20. Young Thug 1017 Thug
Label: 1017 Brick Squad Records
You'd be forgiven for thinking we're trolling you even at the mention of his name. But we're not. In a knowing joke (one reminiscent of the record store skits from OutKast's Aquemeni, right?) Atlanta's Young Thug took the most generic possible rap moniker, and wedded it to one of the genre's most unconventional personalities. Gucci Mane has called the rapper "one of the most talented rappers I've ever met." Thug's style is inventive, taking Lil Wayne's most druggy, out-there melodic experimentalism and using it as a new baseline. His voice is a tactile instrument, molded to his creative whims. But he balances these extremes with more conventional methods; he has hooks (see: "Nigera," "Condo Music") and is not a radio-shunning extremist like Lil B. He builds on a familiar d-boy mythos. And in photographs and videos, one detects a magnetic charisma, and maybe even the beginnings of star power.
This year's 1017 Thug is his most consistent tape to date (but check out 2011's I Came From Nothing 2, too.) His Brick Squad affiliation brings guest spots from Gucci Mane and Peewee Longway, but this collection is very much Thugga's world. From the four-on-the-floor thump of "Dead Fo Real" to the queasy "Shooting Star," it showcases his eccentric, fractured take on Atlanta's latest musical mutation. —David Drake