T.I. brought out the fellow Atlanta rapper for "About the Money," and now grandmas across the country know Young Thug is here to live this here lifestyle.
Last night, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon played host to Will Arnett, T.I., and Young Thug. Yes, Young Thug, who—with his bizarre and carefree lifestyle, mysterious attitude towards the press, an ability to make tight sweatpants the swaggiest piece of clothing, and simultaneous support from Lil Wayne, Birdman, and Gucci Mane—just might be the weirdest rapper within spitting distance of being hip-hop's next superstar.
After an interview with Fallon, Tip performed a medley of songs, opening with “No Mediocre,” his wildly popular song featuring the wildly popular Iggy Azalea (who didn’t join him on stage, despite being arguably the biggest pop star in the world right now). Then he went into “About the Money,” and brought out Thug. “From ATL, my player partner,” he said with open arms, “Young homie, Young Thugger!” And at that moment, a wild Young Thug appeared, bouncing out from stage right, his lanky body sporting a slick gold jacket, a white t-shirt, skin-tight ripped up jeans, a pink scarf dangling from his back pocket, some shoes that looked like they had fox tails strapped to them, fingernails painted blood red, and his hair in motherfucking Princess Leia buns. He squealed like he does, rapping like he dresses, somehow careless and haphazard but extremely precise, and danced around with T.I. as they delivered the best possible performance you can do as a rapper on television. It was fucking awesome.
The significance of this performance is bigger than just being sweet, though. Over the last year, Young Thug and the idea of Young Thug has skyrocketed—landing cover stories on The Fader and Complex, getting remixed by Nicki Minaj, saying he'll name his next record Tha Carter VI, and even providing the soundtrack for a drunk Kanye singalong while in Paris—but all of these moments are still ultimately confined to the world of rap.
Within this world, there’s been a debate whether or not Young Thug is a rapper we should be paying attention to. Some traditionalists will argue, still, that Thugger is not a rapper, that his garbled up, nearly unintelligible voice and his tendency toward melody and chaotic song structures rather than strict 16 bar verses shows he doesn’t have much respect for the craft. The idea of a rapper wearing incredibly tight clothes and presenting himself as purposefully weird is terrifying to a lot of people, too—a quick search on Twitter for the term "Young Thug gay" last night revealed some truly vile comments. Those who support Young Thug take an opposite view—that he’s pushing the genre to a new level, finding ways to inject lyricism into increasingly bizarre forms, further emphasizing one of the best things about rap music: the fact that there are no real lines defining what it “should” or “shouldn’t” be.
Regardless of these debates, last night Young Thug went on national television and performed in front of grandmas across the country. For rap fans, the co-sign was twofold: Here was T.I.—a legendary artist but one who does not have any stake in Young Thug's success—choosing to bring along this hyped young artist when he could have been promoting his new album solo, or lending support to one of his Grand Hustle artists. And here was Young Thug performing with The Roots, who are basically the platonic ideal of classic hip-hop. But it was bigger than rap. Young Thug was on "The Tonight Show."
Think about that for a moment. If my grandma hadn’t passed away a few years ago, she would’ve been watching Young Thug wobble his way around The Tonight Show stage. She probably would’ve been confused. She probably wouldn’t have understood the significance of it. She probably wouldn’t have liked the music. But she would’ve watched, and the next time we talked, I could’ve said something like, “Hey Grandma, do you know who Young Thug is?” And she would’ve been able to say, “Yes, Eric. I do.”
There are artists in the genre of rap, like Kanye West or Nicki Minaj or Drake and now Young Thug, who don’t give a fuck what you think about them or the type of music they should be making. They’re creating art, and seeing how far the outside of the box they can get. It pisses people off. A lot of rap enthusiasts want something familiar and recognizable, but who gives a shit what people want. Art is supposed to be about taking risks. Young Thug’s whole career is a risk. But he doesn’t seem to care about that, or any of it, which is what makes it so innovative. He’s going to wear Uggs. He’s going to wear a pink scarf. He’s going to get called gay. He’s going to put his hair in motherfucking buns. But he’s not going to care. He will not ever care. He might not show up—but then again, when it really matters, like last night, he not only shows up but lands the knockout blow. Young Thug on The Tonight Show is a two-minutes Ramones song performed at CBGB’s in 1974. Young Thug is the Sex Pistols hitting number one despite being banned in England. Young Thug is Kurt Cobain wearing a wedding dress on Headbangers Ball. Young Thug is Michael Jackson hitting the moonwalk on the MTV Awards. Like those guys, he's not the next anyone else, he's the first Young Thug.
Eric Sundermann blogged a lot of shit to just live this here lifestyle. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy