-sequiturs such as “//My pocket, it look like a book with the worm in it//” (‘For My People’) and “I come through fresh like John Lennon” (‘Bread Winners’). The distinctly poppier ‘Hercules’ showcases Thug’s ability with a hook as he croons about driving through the Los Angeles streets run by the Crips gang in a red jumpsuit synonymous with their bitter rivals the Bloods.
The video for ‘F Cancer’ shows Thug in baby pink scrubs curing fellow rapper Boosie Badazz – who recovered from kidney cancer at the end of 2015 – of the disease. That might exaggerate his abilities somewhat, but ‘I’m Up’ is further proof that Young Thug is jolting new life into hip-hop.
Record label: 300, Atlantic
Release date: 05 Feb, 2016