Without question, Young Thug is that guy right now. The artist who larger media outlets have decided to anoint as one of the chosen souls who gains their favor for the coming weeks and months.
With Thugger Thugger covering FADER’s Feb/March 2014 issue, it’s safe to say the 21-year-old Atlanta-native is probably one more song away from being a household name like his idols Lil Wayne and Future.
We’ve already briefed everyone on a few essentials to know about him. Now, check out the seven interesting things we learned from the Fader’s feature of the “Stoner” rapper.
1. For the most part, everyone just calls him “Thug.”
Thug: this is what he is called by even his closest friends, though his immediate family may slip and call him Jeffrey or Lil’ Jeff (he was born Jeffrey Williams).
2. He sees Future as the Eazy-E and Tupac of Atlanta.
If there’s anyone in the current crop of young rappers coming up in the city whom Young Thug looks up to, it’s Future (“He changed everything,” Thug says, comparing the rapper to Eazy-E and Tupac).
3. Lil Wayne is why he raps the way he does, crediting him as his idol.
His sound is partly an exaggerated outgrowth of the insistence on new styles that has always been a part of Atlanta rap, of novelty taken to a logical extreme. But it’s also a product of his early fandom of Lil Wayne, whom he credits with teaching him to love words, to love maneuvering and manipulating them. “That’s my idol,” he says of Wayne. “Everything he do.”
4. He’s one of 11 children. His brother Bennie was killed in 2000 and his brother Unfunk is currently in prison.
And then there are songs like “RIP,” from his first tape, a seeming map of his emotional life for the previous 10 years, including references to his brother Bennie, who was shot and killed in front of their home in 2000; his brother Unfunk, currently in prison (Thug pays for his legal fees); and his mom, Big Duck. I lost three people in three years, he raps, but to Big Duck it feels like seconds, later telling her, I love you, I love you, I love you. Thug was one of 11 children growing up, all of whom lived together, so the responsibilities of family are regular sources of motivation and frustration.
5. He’s a father.
Thug has kids of his own now, and he understands better than most how closely they’re paying attention, how much he matters. “I don’t want my kids saying, ‘My dad was a gangster, so I need to be a gangster,’” he says. “I would rather mine say, ‘My dad was a stunna, so I need to be a stunna.’
6. He isn’t dependent on drugs to make him think.
This is the other thing that “Stoner” is about, he says: a claim to a certain kind of lineage. “Hendrix, Michael, Wayne, Future,” he says. “Those are stoners.” As he talks, it becomes clear that this legacy has very little to do with drugs. “Drugs help me think,” Thug says at one point, “but they aren’t the reason why I think.” It’s about a way of being in the world, seeing things off-kilter. It’s about finding a voice that can accommodate the experiences he’s had, experiences that might be beyond words. Or as he puts it, “I don’t want to explain. I hate explaining. But I can definitely show you.”
7. Robbed a nail salon of several thousand dollars and lost it all within 24 hours due to his love of gambling.
As a young teenager, he and a couple of friends robbed a nail salon and split several thousand dollars between them. Getting home late, he realized he’d lost his keys on the run and knocked on the door, waking his mother. “I had to give my momma like five thousand just to get her to open to door,” he says. “Had to pass it through the window.” Early the next morning, a friend who had heard about the previous night’s take came over and convinced Thug to go shoot dice in the neighborhood. They spent the day playing dice, and by midnight Thug had lost all the money he’d made and more. This was fairly typical. “I done lost a million kazillion dollars gambling,” he says, spacing out for a moment before adding, “My dad is a gambler.”