Its been a week since ‘Jeffery’ was released and much has been discussed on the relationship and comparisons between that of Young Thug and fellow Atlanta natives Outkast. The release of ‘Jeffery’ came just one day after the 20th Anniversary of Outkasts ‘ATliens’, in typical Thug fashion it remains a mystery if this was a strategically planned tribute or a complete coincidence.
20 years ago at the Source Awards Andre 300 and Big Boi were announced as the Best New Rap Group, only to be greeted by a sea of boos from the crowd. The cover of ‘Jeffery’ revealed Young Thug (now named Jeffery) to be gowned in a stunning dress, face hidden by an extravagant hat which looks like it should belong to Mortal Kombat character Raiden. You only need to take a quick scroll through the comments to find a slew of personal attacks, homophobic slurs and jabs at Jeffery’s artistic creditability. Much like how Andre took to the stage at Source Awards to announce in the face of adversity “Im tired of them close minded folks … the south got something to say”, you only need to flip to the back cover to find an unmasked Thug grinning side to side unnerved and unmoved. ‘Jeffery’ finds Thug addressing and exploring his identity, all whilst considering no one else but himself.
Whilst ‘ATliens’ served as a statement of arrival, ‘Jeffery’ serves to ascend and transcend. With the name comes a change in artistic direction. For the last year we have been greeted to a series of mixtapes including the ‘Slime Season’ series and a number of stand alone’s. Whilst all well received by critics and fans alike, the mixtapes were often overpacked and lacking a certain sense of direction. This led to a process of playlist selection, allowing listeners to pick and choose from an endless catalogue in which they could shape their own Young Thug.
On his latest release his only focus is introducing the world to Jeffery. Carefully sequenced and executed, ‘Jeffery’ is his most focussed project since ‘Barter 6’. At nine tracks the album is bursting with dynamic vocal performances, evolving ad-libs, experimental beat selection and all with a single vision that shines throughout. ‘Jeffery’ is quite the romantic character, with constant nods to his fiancé and not so subtle sexual endeavours. On ‘Guwop’ he serenades his fiancé with love “I dig everythin that you sayin’, I dig everythin’ that you doin’, too I dig the way that you look at me”, soon followed by the lyric “I just wanna grab on your butt.” On ‘Swizz Beatz’ the hook finds Thug shouting love from the rooftops. Romance is at the core of everything Jeffery does.
Whilst it serves as a love letter to his mentors and lovers, its the joy of expression that allows Thug to open up and experiment with new vocal performances. On ‘Harambe’ he sounds almost out of breath, wheezing whist he chases the frantic beat. On ‘Floyd Mayweather’ his voice interchanges with Gucci Mane, Travis Scott and Gunna. Swooping in and out and, always out of reach he glides throughout the track using the beat and his guests as a playground. His beat selection is also too a change in direction. ‘Wyclef Jean’ finds thug delving into reggae territory, whilst then moving into very minimalist grounds on both ‘Guwop’ and ‘Webbie’. ‘Jeffery’ does however serve to treat why fans became of Thug in the first place. ‘Future Swag’ finds Thug bouncing all over an energetic beat with sharp and witty verses, and with the striking hook “I fuck on your baby mama, I fuck on your baby mama.” ‘Jeffery’ is fundamentally an exploration into both new and unchartered territories, and at the end emerges a new figure.
As the album comes to a close Thug saves the very best for last, the triumphant ‘Kanye West’. In just nine tracks he has managed to explore new spaces, break down boundaries, experiment with new textures and piece together a new voice. As the chorus rings out “Wamp-wamp, she, wet-wet (Mr. Jeffery) Wamp-wamp, oh, bet that (Jeffery) Wamp-wamp, she wet-wet (Jeffery) Wamp-wamp, aye (Jeffery)” the whispers of Jeffery no longer sound foreign but a voice that we knew was always there.