Atlanta rapper, eccentric fashion icon, and status quo-challenging Young Thug broke through in the early 2010s with a string of successful trap mixtapes, including the Slime Season series and U.S. Top Ten albums Jeffery (2016) and Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017). With his recognizable delivery and vocalizations, he has also guested on dozens of collaborations, notably the U.S. number one hit "Havana" with Camila Cabello and "Heatstroke" with Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, and Ariana Grande.
Born Jeffery Williams, Thug mixed the radio-worthy weirdness of rappers like Waka Flocka Flame with the hooky underground anthem sound of artists like Chief Keef. With his distinctive rapping style -- which, at times, was almost unintelligible -- and preference for wearing women's clothing, Thugger flouted hip-hop convention while defying gender and sexuality stereotypes. He released three volumes of his mixtape series I Came from Nothing before joining Gucci Mane's 1017 Brick Squad crew in late 2012. His mixtape 1017 Thug followed in early 2013, featuring the quirky street single "Picacho." Later in the year, his "Stoner" single appeared, but it didn't catch fire until 2014, when an authorized remix featuring Wale opened the floodgates for a series of unauthorized remixes from artists like Jim Jones, Iamsu!, and Trick Trick. The original track peaked that April and was eventually certified gold by the RIAA.
That same year, Thug signed to 300 Entertainment, the Atlantic-distributed imprint co-founded by Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, and continued recording mixtapes. His first release for the label, 2015's Barter 6, climbed up to number 22 on the Billboard 200 album chart. In 2016, he released I'm Up, the first of many mixtapes that year, which debuted at the very same position as Barter. Months later, he dropped the Top Ten hit Slime Season 3. Before his next release, he was awarded a platinum certification for his 2015 track "Best Friend." At the end of the summer, he unexpectedly issued his third tape, originally titled No, My Name Is Jeffery (changed a week later to simply JEFFERY). With its provocative cover art and concept (each track was named after one of Thug's idols), JEFFERY featured reggae/dub flourishes and appearances by Migos' Offset and Quavo, Gucci Mane, Travi$ Scott, and Wyclef Jean. As fans waited for Young Thug's next project, a new song, "Best Thing of All Time," leaked near the end of March 2017; however, the track turned out to be absent on Thug's next album.
Veering unexpectedly into new sonic territory, Beautiful Thugger Girls arrived in the summer of 2017. Though it flirted with country and pop, the set retained Thug's trademark weirdness at the fore. In 2017, Thug issued a pair of collaborations, first with Guatemalan-American producer Carnage on the Young Martha EP, which saw release later that fall, and then with Future on the mixtape Super Slimey. The single "Ride on Me," featuring A-Trak, arrived in early 2018 ahead of the release of the Hear No Evil EP, which was issued later that April. Months later, he issued the Young Stoner Life Records compilation Slime Language, which featured appearances by Lil Duke, Gunna, Lil Uzi Vert, and more. The next month, Thug issued his third EP, On the Rvn. Debuting in the Top 20 of both the Billboard 200 and the R&B/hip-hop charts, the short set featured guests 6LACK, Jaden Smith, and Elton John, who gave Thug his seal of approval on the "Rocket Man"-sampling "High." ~ David Jeffries & Andy Kellman