Earlier this year, Young Thug decided to invent a “NIGGA TWERK” dance and post it on his Instagram. As he waddled across his floor, hands on knees, a palpable disgust quickly pervaded social media, summed up by a commenter’s incredulous “Twerking for men??”
Most viewers probably ignored the 4(+?) bottles of GTV vodka on the counter that may have put him under the influence. Some probably didn’t consider that if any other rapper had posted this harmless, rhythmless shuffle without such a declarative tag the most notable takeaway would be a visible gun. It seems he wasn’t even able to neutralize any outrage with respect that he owned a gun.
When it comes to Young Thug, he’s beyond any benefit of the doubt. People see their chance to be disgusted and seize it. The 23 year old rapper is essentially the human car crash effect. He’s a “new Atlanta” artist who’s shrill, elongated warbles synesthetically mirror his serpentine physique, living a lifestyle so mysterious only he understands its parameters.
He has some sonic appeal, with an intriguing delivery augmented by a disregard for enunciation. He evokes the days of Lil Wayne’s codeine induced yore, where 10 tracks of robotic crooning and unabashed ID would promise at least one brilliant moment. His content never reaches the heights of “A Milli” or “Prostitute Flange” though, it’s mostly syrupy material tailor made to be played through a teenager’s phone on public transportation or on a Worldstar model’s video.
More than anything he does on the mic, his “real life” exploits make him a topic du jour in Hip-Hop, a surefire backup plan on a slow news day for Lord Jamar and VladTV.
He wears blouses. He calls his apparently heterosexual friends “bae,” “hubby,” and “lover” on social media. He paints his finger nails. His few lines that are intelligible hold gems such as “Like Shaq I Bengay”. He’s aware that he disgusts, mystifies, and piques the curiosity of people still looking to find “the gay rapper” in a sea of thousands of artists throughout 40 years. With Young Thug around, they’ve never felt hotter on the trail, even though there have been openly homosexual underground artists for years.
Young Thug has been releasing music since 2011. In 2012, he declared in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” that “I make a product for a certain audience and I’m good at it. Supply and demand, simple economics. I don’t do this because I love the attention, I do this because I have a certain skill set that now allows me to get paid without the threat of doing federal time.” In 2015 these words seem ominous.
Hip-Hop has become a capitalist institution, with financial supremacy the primary goal of most involved. In a genre where the most successful artists and moguls have more in common with Dick Cheney than they care to realize, Young Thug’s ethos fall firmly in line with most artists: make money by any means.
His existence and success in Hip-Hop seems to evoke more socialism than anything, however. The presence of an artist like Young Thug is a collectively manifested destiny, with him withdrawing from and depositing to a crowdsource of curiosity and vapidity.
2015 is a time where artistry and lyricism in Hip-Hop seems increasingly irrelevant. Many people literally have no idea what Young Thug is saying on his records. Fellow Atlanta rapper TI had him on his hit single “About the Money,” but has pretty much implied in interviews and onstage he doesn’t know Young Thug’s lyrics on the song. It’s not enough to have poor lyrics to ridicule, he has completely unintelligible lyrics.
2015 is a time where gay rights, gender roles, and sexual preference are at war with homophobia. His aforementioned “antics” set off much debate. They’re continuously an avenue for people to espouse their views on homosexuality without bringing it up in a vacuum and seeming “suspect”. Some people don’t see the big deal with them, while others are overtly repulsed. Some feel entitled to know his sexual preference, and others resolve to fight (and succumb to) the urge to hum his catchy melodies because he may be gay. As of this writing, he’s denied being a homosexual (and is beholden to textbook womanizing and misogyny in his music,) but the fact that it still matters speaks volumes.
2015 is a time where Black solidarity and social agency is in dire need. He was not only silent on Ferguson, but in a red carpet interview deemed being “iced out” and “gettin’ money” as bigger concerns. Never mind that the young Black audience who comprise his fanbase are at risk of becoming a hashtag, Young Thug thinks we should “leave that up with the critics and laws and all that.” There was a time where every rapper had a say on social issues as a Black man in America before anything. As evidenced through Young Thug though, so many Black men are completely disillusioned. He’s clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome, a psychological condition characterized by identifying with and sympathizing with a captor, and it’s by design.
He’s a Frankenstein of the times, one axis of a symbiotic triangle between himself, combustible Hip-Hop fans, and a music industry hell-bent on confounding our consciousness. Never has one Hip-Hop artist seemed to be such a polarizing figure on so many important issues at once.
He singlehandedly represents so much of what is wrong with the current state of Blackness, but he also puts a mirror up at us and the industry in the process. Why is the Black community still so homophobic, despite most of us having homosexual family members? Why does attention seeking on social media hold so much of our awareness? When did the game become bad enough for him to infiltrate? Do the Hip-Hop heads who complain about him support the artists who represented what they wanted? Probably not, as evidenced by dwindling record sales and a monopoly of counterproductive content.
Many think the only commercials are on the radio or TV. Wrong. Young Thug is a walking advertisement for so many destructive things at once, but also a human handbook on how to play to people’s fears and curiosities to achieve your goal. Past all the attention grabbing headlines, he’s another Black male commissioned to sell a lifestyle where Black manhood is about “making it” to some ambiguous “lifestyle,” against all odds, by any means.
Perhaps Lil B laid the foundation for him, but Young Thug is taking it mainstream. He’s a rich man’s Lil B, all at once a beacon of ignorance, a free spirit, a tactical mastermind, and guy who just does shit.