Big shout to Birdman on the assist.

To say that Young Thug marches to the beat of a different drummer would be no exaggeration. The Atlanta rapper's off-kilter tempo shifts, outrageous imagery—"Money stand like eight feet, just like two midgets"—and eccentric Auto-Tuned melodies have earned him just as many detractors as devotees, inspiring such accolades as "rap weirdo." While his admiration for Lil Wayne always comes through loud and clear, Thug's sound is very much his own. Tparaphrase the late great Ol Dirty Bastard, there is no father to his style. After releasing standout features with Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka, Thugger's 1017 Thug mixtape marked the beginning of his rapid ascent to the heights of hip-hop hegemony. Before you could say "next big thing," Young Thug was being summoned to record with Kanye West and his song "Danny Glover" was being remixed by NIcki Minaj. Even as the buzz around the self-proclaimed "Stoner" rose to deafening levels, his exact label and management status remained cloaked in mystery. 

Here at Complex, one of Thug's staunchest supporters since day one has been Pigeons and Planes founder Jacob Moore, who got his first look at Thugger Thugger in the flesh when he jetted to Austin, Texas for SXSW 2014. Having witnessed his unforgettable performances at the Complex Complex and at the Illmore alongside Weezy, there was no doubt which artist should adorn Complex's next issue. But putting Young Thug on the cover of a magazine would prove to be easier said than done. After the artist failed to show up for his cover shoot in NYC—twice—our best-laid plans seemed to be going awry. Then we received a call from the No. 1 Stunna himself, Bryan "Birdman" Williams. After offering his assurance that he was now helping Thug handle his business, the co-founder of Cash Money Records—whom Forbes magazine ranked among the top 5 wealthiest artists in hip-hop—suggested a third shoot in Thug's native Atlanta. What happened next can only be described as epic. Between Birdman's Rich Gang crew and Young Thug's extended family, our photo studio felt like the epicenter of Atlanta hip-hop for the day. Photographer Justin Hogan captured the energy of rap's most mercurial new star and hip-hop's street-savviest mogul. You can find Complex's June/July issue on newsstands a few weeks from now, or you can spark up this Young Thug cover story without delay. Andale! Andale! Andale!

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