The Undeniable Impact of Young Thug
Written by Charlie Britton on October 14, 2021
With his second studio album Punk anticipated to drop on the 15th, it is important to dissect just who Jeffery Lamar Williams, A.K.A “Young Thug”, is. He is certainly a household name amongst hip-hop fans. He has gathered a cult following because of his Slime Season trilogy and mixtapes like Beautiful Thugger Girls, Jefferey, and one of the greatest trap tapes of all time Barter 6. After the chart-topping releases of his first studio album, So Much Fun, in 2019 and his label’s album Slime Language 2 in 2021, he has garnered a much larger audience. Several platinum albums, Grammy nominations, and one Grammy win, later it’s safe to say that Young Thug has solidified himself as a staple in the rap genre. This is true, but what’s not often heard about is Young Thug’s undeniable influence on the entire state of rap today.
The rapid-firing falsetto vocalism synonymous with Young Thug has found its way into almost every hip-hop album of today. The autotune used in the chorus of the famous Lil Uzi song “XO Tour Llif3” and frequent yet not overbearing use of it throughout all of Luv Is Rage 2 has the fingerprints of Young Thug all over. These high and somewhat off-pitched vocals so frequently used today are thanks to Young Thug. Rather than the large amounts of autotune used to perfect vocals like Kanye in 808s and Heartbreak or early T-Pain, the autotune that Young Thug has been a proprietor of is very minimal and only emphasizes the unique voices that use it. As he has stated, “I do not use autotune, I sing.”.
Beyond stylistic influence, Young Thug has genuinely helped many of the rappers today. In his first mixtape, I came from nothing Thug raps “Unfoonk I got us, I mean I got you”. Unfoonk is the rap name of Thug’s older brother who 10 years later signed to Thug’s label and took part in the number one album that the label put out.
Another great example of Thug’s mentorship beyond the studio is how he quite literally paid Lil Baby to leave his neighborhood in Atlanta and pursue rapping. And of course, for any Thug fan, the long-awaited song “Proud of You” by Young Thug featuring Lil Uzi Vert is a testament to how he views those who he influences.
Musical influence aside, the unabashed, flamboyant, style of Young Thug has contributed to the creativity that has sparked so many young rappers. The dress worn by Thug on the famous album cover for Beautiful Thugger Girls is a prime example of Young Thug’s disregard for what has largely been considered the norm in hip hop.
In a genre known for its hypermasculinity Young Thug normalized wearing whatever he wanted. In the words of Young Thug “When it comes to swag, there’s no gender involved.”. Much of the style we see from Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, A$AP Rocky, and countless more in hip hop today stemmed from Young Thug’s willingness to step away from the ordinary in a genre that up until that point was known for a very specific look. They even played his unreleased music during the Givenchy show during Paris fashion week. (which I think is pretty dope).
Before he was as respected as he is now, Young Thug was the butt of thousands of memes talking about his ‘odd’ fashion sense and unique style of rapping. But now Young Thug has been hailed by Kanye, Wyclef Jean, and even Elton John (several times) for being one of the most influential minds of this generation. Although he may still receive hate from the odd old head on Twitter, if you ask any rapper who has grown popular within the past five years they will all agree that Young Thug has had an influence on their music.