Introducing the first-ever Thugger Awards, a ceremony recognizing the most prolific rapper of the past half-decade
Young Thug is a supercomputer. Or an android. Or at the very least some kind of RoboCop-style cyborg who suffered a terrible accident and had all of his human parts replaced with better, cooler machine parts.
There’s really no other explanation that someone who’s released a shocking 15 mixtapes and three EPs since 2014 could possibly sustain that level of creative output. Humans are capable of a lot of incredible things (like pulling a train with their teeth or falling in love with a 300-year-old ghost), but what Thugger has accomplished over the past five years is pretty unprecedented.
While rappers like Gucci Mane and Future have utilized this sort of high-volume release strategy to create music that rarely varies from tape to tape, Thugger has used it to explore. The sheer range of his catalog is basically unrivaled (how many trap artists can you name who’ve released their own country album?), and he seems incredibly interested in using all 137,000 of his songs (a rough estimate) to experiment as much as possible.
That’s why it’s so tough to review any single project—including his latest On the Rvn EP, which was released last Friday—as its own entity. Every new single, mixtape and feature is part of an endless, ever-changing enterprise, one that’s constantly blending old sounds and morphing into new ones right before our eyes.
So instead of trying to hold Young Thug up against his human counterparts, let’s trying comparing him to his only real competition: himself. To do that, we’re diving into the whole catalog, presenting an all-out celebration of rap’s most prolific artist. With the categories below, we’ll be looking at the entirety of Thugger’s work, and handing out superlatives for the most important, most powerful and most fascinating songs of his career.
Roll the lights, open the curtains and cue the orchestra. The first-ever Thugger Awards are about to begin.
Best Young Thug Performance in a Supporting Role
The Winner: “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” by Jamie xx
Young Thug has featured on approximately 109 different songs in his 27-year-old life (that sounds like another made up number, but it’s actually true). Still, none have been more exciting than the world-bending, dance pop-infusing explosion of style and melody that is Jamie xx’s 2015 single.
The sunny, house-laden track should be quicksand for Thugger—but instead it’s a playground, allowing him to bring out every single one of his wackiest compulsions.
The Winner: “Wyclef Jean”
In the National Thug Academy’s shortest deliberation of all, the now-iconic “Wyclef Jean” video wins this category in a landslide. An anti-music video in every sense of the word, the five-minute clip is staged completely as the B-roll from a tragically failed day of shooting. Thugger, who doesn’t appear in a single shot, takes all of the fictional blame, showing a hilarious level of self-awareness about how he’s—often falsely—perceived.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Winner: “High (feat. Elton John)”
Remember the first time you used an iPhone? Or when you heard researchers had found evidence of water on Mars? Or when you found out Myspace wasn’t always going to be the way you kept in touch with your friends after school?
How about where you were when you realized Young Thug, a trap star from Atlanta, had remixed one of the signature rock ballads in British songwriting history? It’s a scientific breakthrough unrivaled in the modern age (that Elton John un-ironically adores, by the way), and Thugger pulled it off without breaking a sweat.
Best New Thugger
The Winner: “Chanel (feat. Gunna & Lil Baby)”
There’s a lot of competition for the best Thugger track of the past few months, but “Chanel,” the definitive smash-hit off August’s Slime Language tape, stands out a head taller than the rest.
For a song entirely composed around three words, it’s one of Young Thug’s most melodically impressive songs to date: its sugary-sweet hook is Turkish delight-level addictive, and the verses feature some perfect torch-passing tradeoffs with Atlanta newbies Gunna and Lil Baby.
Best Vocal Performance
The Winner: “Kanye West (feat. Wyclef Jean)”
“Kanye West” isn’t a rap song, it’s an opera. Featuring all of the drama, passion and romance of a classical masterpiece, the 2016 track finds Thugger at his most expressive. It’s an incredibly flawed vocal performance—full of voice cracks, high-pitched squeals and an insensible repetition of the word “wet”—but one that is just as heartbreaking as it is impressive. Can Young Thug really sing? Maybe not, but that obviously doesn’t matter.
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Comedy
The Winner: “Constantly Hating (feat. Birdman)”
Imagine it’s 2015 again (I know, it’s not easy): Gucci Mane is still in prison, Alexander Hamilton is still just a boring, non-musical historical figure and Young Thug is still just “that mumbling dude from that ‘Lifestyle’ song.”
The stakes were high when Thugger announced his debut commercial mixtape, but instead of playing it safe he used the opportunity to name is album Barter 6, trolling Lil Wayne, who he’d often called one of his musical idols. It was a hilarious, confusing risk, but one that paid off from the first seconds of record’s opening track, the very intentional Birdman collab, “Constantly Hating.”
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drama
The Winner: “Family Don’t Matter (feat. Millie Go Lightly)”
No matter what you think of country, hip-hop or even music in general, Thug’s performance as “Country Billy” is an all-time acting feat. Portraying himself as a self-made backcountry millionaire who’s “tryna park the Rolls Royce inside the Piccadilly,” Thugger not only introduced his wildest persona to date, he also created an entirely new form of genre crossover.
The “Yeehaw” heard around the world got its fair share of ridicule, but it also made a giant statement about Young Thug’s creative intentions. He’s not just a rapper—and he certainly isn’t a country star—but he’s certainly something greater than all of that.
The ‘Slimey Forever’ Lifetime Achievement Award
The Winner: “Lifestyle” by Rich Gang
Our final award, handed to only the most seasoned and accomplished Young Thug songs, goes to the song that’s done more for Thug’s career than anything else in his catalog. “Lifestyle” pushed mumble rap critique to its furthest limits after its 2014 release, ultimately showing that listeners didn’t care if we couldn’t understand everything an artist was saying.
The track, which is now certified platinum, was Thugger’s introduction to the wider music world: Complex ranked it no. 2 on their end of year list, and Shea Serrano’s The Rap Year Book called it 2014’s most important rap song. Like Thug promised on the song’s hook, this was only the beginning.