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Listen Up: Young Thug remains rebellious with ‘Jeffery’

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“Jeffery” Young Thug

 

Calling Young Thug a hip-hop artist seems too specific. He might have started out that way, with mixtapes that sounded like Lil Wayne impressions, but over the years he has developed his own style — one distinct from any other rapper, and sometimes from the genre itself.

The thesis of his career has always been that the voice is the ultimate musical instrumental — strained yelping, cooing, incomprehensible mumbling are only a few of his vocal contortions. His close associations with some of the best producers, out of Atlanta and elsewhere, have taken the sound of his voice to other places.

Like he’s done with his last three projects, all released in the past year, Thug has found the ideal production to match his melodic knack on “Jeffery.”

Each song is named after one of Thug’s idols, from Kanye West to the late gorilla Harambe. “Wyclef Jean” bounces with a reggae rhythm. “Future Swag” has the hyperkinetic energy of his fellow Atlanta rap superstar of the same name. “RiRi” is bass heavy and catchy, and it sounds tender as long as you can’t understand the wildly raunchy lyrics. The bonus track “Pick Up the Phone” with Travis Scott and Quavo should be the soundtrack for the last warm days we have left.

He might find himself drifting toward mainstream fame, but the only thing that has really changed is the presentation, not the music; he premiered the new album at a party with Lyor Cohen in New York. No one else seems less likely to achieve, yet as destined for fame as Young Thug.

There also is a generational appeal. Rap purists hated Young Thug before they hated Lil Yachty and Kodak Black. And Young Thug’s image has always been about more than rap nonconformity. He’s still wearing dresses, as on the cover of Jeffery, and saying things like, “I feel like gender doesn’t exist.”

Some people, especially those who grew up on gangster rap, an uber-masculine genre, find this objectionable. But to a younger generation, things like this can be liberating, or just comforting to know that society’s norms  can, and often should, be broken.  

“My Woman” by Angel Olsen

There is something about the simplicity of guitar, bass and drums that makes me want to hear it live. No other music is as satisfying to hear in person than what is being cooked up right in front of you with live instruments.

Also, the chorus of “Shut Up Kiss Me” is ideal mosh, or dance, or just fling-yourself-in-every direction music.

Angel Olsen’s new album as a whole isn’t as cathartic as the aforementioned lead single, although there are moments like it. More of the time it’s pensive and inward-looking, questioning love and life itself. “Still got to wake up and be someone,” she sings in “Intern,” a slow synth-soaked ballad.

When she’s not rocking out, Olsen is best over a strumming guitar. Her words take on a new might with a guitar driving the rhythm, especially in songs like “Never Be Mine” and “Heart Shaped Face.”

The best moments on the album come in anticipation — most of her songs feel like they are building up to a big release, yet many never get there. Sometimes when you want to mosh, it’s better just to listen.  

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