Jeffery Lamar Williams (born August 16, 1991), best known professionally as Young Thug, is an American hip hop artist from Atlanta, Georgia. Known for his unconventional vocal style, fashion, and persona, he first received attention for his collaborations with fellow Southern rappers such as Rich Homie Quan, Birdman, T.I., and Gucci Mane. Young Thug initially released a series of independent mixtapes beginning in 2011 with I Came From Nothing. In early 2013, he signed with Gucci Mane's 1017 Records and later that year he released his label debut mixtape 1017 Thug to critical praise.
Young Thug received mainstream recognition in 2014 with the songs "Stoner" and "Danny Glover" in addition to appearances on several singles, including "About the Money" and "Lifestyle." That year, he also signed to Lyor Cohen's 300 Entertainment and collaborated on the mixtapes Black Portland and Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1. In 2015, he released a number of mixtapes, including Barter 6 and two installments of his Slime Season series. These were followed in 2016 by the mixtapes I'm Up, Slime Season 3, and Jeffery in anticipation of his long-delayed debut studio album.
Jeffery Lamar Williams was born on August 16, 1991, in Atlanta, Georgia; the second youngest of eleven children. He is from Sylvan Hills, a neighborhood in Atlanta (Zone 3), and grew up in the Jonesboro South projects. Other rappers from the neighborhood include Waka Flocka Flame, 2 Chainz, Ludacris and William's childhood friend PeeWee Longway, from whom Williams lived four doors down.
2011–13: Early career and record deal
After releasing the first three installments of his mixtape series I Came from Nothing throughout 2011 and 2012, Young Thug caught the attention of fellow Atlanta-based rapper Gucci Mane, who went on to sign Young Thug to his label 1017 Brick Squad Records, an Asylum/Atlantic imprint, in 2013. Thug subsequently released his first project on the label, his fourth mixtape, 1017 Thug. The mixtape was met with positive reviews from music critics, which noted it for its original style. 1017 Thug was included in a number of year-end lists for 2013, such as the Pitchfork Albums of the Year: Honorable Mention and Complex's The 50 Best Albums of 2013. FACT called it the best mixtape of 2013, Rolling Stone placed it at number five on their 10 Best Mixtapes of 2013 and The Guardian placed it among The Five Best Mixtapes of 2013. Young Thug's song "Picacho", was noted as one of the standout tracks from the mixtape, although it was not released as a single, the song was included on a number of 2013 year-end lists, such as Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of 2013, Pitchfork's The Top 100 Tracks of 2013, and Spin's 50 Best Songs of 2013.
In July 2013, Complex included him in their list of 25 New Rappers to Watch Out For. In October 2013, Young Thug released his commercial debut single "Stoner". The song spawned a number of unofficial remixes by several rappers, including Wale, Jim Jones, Jadakiss, Iamsu! and Trick-Trick, among others.Thug expressed his disapproval for the remixes, commenting "If you feel like my song isn't tough enough to the point where you have to freestyle... Don't think I'm happy that you're doing it because of who you are. I'm ready for war." His song "Danny Glover" also received a number of remixes by Waka Flocka Flame and Nicki Minaj, among others. In October 2013, Young Thug also appeared on a few tracks on 19 & Boomin by Metro Boomin, including "Some More", the first song he made with Alex Tumay, who became his go-to engineer for almost everything from then until "Slime Season 2". In December 2013, Thug performed at Fool's Gold Day Off show in Miami, among Danny Brown, Trick Daddy and Travis Scott.
2014: Rise to popularity and label issues
On January 18, 2014, Young Thug revealed that he was offered $1.5 million to sign to Future's Freebandz record label. In March 2014, Young Thug's affiliation with Cash Money Records and its chief executive officer (CEO) Birdman, resulted in much speculation in the media about him signing to the label. However, the label's publicist later stated this was untrue. On March 28, 2014, Ronald "Caveman" Rosario, director of Urban Music at 1017 Distribution, cleared the situation, stating that Young Thug signed a management deal with Birdman's Rich Gang, not a record deal, and is still signed to 1017 Brick Squad.
In 2014, Thug also recorded several songs with Kanye West, who praised him for his ability to make songs so fast. Thug announced that he has upcoming mixtapes with Rich Homie Quan, Chief Keef and Bloody Jay. Young Thug would go on to be featured on the March 2014 cover of The Fader. On March 11, 2014, his debut single "Stoner", was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio in the United States by Asylum and Atlantic Records. On March 24, 2014, Thug stated his debut album would be titled Carter 6, referencing the highly acclaimed Tha Carter album series by American hip hop superstar Lil Wayne, who has been the biggest influence in Young Thug's music career. Two days later, it was revealed that Young Thug was working on a collaborative album with American record producer Metro Boomin, which is titled Metro Thuggin and set for release in spring 2014. The first song from the project, titled "The BLanguage", uses elements from Canadian rapper Drake's "The Language", was released the same day. In April 2014, Young Thug released a new 808 Mafia-produced song titled "Eww", which was named one of the five best songs of the week by XXL. A remix of the song was supposed to be on Thug's debut album with verses from Lil Wayne and Drake, but that never happened.
On June 17, 2014, Kevin Liles confirmed that Young Thug had been officially signed to his and Lyor Cohen's label 300 Entertainment. On July 1, 2014, Asylum Records and Atlantic Records officially released Young Thug's 2013 fan-favorite song "Danny Glover", re-titling it "2 Bitches". Also on July 1, Mass Appeal Records released "Old English", the first single from their compilation album Mass Appeal Vol. 1, which features Young Thug alongside fellow American rappers ASAP Ferg and Freddie Gibbs. On October 16, 2014, the first single from Cash Money Records Rich Gang 2 compilation, was released titled "Take Kare," featuring Young Thug and Lil Wayne. The December 4, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone called Young Thug the "most exciting new voice of hip-hop" and "hip-hop's new crown prince." At the end of the year, music critic Robert Christgau named Black Portland—Young Thug's collaborative mixtape with Bloody Jay—the fourth best album of 2014.
2015–16: Barter 6 and Slime Season series
In 2015, a series of data breaches leaked hundreds of unreleased tracks from Young Thug's archives to the Internet. Young Thug's planned debut album was set for release in 2015, and was said to be named Carter 6, in homage to Lil Wayne's upcoming album, Tha Carter V. Lil Wayne, however, wasn't happy about the tribute, telling the audience of a show in April 2015 to "stop listening" to Young Thug. After claiming he's been threatened with lawsuits, Young Thug announced that he was changing the title to Barter 6 and clarified that it would be a mixtape rather than his debut album. Young Thug announced April 18, 2015, that his official debut album will be titled Hy!£UN35, which translates to "HiTunes". In May 2015, after much confusion as to who he was signed to and managed by, having been aligned with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records, Future’s Freebandz, Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment and Birdman’s Rich Gang, Young Thug revealed "I manage myself. I’m signed with Atlantic. I have a big, special deal with Atlantic, and it’s only Atlantic. Birdman is my homie." He also revealed he would be releasing another mixtape prior to the album, titled Tha Carter V.
To circumvent their further spread of leaked tracks, Thug released the well-received compilation mixtapes Slime Season and Slime Season 2. Young Thug revealed in late June 2015 that he and Kanye West have discussed the prospect of a joint album together, both agreeing after a meeting in the spring. Details are still scarce, but Thug said Kanye was impressed after previewing his unreleased music. "I was letting him hear all the music. Then he said I was like Bob Marley and he wanted to do an album with me. I was like, 'Let's roll!'" the rapper said.Young Thug appeared on West's 2016 album The Life of Pablo, and West tweeted that he would release further collaborations with Young Thug on Tidal. In July 2015, 300 Entertainment released a promotional single, "Pacifier", in support of Young Thug's debut album HiTunes (stylized as Hy!£UN35). The song features production from Mike Will Made-It, and was noted by critics for its experimentation with more extreme vocal scatting. On February 4, 2016, Young Thug released a mixtape titled I'm Up. On March 26, 2016, he released the final installment of the Slime Season series in Slime Season 3, declaring the mixtape the end of a phase marked by leaked material. Young Thug toured the United States on his May 2016 Hi-Tunes tour, which featured artists Dae Dae, TM88, and Rich The Kid.
Young Thug was featured in Calvin Klein's Fall 2016 fashion campaign, along with Frank Ocean among others. On July 9, 2016, he announced his self-titled mixtape Jeffery was coming out soon. On August 16, 2016, Thug announced he would change his name to Jeffery for one week, the week during the release of the Jeffery mixtape. The album artwork features Young Thug dressed in an androgynous dress designed by Italian designer Alessandro Trincone, and was photographed by Garfield Lamond. The artwork went viral and prompted a wide range of responses on social media.
In November 2016, he announced he was starting his own record label imprint called YSL records. Thug provided vocals on Drake's songs "Sacrifices" and "Ice Melts" on the album More Life. He was featured on Calvin Harris' song "Heatstroke" along with Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams, released in March 2017.In May 2017, he featured in the Diplo song "Bankroll." which also features Justin Bieber and Rich the Kid.
Young Thug has received both praise and criticism for his eccentric and unique vocal style, which has been described as departing from traditional rap lyricism and sometimes intelligible meaning. According to The Fader, "in a typical Young Thug verse, he slurs, shouts, whines and sings, feverishly contorting his voice into a series of odd timbres like a beautifully played but broken wind instrument." Pitchfork called his style "extraordinarily distinctive" and "a weird, experimental approach to rapping" while praising his "presence, persona, mystique, and, potentially, star power." Billboard wrote that "Thug uses this multiplicative vocal delivery to his advantage: where another rapper might lapse into repetition, he finds a new way to distress and warp his tone, to burrow resourcefully into rhythmic cracks and crevices." Complex noted his aptitude for creating catchy, melodic hooks. XXL called him a "rap weirdo," stating that "Thug's charisma, unhinged flow and hooks make his music intriguing." Writer Jayson Greene compared Young Thug to his Atlanta contemporary Future, stating that both work by "sneak[ing] lyricism under the cover of unintelligibility" and "bending recognizable material into unrecognizable shapes." Critic Sheldon Pearce wrote that "Thug understands the modern pop song construction better than anyone: anything and everything can be a hook."
Young Thug has been noted for his fast working method, with several collaborators observing his tendency to freestyle tracks live in the studio or quickly develop lyrics on the spot. He doesn't write down lyrics on paper, but has been known to plan lyrics by drawing shapes and signs. Consequence of Sound stated that "his work is constantly rooted in improvisation, an inherently thrilling concept that’s embedded itself in black music." Discussing his work, Williams has claimed the ability to write a hit song in 10 minutes and said "I’m in the studio so much, I’ll just try stuff. I just think and try, think and try. I don’t really know how to sing, but I’ve been trying for years." Young Thug has cited American rapper Lil Wayne, as his biggest idol and influence. In an interview with Complex magazine he says, "I want to get in the studio with Wayne more than anybody in the world." He has also cited mentor Gucci Mane and Kanye West as influences.
Image and fashion
Vibe Magazine called Young Thug "one of the most unpredictable, charismatic, and outlandish personalities in Hip-Hop today." Rovi called him a "fashion icon." His wardrobe has been described as eccentric and consists predominantly of women's clothing, which he has preferred to wear since age 12. The Seattle Times wrote that "with a fashion sense as unconventional as his rapping, Young Thug can regularly be seen on his Instagram account rocking painted fingernails, skintight jeans or a kids-size dress as a shirt, which, along with his habit of regularly referring to close male friends as "hubbie" or "lover" has led to rumors about his sexual orientation."
In an advertisement for Calvin Klein, Thug proclaimed that he doesn't believe in gender, stating that "In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants." Fusion described him as "defying gender stereotypes and agitating the way hip-hop defines black masculinity, through his eccentric sense of style." He has been compared to David Bowie, Prince, and Little Richard. The media has called him gender fluid and androgynous. GQ called him "at once a hero and an outsider and a leader of the psychedelic fashion movement of rap hippies."
Awards and nominations
|2014||BET Hip Hop Awards||Who Blew Up||Young Thug||Nominated|
|Made-You-Look Award (Best Hip-Hop Style)||Nominated|
|Best Club Banger||"Stoner"||Nominated|
|2015||BET Awards||Coca-Cola Viewers' Choice Award||"Throw Sum Mo"
(with Rae Sremmurd and Nicki Minaj)
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