When you share a world with Young Thug, it’s Slime Season year-round. Since his debut on the Atlanta trap scene in 2011, Young Thug has been a polarizing figure in the hip-hop community. His flirtations with androgynous fashion choices, as well as his at times incomprehensible lyrics have put some off of his music for the same reasons that so many of his fans adore him.
Although it’s only been six months since his last project, Slime Season 3, people were already chomping at the bit to hear his next tape. The thing is, fans of Young Thug have grown accustomed to the rapid pace at which he releases music.
Jeffery (released by 300/Atlantic records) dropped on August 25th, 2016. Preceding the release, Young Thug changed his stage name to No, My Name is Jeffery for a few weeks. He spoke on this decision during his listening party, citing that he felt the need to move away from the name Young Thug: “I didn’t want my kids to grow up and call me Thug because in real-life terms Thug is thug.”
At its heart, Jeffery is an album that tackles identity and romance. A listener can learn this before hearing anything from the project by simply glancing at the cover art. Thug dons a long, ruffling, purple-hued dress (styled by designer Alessandro Trincone). The textures, composition, and depth of the photo are analogous to the many notable songs that comprise the 42-minute tape.
Each track is titled after one of Young Thug’s idols. The tape opens with “Wyclef Jean”, a song that melds reggae influenced guitar riffs and horns with the high hats and thumping bass that helped launch trap-rap into the hip-hop mainstream.
Following “Wyclef Jean” the tracklist includes features from Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, Gunna, Quavo, and Offset, just to name a few. Thug’s three strongest tracks show up in the middle of the album. The run begins with RiRi (named after Rihanna). It features Thug at his sing-iest, his voice often cracking with emotion while he’s hitting the high notes. He wails into the mic as if speaking directly to his female companion.
It would be unfair to call RiRi a love song. It is a sexual appeal to his lover with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure. The chorus focusses on his companion “doing the work.” He explains to her, “if you want it bae you gotta earn it.”
Following RiRi comes Guwop – a track named after Gucci Mane, the Atlanta trap artist who initially signed Thug. It is another track where Thug wears his heart on his sleeve. The production and flow upon which Thug delivers his bars is reminiscent of the last album-turned-mixtape that he released in 2015, Barter 6. The track also boasts the two strongest features on the album, from Scooter and Quavo. The final track in the 3 track run is the climax of the tape, and may be the most energetic Thug has been on any album. The track is titled “Harambe”, in remembrance of Harambe the gorilla, the slain pride of the Cincinnati Zoo. His tragic story lives on through the title of one of Young Thug’s most memorable songs. At times Thug is simply screaming his bars. The delivery towards the end of the track is reminiscent of a Louis Armstrong performance: raspy, raw, and full of emotion.
The final track (“Kanye West”) features Wyclef Jean. Jean complements the track well with his smooth-as-butter delivery and the quietly spoken “Jeffery” ad-libs that he gently coos in the background during the chorus.
Thug built his sound on unpredictable, muddled flows, and a creative use of autotune. On Jeffery, there is a complete departure from Thug’s signature auto-tune sound. It’s not to say that the use of autotune detracts from Thug’s music, but it is refreshing to hear his voice as it is. He is exploring his identity both with the literal name change, and the subtle changes to how he sounds on his projects.
Every good album has shortcomings: Jeffery is no exception to that rule. Some of the features that he places on the album detract from the experience: specifically, those from Gunna and Offset. Additionally, the Travis Scott bonus track “Pick Up the Phone” was an unnecessary inclusion. The track felt out of place on the album. Thug’s contribution to the track, albeit large, was underwhelming. It felt more like a throwaway verse that he had stored away on a forgotten hard-drive when compared to some of the stronger verses that he put forward on Jeffery.
A casual hip-hop fan would do well to dive into Young Thug’s discography headfirst, with Jeffery being the project that breaks the surface. The guest production from TM88, Billboard Hitmakers, and Frank Duke lay a perfect foundation for Thug to build on. Jeffery is one of Thug’s most cohesive projects, and it will shine in his discography for years to come. Rating this project as anything less than 8.5/10 is doing it a disservice.