It’s a relatively normal Sunday night on Twitter, when a zip file of over 100 songs from Rich Gang is mysteriously and rapidly passed through DMs. Whether you like the unorthodox cocktail of Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan is irrelevant—the music within the circulated file is new and easily consumable with a Google Drive or Zippyshare link. The songs range from unfinished skeletons to songs heard elsewhere like on Young Thug’s Barter 6 mixtape (renamed as “Original Versions” here) and even elusive tracks heard in Instagram snippets. There’s a now more manageable 40-track version of the leak with only Young Thug songs. All of this just weeks after his first solo project in two years and a few months after most thought the spout on his unreleased old material had been sealed shut.
Users from the massively popular Internet message board KanyeToThe’s Young Thug subforum claim that the stockpile of these songs has been building since about 2013. “[The songs are getting leaked] because Thug’s security is awful at securing his music,” a user who requested to be anonymous says. The songs were collected from mutual friends or people believed to be within Thug’s circle and kept in a shared drive between a few other users of the subforum, as a way to compile Thug’s weirdest and most exclusive music. “It was about 58 [Young Thug songs], 38 songs from Rich Homie Quan, and some Skooly and Lucci in that folder.” The user maintains that there was no vendetta against Thug or anyone in Rich Gang, adding that “somehow it ended up on [atrilli.net] and that’s all she wrote.”
Sites such as atrilli have served as the hub for obtaining songs first, and whereas sites like Boxden hide hidden content behind user registration and e-currency such as “props,” Atrilli gives those wanting to be the first to leak a song what they want from the moment they press enter on their keyboard. It’s the cold hard reality of the way music leaks—it’s impersonal and controlled by so many parties that if you chop one limb off, at least five more will grow from the stump.
The adoption of album and song leaks into the current model of being “first” is one that is now more harmful than it was almost a decade ago, and is starting to affect more than the artists it used to give a buzz. Engineer Alex Tumay, who works exclusively with the creative pool of upcoming artists and producers like Young Thug, Travi$ Scott, Metro Boomin, and TM88, recently took to Reddit to express his frustration at what he calls “two years of his life” that have been lost to this massive leak. In his solemn post, he mentions that it’s unlikely that the unfinished songs will ever be mastered or released at this point, which he said will probably rob fans of official releases of some “amazing tracks.”
Tumay is right in his assessment. The collection of songs exhibits an assortment of Thugger's sonic experiments, some of which, like “Dripset,” “Love Me,” and standout collaboration with Jamie xx “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” could be massive hits this summer. The leak also included a Rich Homie Quan song which contained very vile and ill advised lyrics about raping a woman. It’s a lose-lose situation for not only Tumay (who Thug shouts out repeatedly in these leaks) but for a-list producers like London on da Track or Metro Boomin, who produced a lion share’s of the unreleased material. The tracks are all solid contenders for inclusion on one of Thug’s many unreleased projects like Metro Thuggin or the second Rich Gang compilation, which was supposed to drop last year. There are probably even loosies here that could have found their way onto his upcoming album; an album that will make or break the already divisive opinion on Thug.
The excitement of new music, or at least grabbing hold of an exclusive b-side, has turned into an ugly, almost Pokemon-esque subculture that is all about bragging rights.
“My theory is that [whoever had the songs] was trading all 100 for a few Drake leaks, and he got finessed,” another user from KTT, who requested to be anonymous, added. Every song from their shared folder was leaked, including custom mash ups that they made like “Boy/How to Be Real (Remix),” which splices a verse at the end of Thug’s song with a verse from Wiz Khalifa’s “How to Be Real” from 2014’s 28 Grams mixtape. The anonymous nature of this is only more perplexing, as the user added that “It’s clear that someone in [my] circle did something real fucking stupid. It’s just hard to figure it out when you only know them on the Internet.” There’s no loyalty between music completionists—that person may have wished and hoped for some new raps from Drake but found himself in the middle of one of the biggest music leaks of the past few years.
The obsession with being “first,” and the increasingly ADD nature of this generation of music consumers, creates a disappointing reality: There isn’t anyone who will be deciphering or absorbing these songs like they would if the songs were released the way the artist intended. In an industry where it’s becoming increasingly harder to keep the attention of listeners, this was just a Sunday. Some songs leaked, a dude in his basement told another guy on Twitter which ones were “fire,” and life went on.
In his Reddit post, Tumay stressed that the “impact” of these leaked songs has been lessened because of their unlawful release, and he’s completely right. For all of his and Rich Gang’s hard work to ensure that their fans got the best quality music, the same amount of effort needs to be applied by the people in charge of keeping these records secure. If normal people can build a catalog of an artist’s music behind the guise of a message board, then the blame rests firmly on the shoulders of the camp. Leaks aren’t going anywhere, but until the industry can plug their own spouts, this is a decade-old problem that will continue to get worse.
Justin Davis is a writer living in L.A. Follow him @OGJOHNNY5.