Since Young Thug first broke through on a national level with mixtapes like 1017 Thug, he’s had his share of viral moments and become one of the most influential rappers to a whole generation of new artists. But even Thug’s biggest fans will admit that he still hasn’t made an undeniably bulletproof project that lives up to all of his potential, and he hasn’t achieved the level of global superstar status that some have envisioned for him.
Depending on who you ask, he still hasn’t even released his “debut album”—all of his releases have been mixtapes. So there is a lot at stake for his next project So Much Fun, which arrives on Friday. This could be the moment Thug finally puts all the pieces together. Or he could misfire and end up getting surpassed by younger artists like Gunna, Lil Baby, and Lil Keed, who are taking his aesthetic and updating it for a new audience.
Fortunately for Young Thug fans, the past few months have brought signs that the stars are aligning for the Atlanta rapper to finally release his best (and most commercially successful) project yet. Less than 24 hours away from the arrival of So Much Fun, we haven’t even seen a tracklist, but if there’s ever been a moment for Thug to sell more than 40,000 units in an opening week and put out a career-defining project, this is it.
The rest of the world is finally catching up.
When Young Thug first emerged, most fans of mainstream rap didn’t know what to make of him. He dressed differently than everyone else, his experimental delivery and unorthodox approach to pitch was unlike like anything happening in rap at the time, and his bizarre interviews made him difficult to approach for casual fans. In some ways, he was ahead of his time.
By 2019, the world is finally catching up to Young Thug’s sound, and protégés like Gunna are finding lots of success by following in his path. In July, Gunna told me that Thug has had a "massive impact" on how music sounds today and added, “He's going to go out like a GOAT. Everybody already knows. He caught the wave first, and everybody else follows.” Gunna’s “Drip Too Hard,” a collaboration with another artist heavily influenced by Thug’s style (Lil Baby), became a top 5 hit in 2018. This year, Lil Nas X credited Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls for paving the way for his massive country hit, “Old Town Road.”
Young Thug’s success may have been limited by being ahead of his time in the past, but now that the rest of rap has become accustomed to his sound, this is his best chance to capitalize and release a No. 1 album.
He’s on a hot streak of major pop features.
Thug has been a star among hip-hop fans for years, but until recently, he had yet to cross over to the mainstream pop consciousness. That began to change when he started collaborating with pop artists like Camilla Cabello on hits like “Havana.” Since that song went No. 1 in early 2018, he’s hopped on other massive pop singles like Post Malone’s “Goodbyes,” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” remix, and Ed Sheeran’s “Feels.” Thug is still far from a household name, but with each of these collaborations, he has increased his visibility amongst mainstream listeners, which could only bode well for the success of So Much Fun.
He just released his most successful single yet.
One sign that Thug is heading towards more commercial success than he’s seen in the past is the reception to his latest single, “The London” featuring Travis Scott and J. Cole. Peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song became Thug’s highest-charting song as a lead artist this summer, passing “Best Friend,” which peaked at No. 45 in February 2016. He had charted higher on songs with Camilla Cabello, T.I., and Rae Sremmurd in the past, but this was proof he’s finally at a place where he can break into the top 10 with his own song.
He’s beginning to embrace the spotlight more.
For most of his career, Thug has been an enigma. He rarely does interviews, and when he does, they’re often brief (and at times perplexing). In an infamous video clip of a meeting between Thug with 300 Entertainment founder Lyor Cohen, it was also made clear that he hasn’t always been understood by his label, and his reluctance to interact with fans has created problems.
In the lead-up to So Much Fun, Thug has taken a different approach. He’s slipped into a habit of routinely interacting with fans on Instagram Live, and he surprised everyone in July by agreeing to an impromptu interview with No Jumper’s Adam22, in which he opened up about everything from his own album to Lil Nas X’s sexuality. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a full press run from Thug this album cycle, but he appears to be more prepared for the spotlight than he ever has in the past.
He has a lot to rap about.
Thug has had an eventful past two years since the release of his last full-length solo effort, Beautiful Thugger Girls, in 2017. He’s been arrested multiple times, spent time in and out of jail, had a very public breakup (and reunion) with his girlfriend, been sued for six figures, and more. If he chooses to rap about some of these events, we could get the most personal Young Thug album we’ve ever heard. Of course, he did recently change the title from GØŁDMØÜFDÖG to So Much Fun, so there’s also a chance he’ll head in the other direction and release an album full of party songs that avoid personal subject matter. We’ll find out tonight.
He has his best chance yet to make a top-to-bottom great album.
Young Thug has made a lot of great music over the years, but most will agree that he’s never released a truly great project that will stand the test of time as a classic. Even fan favorites like Barter 6 and Slime Season 3 are held back by a lack of cohesion and the inclusion of songs that may have been better left on the cutting room floor. This is why rumors that the album might be executive produced by J. Cole are so interesting. Even those listeners who still complain about how “boring” Cole is will admit that the guy knows how to put together a cohesive project. If Jermaine offers Thug some direction and helps him put the album’s puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense, we could be in for something special.