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There are a lot of rappers like Young Thug, but there is only one Young Thug. There is no better evidence of this truth than the genre-bending, caterwauling Atlanta rapper’s official major-label debut, So Much Fun, which proves that no matter how many rappers are influenced by Thug’s experimental, avant-garde approach, they will never come close to being the original, one-and-only Young Thug.
Ever since his introduction to the world with the 2014 singles “Stoner” and “Danny Glover,” the eccentric, pitch-shifting hip-hop impressionist has entranced and mystified audiences with his convention-challenging antics and his bewildering, but catchy guest appearances on some of the hottest songs in music. While he slowly bubbled his way up from the underground with mixtape after mixtape, showcasing a work ethic and presentation influenced by his onetime hero Lil Wayne, he also ingratiated himself with the public — and, in some cases, alienated rap purists — with his over-the-top stunts and unusual, yowling take on trap music, becoming a pop culture icon along the way.
He’s as quick to start a genuinely dangerous rap beef with contemporaries like YFN Lucci — with whom he spent the weekend trading thinly-veiled threats and menacing gun talk — as he is to make Rap Twitter go haywire with his mixtape covers. In 2016, his Jeffery tape drew the ire of hip-hop conservatives whose minds were blown when Thugger appeared on the cover art in a samurai-inspired dress designed by Alessandro Trincone. Hip-hop’s fraught relationship with gender norms and toxic masculinity are well-documented; Thug’s open embrace of androgyny not only cemented his place in pop culture but also summed up his creative philosophy in one photo. He’s a rule-breaker, hell-bent on upending social norms as he establishes himself as one of rap’s most prominent cultural leaders.
Thug addresses the controversy on So Much Fun‘s “Just How It Is,” noting with one clipped bar: “Had to wear the dress ’cause I had a stick.” The line is a prime example of Young Thug’s style, revealing that his unusual sartorial selection hides the usual trap-related menace. That dress, which might lull you into a false sense of security, is just hiding Thug’s AK-47, which might blow you away. Non-sequiturs become profound explanations. Surreal, stream-of-consciousness musings take the place of introspection. Where rappers bragging about their sexual conquests is nothing new, Thug turns his sex boasts into eye-popping punchlines on the Southside-produced “Big Tipper.” Thugger has a weird sense of humor too — behold the song titled “Lil Baby” sequenced immediately after the song featuring Lil Baby.
The album’s features only highlight how influential Young Thug has become in his short time in the public eye. On “Surf,” “Bad Bad Bad,” “What’s The Move,” and “Big Tipper,” his guests — Gunna, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, and Lil Keed — all rap in variations of styles Thug originated. Each is his stylistic offspring, yet none save Uzi have ever innovated the way Thug does.