Young Thug's "Best Friend" remains an earworm masterpiece, showcasing his free spirited approach to music.
One of Young Thug’s best qualities is his spontaneity. His spontaneity presents itself in different ways; it could be in the form of out-of-the-box lyrics; strange yet intriguing music video concepts; bold fashion choices; inventive vocal manipulation; and a general lackadaisical attitude that makes it so any sort of perceived hate or criticism slides right off his back, unable to stick to his strange, slippery human surface. Sometimes, these elements combine all together to create something truly powerful from the artist, and at other times, you get a glimmer of just one aspect of his unabashed artistry-- no matter, this spontaneous aspect of Thug, the idea that you’ll never quite be able to predict what he’ll do next, or how he’ll serve it to you-- it’s this same quality that makes Thug so exciting to listen to, to watch, and to engage with.
When Young Thug dropped off “Best Friend,” it was six months after Barter 6. Thus, he had already established a more refined sound for himself, he’d established his mainstay group of ATL producers who would produce earworm after earworm beat, each record seemingly burrowing further inside our collective minds, recalling Young Thug’s yet unmatched melodic talent. "Best Friend" for it's part, seemed to only further intensify the fact that Young Thug was the newest and brightest star in hip-hop.
Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty Images
“Best Friend” was attached to the first Slime Season instalment, a series of mixtapes that would offer a mixed bag of Young Thug records, some more consistent than others, even as a whole-- Slime Season 3 was an 8-song back-to-back masterpiece, whereas the first instalment offered leaks and half-baked records (some reportedly recorded during the Barter 6 sessions), sidled in between the magic of records “Best Friend” and “Power.”
“Best Friend” would become Thug’s first charting single, going on to be certified platinum (another first for the artist), and let’s just say if TikTok were around back then, it would surely be a massive viral challenge too. It remains one of Young Thug’s most exciting, and most melodic efforts to date, capturing the listener from the moment it begins with slithering, enchanting keys, eventually exploding with a burst of drums. The record itself samples its hook, in part, from a Tokyo Vanity’s popular Vine at the time, but the similarities pretty much end there. The hook is also what endeared this record to so many audiences, “That's my best friend, that's my best friend, flexin'”-- it’s the perfect slice of words for a short social media clip or caption. Thug delivers all of this in a sing-song manner that wouldn’t sound out of a place to use as a lullaby for your child’s bedtime routine.
The spontaneity of “Best Friend” extended beyond just the lyrics. The awe-inspiring music video, directed by Thug’s long-time collaborator Be El Be, is riddled with Thug clones. It seems arbitrary at first glance, and that is apparently exactly what Thug was going for, according to the director. In an interview with FADER about the visuals, he revealed that Thug’s one mandate was for the video to be random-- “I want a random video, I don’t wanna do nothing with the song, so let’s just think of something random.”
Yet, even in its surface-level improvisation, there is a deeper meaning, and this again marks one of Thug’s unique traits. He can make a song seem, at once, free-spirited and unrestrained, and also, profound. Sometimes this manifests into a passing line on a record, and sometimes it’s the record as a whole. Sometimes, it’s the reverse too-- a seemingly heavy topic results in light-hearted lyrics (think: “F Cancer”).
The music video for “Best Friend” helps the broad topic connect on a deeper level to the fan, as Thug is seen playing the role, not only of himself, but of his butler, his girlfriend, his food, a man in whiteface, his friend-- Thug, essentially, is own best friend then, his own support system. There’s a message in here, somewhere, of being confident in oneself, of being your own biggest fan-- as Be El Be said, “[That's] self-esteem!”
Thug has that, certainly. That lackadaisical attitude I described at the beginning -- it’s all tied up in self-confidence. At least, that’s how he allows us to perceive him. Thug is often dissected and torn apart by the peanut gallery, but we’ve yet to see the rapper crack under the pressure of it all. He remains confident in himself, and seems to have a firm handle on his own career and where exactly he wants it to go, or rather, not to go. It’s often been said that Thug has purposefully and strategically avoided the mainstream-- dropped an incessantly catchy hit, but ruined it for radio play due to some outlandish, X-rated lyric. Perhaps then, we’ve been going about this all backwards. Perhaps the unpredictable nature of Young Thug is all part of one long con.
Even if Thug is more calculated than surface-level impressions might reveal, this doesn’t necessarily take away from the care-free attitude he brings to everything he does. Thug’s lightness of spirit is what imbues his records with such an easy-going, spontaneous quality-- as if each song was recorded on a whim, during a fun studio session surrounded by friends. Strategic or otherwise, it is this type of fun-loving attitude that makes a song like “Best Friend,” so much, well, fun.