In case you needed a reminder, Young Thug stands in a league of his own.
It’s unlikely that Young Thug is the first name that comes to mind when the topic of “bars” is raised. With a delivery far removed from formal tradition, Thugger’s approach to writing relies on mild alterations of the English Language. Syllables bend at his whim, slant rhymes slam forcefully into onomatopoeias. His eclectic toolkit of cadences allows him to embody a variety of different characters, each of which delivers rhymes in a distinct fashion. It’s never clear which variant will come to bat, though certain producers tend to elicit specific transformations; like a full moon to a werewolf.
There are some who prefer Thugger in his melodic bag, a style he has perfected at this juncture of his career. But with one of hip-hop’s most impressive vernaculars, complete with an original lexicon of “Slime Language” and a surprisingly vast depth of referential knowledge, Thug’s bars stand among the game’s most delightfully unique. Though he may never sit alongside Funkmaster Flex and elicit a wide-eyed response, Big Jeffery has solidified himself as a respectable lyricist in the eyes of his fans. And perhaps, with So Much Fun garnering acclaim across the board, the game at large is beginning to take notice.
Should you remain unconvinced about Thugger’s (dare I say) underrated pen game, look no further than the following starter-pack. Now, this isn’t a cumulative list of Young Thug’s top ten best raps of all time - nothing as conclusive as that. Consider this simple reminder of some of his finest, craziest, and slime-heavy rhyming to date.
Slime Season 3 proved that the third time was indeed the charm. The Allen Ritter-produced “Drippin” summons an unhinged Thug to the table, who takes to the instrumental with a magnetic ear. At this point, is it not fair to put him in contention for top-five flows in the game’s current state? The way he structures a verse is second to none, and “Drippin’” allows him space to sift through voices like unlockable video-game skins. The combination of raw energy, charisma, and simple braggadocio make “Drippin’” a highlight track from an arguable-best mixtape.
HOMIE ft MEEK MILL
Every so often, Young Thug exudes the slightest hint of Victorian flair. His Dandy-esque aesthetic only enhances his persona on wax; he may adorn himself inexpensive fabrics, but he’s got the weapon tucked within his fringe sleeve. On the Young Martha lead-single “Homie,” Thug allows himself space to weave his own legend, taking to a blistering baroque banger with his mouth damn near frothing. “If a pussy n*** play with me, swear to god Kirk Franklin can't save him,” spits Thug, sliding into a new cadence to emphasize the severity of his threat. “I can get you whacked real easy, you are not a Power Ranger, you a stranger.” Going head-to-head with Meek Mill is not always easy, but Thugger is more than up to the task - a testament to his position in the game’s hierarchy of talent.
OFFSHORE w/ SWAE LEE
A personal favorite, and one of 2018’s strongest verses, “Offshore” might very well have featured the alternate title of “Young Thug Snaps.” What makes the understated Swae Lee track so memorable is the manner with which Thugger makes his approach. He willingly loses himself in Mike WiLL’s aquatic ambiance, using his voice as an additional piece of instrumentation. Structurally, Thugger’s triumphant monologue reveals his mastery of pace, which flows naturally evolving into one another as the intensity ascends. From threatening to slap the shit out of Donald Trump to playfully poking fun at his feminine perception, Thugger’s turn on “Offshore” may very stand among his best.
SACRIFICES w/ DRAKE & 2 CHAINZ
To fully establish oneself as an elite, one must stand alongside fellow elite and emerge in standout fashion. That’s exactly what happened on More Life’s “Sacrifices,” a posse cut featuring verses from Drake, 2 Chainz, and Jeffery. Handed the honor slash responsibility of closing things out, Thugger absolutely goes in, to the point where a healthy bulk of YouTube comments single out his performance. Thug displays a wicked cleverness throughout, playful enough to elicit grins, all while serving up more punchlines than usual. And what’s not to love about a sharp reference to the woodland Clown epidemic of 2017? Though Drizzy and 2 Chainz both put in work, it’s safe to say that Young Thug ran laps around the competition - healthy though it may have been.
There are some who still consider Jeffery to be Thug’s defining hour, and for good reason. Concise, musically varied, and adventurous, the project felt like a turning point for the Slime Boss - especially where his critical standing was concerned. And while it featured a variety of different Thugs, the album’s wildest moment had to be “Harambe,” which appropriately channels the energy of its beloved namesake. The track is an interesting one to examine, as lyrically Thugger skirts on the surface, arguably lacking in the “bars” department. But the sheer conviction with which he speaks, a rapid hellspawn of Kermit The Frog, imbues “Harambe” with such presence it’s impossible to ignore.
JUST HOW IT IS
We had to show some love to So Much Fun, and the introductory track feels like the most worthwhile showcase of Thugger’s lyrical prowess. For one, there’s a clear significance behind what he’s putting forward. Gone are the trappings of materialism so often seen in his discography. Instead, he’s speaking from the heart, a welcome burst of characterization for an otherwise enigmatic figure. “No time for gibberish, all the critics hearin' this,” he raps, acutely self-aware of his own magnitude. By the time the second verse concludes, Thugger has served to humanize himself, addressing his recent arrest and overall influence with a refreshing self-awareness.
RIDIN ft. LIL DURK
A standout on Thug's contemporary street tape I'm Up, the Lil Durk assisted "Ridin" deserves a spot for a variety of reasons. For one, the integration of his melodies again reveals an unparalleled ear, yet Thugger has no qualms with waving the stick on this go-around. Two, the effortless nature with which Thug segues from stanza to stanza, moving in tandem to the beat. Taking to an eerie, Gothic banger from Wheezy, Thug drops off dexterous bars lined with strong imagery. "Yeah you all gone, but the dog home," he raps, all but bouncing on the beat. "And the panties that your daughter don’t have on, She gon’ get what she wants, temper tantrum."
Though the narrative surrounding "Wyclef Jean" was seized by the infamous video for a brief spell, Jeffery's opening track may very well feature his most swagged-out performance to date. Damn near every cylinder is fired, as Thug seems to become one with the infectious reggae beat. As per usual, the hooks slide brilliantly into Thugger's verses, and he proceeds to float with ease most rappers would struggle to exude. By the time he lands upon the "Don't play with him, boys!" rhyme scheme, there's simply no stopping him. It's almost like what would happen were snakes to play with their food.
Barter 6 felt like a transitional period for Thugger, still shaking off some of his more notable influences in a metamorphosis-like state. For many, the project marked the dawn of a new era, in which Thug's more experimental energy seemed to coalesce with his traditionalist side. The marriage was never better than on "Halftime," a hard-hitting banger lined with nonstop bars, perfect ammunition for those doubting his acumen. "Every time I dress myself, it go motherfuckin' viral," he raps, his confidence contagious. "Pussy n***s stealin' swag, bring my shit back like recycles."
2 B'S (DANNY GLOVER)
One of Thug's earliest cuts here, the magnetic "2 B's" makes for a compelling chapter in his pre-Barter 6 catalogue. Already setting himself apart through his expanding repertoire of "Slime Language," Thug's lack of refinement is made up for in pure, unharnessed energy. Consider the fashion in which he attacks the instrumental, firing off threats and hypersexual boasts one after another, a duality he'd come to carry to this day. It's likely that many found themselves intrigued by "Danny Glover," and one has to wonder if this track helped pave the way for some of his more aggressive offerings.