Young Thug's new album cover has done exactly what one would expect it to do, get people talking about his curiously thoughtful new mixtape, 'No my name is Jeffery'.
Thugger now wants to be referred to as Jeffrey, his real name. Jeffrey's cover features the Atlanta rapper in a blue dress with tiered cascading ruffles that wrap around his white buttoned-down shirt, an outfit which took him an hour and a half just to put on. Apparently, this is controversial because of the masculinity that pervades the rap industry, and because of the cover, he even held back its release for some time. His face is covered with what appears to be a paper version of a Non La, a traditional Vietnamese hat.
A report in The Fader stated that Thug first saw the outfit by emerging Italian designer Alessandro Trincone while judging the entrants for the upcoming VFiles fashion show. VFiles then flew the outfit to Atlanta especially for the shoot. Appropriately, the collection was about assaulting the impossible conventions of male and female, introducing a new meaning for masculinity. Jeffrey recently joined Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, and Fetty Wap, in a Calvin Klein campaign, but was the only one of the group to wear items from the women's line.
My new collection "Annodami" for Osaka Bunka Fashion College ph. @giocondaandaugust #collection #fashion #instafashion #style #inspiration #japan #japanese #sushi #blue #white #newtalent #voguetalents #vogue #art #menswear #men #man #boys #magazine #fashionmagazine #picoftheday #photooftheday #photo #photographer #photooftheday #model @ndrntll #malemodel @polimodafirenze #nextstop #fashionclash @fashionclash_festival
Of course, anyone whom has thought seriously about the human estate knows that masculinity and femininity are social constructs, and anyone whom takes them too seriously is missing the point. Conformity is for wimps.
As RuPaul, the most recognizable Drag Queen in the world, told Kelly McEvers in an interview "Drag saves lives, because, you know, in a male-dominated culture where femininity is seen as an act of treason, especially when a man does it, it's important to express yourself. A lot of these kids come from families who have really thrown them out because they are outside of the status quo." Young Thug, alongside others like Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith, are celebrity figures who are essentially saying fuck you to the masculine dictatorship, we can wear what we want. Individuality is superior to the hoax that is western society.
As for the 10-track tape, itself, that includes Jeffrey's - or Young Thug's? - recent single "Elton", now retitled "Kanye West", featuring Wyclef Jean. Every song is named after one of Thugs idols, including one actually named 'Wyclef Jean', and the bonus single "Pick Up the Phone." Fun fact: Thugger actually doesn't have a phone. Also, at his New York listening party it was revealed he also doesn't listen to the radio because he refuses to be influenced by other mainstream artists by being overfamiliar with their airplay. Other guests on the mixtape include; Gucci Mane, Quavo, Duke and Travis Scott.
This ambitious mixtape is executive produced by Wheezy and TM88, and mixed by the engineer behind 2015s "Barter 6", Alex Tumay. The album, and might I confess to you here, gentle reader, that indeed I am a foreigner whom only occasionally holidays in the land of rap, it seems to defies actual genre.
There is a definite reggae atmosphere and a nod to dancehall, and maybe even Bebop. The way he splices and dices language is guffawing. He lays out the bits and pieces of vocal cut-ups he has prepared like a magician dealing cards in some dark hallucination. In mesmerizing synchronicity he interweaves howls summoned like some feral beast, slamming down some baritone utterances like an Italian Opera singer blessed with a convenient throat infection. He also adds economically sensible reverberations of his voice that all come together in a kind of simile. The words he speaks are not annunciated clearly and the emotion that pulses through their deeply moving delivery transcends what we might call pedestrian communication.
Critics whom dis-serviced him with predictions that the production of Jeffrey's work might be redundant or atypical to the southern trap style are now probably jumping out of the windows of their offices, where they sit all day creating click-bait at the expense of artists. Even the musical instrumentation, although somewhat sparse, are all given their personal space, like musicians in an agreeably packed elevator. There are mellow guitars (both electric and acoustic), seductive piano keys caressed by hallucinatory vocal sounds and a bass that bobs along like an attractive dancer with a big bouncy ass. Jeffrey's vocal dislocations are unpredictable, such as when he springs up mid-verse on Swizz Beatz, like some crazy-ass MUTHA' wailing 'wake up to Young Thug', It engages like a dash of cold water from an ice-bucket just when you're winding down to relax. On the track "Harambe", Jeffery blazes through the song reciting a nomenclature of people he thinks the world could do without. Aggression gallops ahead with increasingly violent woof-taps as the song moves along, until he goes full-crazy on that shit.
I think this is definitely some of the most compelling music being made right about now. And the mainstream music industry is like a sewer lately. Other artists that are pushing it this year include Lion Babe, Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Pop, Beyoncé, Anohni, Chance the Rapper, Tegan and Sara, and last but certainly the most for me personally, the late David Bowie, whom even made dying into transcendental Art. Young Thug has grown up, and the future of Jeffrey's artistic output has never seemed as promising as it does now.