52 Young Thug songs, one for every week of the past year.
On February 11th, 2016, approximately 70 minutes into Kanye West’s YEEZY Season 3 fashion show-turned-album premiere at Madison Square Garden, the aux cord started to get passed around like it’s a college dorm room and not one of the most renowned arenas ever constructed. When somebody - I’m assuming Kanye, considering he can be seen losing his shit to the song in Parisyears ago - played one of Young Thug’s earliest hits, “Danny Glover,” the models (which included a wonderfully apathetic Mr. Williams himself up until that point), who were under strict rules to not whisper, smile, sing (unless instructed), move fast, move slow or basically do anything that took away from their auditions to be extras on HBO’s "Westworld," absolutely lost their shit. And who can blame them? That’s the natural reaction once a Thugger song gets past the primary stage of alien unfamiliarity and finds its way into the depths of your initially resistant psyche
A few songs before that joyous celebration, Thug himself had hijacked the aux cord - right in the middle of Kanye’s premiere of the Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign assisted “Fade” - and teased a single from his Slime Season 3 in jaw-dropping fashion. “Fuck all that let’s get to it,” the track began, before recklessly bursting into a hook that goes: “she suck on that dick on a plane and I just called her airhead.” As Thug wheezed over the speakers (“whoo, hee”), the live reactions of older Kardashian family affiliates as well as young models who couldn’t help but bob their heads flashed across the screen. It felt like Thug had finally arrived.
However, and if you’re a Thug fan this probably feels all too familiar, “With Them” was never properly pushed as a single and SS3 barely out performed his previous releases. “With Them” still doesn’t even have a music video (neither does the other cult single from that tape, “Digits”). SS3 got him more new fans than ever before, but Thug was still an outsider to the industry. But Thug wouldn’t be Thug, he wouldn’t be the renegade he is, if he cared about any of this - with I’m Up, SS3and Jeffery, Thug had secured three top five rap debuts in a row. As far as he was concerned, he was still winning.
On September 7th, seven months after the MSG spectacle, Thug interrupted yet another fashion show - this time, it was one he was directly involved in mentoring. When I half-heartedly scrolled through Twitter that night, only to see Thug get up during the VFiles show at New York’s Fashion week (the same show that spawned the baby blue Alessandro Trincone gown he’d sport on the Jeffery cover), draped in various shades of red, looking like a model himself except for that loud blunt smoking away at the corner of his mouth, my jaw didn’t just hit the floor, it went clean through the foundation of my apartment. Where this man gets the audacity to do half the shit he does I may never understand, but what I do relate to is the passion - the “fuck what they have to say” mentality behind it all - that’s evident from the way he carries himself to the consistently spellbinding music he produces.
Unfortunately, it’s this same level of passion that can easily be mistaken for crude arrogance and gross ignorance when something like the Alaska Airlines incident occurs. Thug trying to reconcile having come from nothing to now flying high above everyone is an inner struggle I’m sure we’ll witness more than once throughout his career. Although he’s all but cleaned up his imagine this year, I’m afraid his enthusiasm, well intentioned or otherwise, will always be difficult to reel in. But as long as he keeps himself surrounded by the likes of Mama Duck, I’m certain his heart will stay pure.
2016 was a strange year for Young Thug, musically. He made some great strides as a songwriter and continued to developed his voice as an MC, but the output wasn’t nearly as mystifying as his 2015 work. It felt like a rebuilding year of sorts after the previous year’s chaos. His best performances were as likely to be found on an obscure features as they were on his highly publicized tapes. But then again, some of his most highly publicized features - Kanye West’s “Highlights,” Usher’s “No Limit,” Chris Brown’s “Wrist (Remix)” - paled in comparison to the staggering experimentation found in his solo work.
This unpredictability is a crucial part of what makes Thug such an exciting artist to follow. This list is an attempt to make sense of all this. Excluding very dope leaks like “Roc Wit U” or “Serious,” or 2015 cuts like “Hercules,” and weighing vocal performances and standout features alongside solo songs, this is a list of Thug’s best work this year. As we cautiously move into the new year (and pray it’s not as trying as the one we just survived), join me in celebrating 52 of the best Young Thug songs of 2016.