Last July, Young Thug featured alongside the reclusive Frank Ocean for Calvin Klein, clad in a plain white vest and a pair of audacious gold trousers and I couldn’t help but mirror the individuals.
Ocean garnered universal praise for not only his stellar debut LP Channel Orange but for his bravery in being open about his feelings towards another man- especially considering hip-hop’s stubborn hold on conservative sexuality.
Young Thug’s gender flexibility is just as commendable, appearing in an elegant, violet dress by Italian designer Alessandro Trincone on the cover of his latest album JEFFERY.
“I feel like there’s no such thing as gender,” says Young Thug casually in his Calvin Klein ad campaign. Listen to JEFFERY and Thug’s lyricism doesn’t fall too far from the tree. It’s a mild twist on the misogyny that has penned hip-hop in for so long such as the sneering assault on ‘Floyd Mayweather’.
But differently from his contemporaries, Thug approaches his music with such gallantry and freedom. Lyrically and vocally, you couldn’t easily pick Young Thug out of a crowd of slurring Atlanta rappers, but when your busting gender barriers with such gleeful abandon, you can’t help but rally around him.
JEFFERY deals heavily in duality, not dissimilarly to Ocean’s Blonde a few weeks prior. There’s bravery in wearing a dress on your album cover, and there’s further valour to be earned in the daring dynamic of his vocal structure throughout.
‘Thug slips from the grasp of labels with every line seemingly, but his wilful devotion to this undertone of romance sticks even when his eccentricity pulls him this way and that’
He intersperses the guttural with a convincing Louis Armstrong impression on the controversially-titled ‘Harambe’, howls like a pained mutt on ‘RiRi’, and scats like a jazz aficionado on ‘Kanye West’.
But for all the conflicting messages Thug emits about gender, and song titles he claims are tributes to his ‘idols’ and not actual song subjects, romance seems to be the foremost inspiration: “Never will I cheat/Never will I commit treason”, promises Thug hyperbolically on closing track ‘Pick Up The Phone’.
Thug slips from the grasp of labels with every line seemingly, but his wilful devotion to this undertone of romance sticks even when his eccentricity pulls him this way and that.
As intriguing as JEFFERY is, both as a listen and as another schism in his portfolio, Thug’s hooks, ambitiously constructed as they are, are not innovative in the widening canyon of hip-hop.
However, as an ambassador for gender politics, Thug is a worthy candidate even if the music falls a little short. JEFFERY certainly exemplifies this exciting progression in his artistic flamboyance and surely a truly magnificent album awaits in the ambitious Young Thug’s future.