At the end of last week, Young Thug posted an Instagram video (see above) in which YMCMB CEO, author of the most significant verse on Drake's "The Language," a.k.a. the New Lord's Prayer, and perpetual hand lotion pitchman, Birdman gifted him a GTV chain.
Those GTV chains—shaped like the vodka Birdman has invested in—have been popping up on on a variety of YMCMB employees over the past year or so; Birdman was rocking one on the "Tapout" cover art. Lil Wayne rocked one on the "No New Friends" video shoot:
This StunnaLife.com post has (a little) more info on the chains, including a few more photos of YMCMB members rocking the chain, the unsourced assertion that these diamond GTV bottle chains are for "himself and the YMCMB crew," and this up-close picture:
GTV, incidentally, stands for "Grand Touring Vodka" (so if you've been saying "GTV Vodka" you've been saying "Grand Touring Vodka Vodka"), and comes in Watermelon, Coconut and plain ("vodka vodka") flavors.
But does this chain transfer suggest Young Thug really did sign to Birdman's label? His Twitter suggests some kind of alliance, at the very least:
RichGang..... YMCMB family— Young Thug ひ (@YoungThugWorld) February 7, 2014
But industry hype cycle trainspotters will recall Chief Keef was greeted with similar rumors in May 2012, even posing on Instagram in a Brick Squad chain before signing to Interscope—a label that hadn't even been considered in the reams of speculation posted around that time. It seems as likely that this move on Thug's part is as much about stirring up discussion as it is about making any serious business decisions. It could also merely be about the cosign—solidifying Young Thug's base with a cross-section of hip-hop fans.
There's also the unanswered question of Young Thug's other alliances: wasn't he signed to Gucci's label 1017? Even behind bars, Gucci (or whoever is handling his Twitter account) has continued to push the rapper:
Get ready @YoungThugWorld Next #1017 I'm Putting It All Behind thug!— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) January 14, 2014
Thug also claimed Future's Freebandz imprint offered him 1.5 million (which, he rapped on 2012's "Foreign," was exactly what he was looking for—is Thugger a prophet, or did Future just take him very literally?). Complex quoted him, however, saying that a signing with Freebandz "hasn't happened yet." Then again, he did pose with Freebandz signee Young Scooter in Virginia yesterday. Never mind that he's recorded a multitude of tracks with Kanye.
And who knows how real these artist-driven imprint "signings" ever really are—sometimes, one suspects they're more about marketing strategy and "i'll-scratch-your-back" fanbase-flattering team-ups than on-paper business. It's taken Young Thug two-plus years to rise to his current position—in this world of "secret signings," it's possible he's already deep in the paperwork on a major label's roster somewhere.
This is why it's easy to be cynical about a YMCMB signing; sure, it's fun to play backseat A&R and speculate on label signings like they're sports franchises trading athletes. But the perception and the reality are most likely not overlapping all that much.
Ever since Kanye—as GIF'd above, of course—first appeared on Instagram rapping along to Young Thug's "Danny Glover," the online commentariat have jumped on the bandwagon. And Drake's cosign no doubt was instrumental to get the industry to pay attention as well. But the rapper who really matters—the one who inspired Young Thug to rap in the first place, the guy with the most evident influence on Thugger's rap style—that would be Lil Wayne.
If there's one reason that Young Thug may actually be taking Birdman and YMCMB seriously as a musical home, it's because of his devotion to Wayne's musical innovations. "I hope Wayne is listening, I want to get in the studio with Wayne more than anybody in the world," he told Complex. "I’ll get in the studio with Wayne before Michael Jackson right now, so I hope he listening."
No doubt this is exactly what Birdman is counting on.
Image via Boxden
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