10 Young Thug Songs You Need To Know

Young Thug has a history of dropping gems. Here are some of his best songs. A closer look at a rising star's substantial back catalog.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Young Thug has become one of the most divisive artists of the moment. His most recent brush with newsworthiness was this interesting sartorial choice, which has inspired a wave of confused reactions. And its not just his Instagram persona, clothing choices, and septum piercing that have people confused. And no, it's not just the bizarre speculation about his sexuality. 

It's his music, which is every bit as weird as he is. Easily ignorable for those who aren't into Atlanta trap rappers whose music is primarily propelled by strip clubs, Young Thug rocketed to relevance with some very public cosigns by Kanye West and Drake. And that means everyone feels obligated to weigh in on the phenomenon.

But Young Thug's music isn't just weird; it's great, too. At least, sometimes. We've taken a closer look at what his music does, exactly, that is unique and different from the artists in and outside of his circle. He is a songwriter (a good one), and a rapper whose art is as much about the untested possibilities of rapping as it is about conveying a clear-eyed love of Typical Rap Shit. Not that he hasn't released his share of wack songs; he has, as does any experimentalist. 

But his lyrics have been underrated. He's not talking complete nonsense; he has a story he wants to convey. He just happens to tell it in a unique way. Although he's a great songwriter, he's also got something to say, cultivating a bunch of different emotions and moods in his music.

These are a few of them. Without further ado: 10 Young Thug Songs You Need To Know.

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Young Thug f/ Gucci Mane "Shooting Star"

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Producer: Unknown
Mixtape: 1017 Thug

Young Thug verses twist and turn through a musical starscreen on one of the strongest tracks from 2012's 1017 Thug. Gucci told The Fader that Young Thug was "one of the most talented rappers" he'd ever worked with in an interview, and it's easy to see on this track how well the two complement each other. While Gucci's vocal style is cool and reserved, detached, even, Young Thug's is all spasming syllables and shards of vocalizations set spinning in every direction.

Young Thug "2 Cups Stuffed"

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Producer: Super Mario
Mixtape: 1017 Thug

Last year's 1017 Thug, released after Gucci endorsed Young Thug as one of his favorite artists, is his most consistent record, front to back. Basically some dumb fun, Young Thug's first hit and most successful track from 1017 Thug will have you shouting in Spanish about how many cups you've stuffed until your vocal chords stop functioning properly. His performance is fully committed: he yells on the mic, using the texture of his voice as its own instrument, bending and shredding his words before letting them pound like percussion.

Young Thug f/ Hellacoppa "Foreign"

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Producer: C Neil
Mixtape: I Came From Nothing 3

I Came From Nothing 3 was strangely slept-on Young Thug record. Although it's far from his most consistent release—there's a cheery brittleness to the production and general vibe that can feel overwhelming, particularly without a strong personality to provide balance to Thugger's most manic outing—it does feature some scattered highlights. Best of all is the chiming marimba loop "Foreign," a shimmering gem of an alternate-universe summer jam, 2012's biggest smash single in a world where the weather's always 75 degrees and sunny, and your shoes never get scuffed.

Young Thug f/ MPA Duke & MPA Wicced "Who's On Top"

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Producer: Planet 9 (Dun Deal)
Mixtape: I Came From Nothing 2

I Came From Nothing 2 was the first tape to really show Young Thug's promise, and the triumphant "Who's On Top" was one of its best moments. A showcase for two members of Thug's crew, Young Thug steals the show with the song's transcendent chorus and memorable final verse, which blends contradictory emotions, as if the theater of sounding threatening isn't even worth his time: "It's a wonderful life/My goons'll kill a nigga for such a wonderful price."

Young Thug "Some More"

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Producer: Metro Boomin
Mixtape: 19 & Boomin

The slept-on "Some More" comes from Metro Boomin's solo tape 19 & Boomin, and although it received a video treatment, the track hasn't achieved the level of attention as some of Young Thug's more prominent singles. Over Metro's spiraling loop, Young Thug brags about racks coming out of his pores, hitting a rhyme pattern and repeating it. For hip-hop fans who like to see a little variety in the rhythmic construction of the track, it might be offputting initially, especially for those who aren't convinced by acts like the Migos, who've successfully built a career in part off crafting a particularly popular flow. But repetition draws attention to the parts that do vary: the musicality of his delivery and shifting lyrics.

Young Thug f/ Peewee Longway "Loaded"

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Producer: Big K
Mixtape: Respect Tha Grind, Radio Vol. 5

For many, an early introduction to Young Thug's unusual video swag. Shirtless and apparently filming in someone's dining room, he raps about sending dudes to the hospital while hoisting firearms. The music has a carnivalesque quality that seems at odds with the song's content. He flips into different rhyme patterns, stopping the beat unexpectedly, letting his words bubble in a stream of syllables, involuntarily spooling out ideas as if the words themselves are being spoken without his say-so.

Gucci Mane f/ Young Thug and Peewee Longway "Intro"

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Producer: TM-88
Mixtape: World War 3: Lean

No track better captures Young Thug's chemistry with PeeWee Longway and his mentor Gucci than the "Intro" to Gucci's World War 3: Lean tape. While Gucci and PeeWee burst out the gate with intricate, fast-paced verses, Young Thug kicks off his own bars slowly, melodically, talking about "her teeth whiter than a peppermint," as if testing the waters, two-and-a-half minutes in. Then, suddenly, he starts spitting in raw little patterned bursts that shoot past the listener in a collaged blur. A brief highlight, but one of his most impactful, impressive moments of raw rapping.

Young Thug "Keep In Touch"

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Producer: Unknown
Mixtape: I Came from Nothing 2

Sometimes the best songs have modest aims. Surely this was the case with an early gem from Thugger's catalog, the unusually quaint stripper love song "Keep In Touch." Even though the track features an ongoing drop from whichever dot com it was culled from, the song's messiness is overcome by its endearingly amateur charm—and a heavy dose of strong songwriting. (Just try getting that chorus, and Young Thug's dessicated yelp, out of your head after you've heard it.) Its lyrics flit in between being comprehensible and surreal (what is "garden food?"), and he sometimes gives single-syllable words an extra one ("choppers everywhere, you have no reason to fra-iiight"). But its this tossed-off quality that gives it a unique sound in a hip-hop industry seldom confident enough to express such emotions. Young Thug told The Fader that he had no intention of releasing it when it was recorded, until "a couple of girls" convinced him otherwise. We owe them an eternal debt. 

Young Thug "Stoner"

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Producer: Dun Deal
Mixtape: Share DJ Spinz Presents: HPG 3

Young Thug's "Stoner" is a strange, skeletal creation, the bones of Down South hip-hop history rearranged and soldered together into a wobbling, jury-rigged construct. Dun Deal's beat shifts into different sections: a snap beat, which soon sounds like two snap beats blended. Transitions that use a Mike Will Made It-style frequency filter, dropping out every element except the bass, as if the track were travelling underwater. The signature ascending synthesizers of Lex Luger to ratchet up the tension. Then, the descending country rap tunes guitar.

"Stoner"'s unorthodox, patchwork sparseness is the perfect rickety framework for Young Thug to test the pliability of his art, the multitude of ideas he brings to the table on each recording. Each of these shifting beat templates means a changing mood for Thugger to adapt to. There's a sense that, where most rappers would just fill up time with "bars," Young Thug creates as he goes: Time for a new flow; time to shout until his voice cracks. Time to sing a comforting melody about how he feels like D4L's Fabo—a reference to drugs, or to the beat's evident debt to D4L, or maybe an artistic inspiration. There are so many ways to signify "stoner" rap in 2014. "Stoner" takes about none of those paths, a bent, metallic fork tine in a packaged-spork hip-hop world.

Young Thug "Danny Glover"

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Producer: 808 Mafia
Mixtape: Respect Tha Grind, Radio Vol. 5

Whereas "Stoner" was unprecedented, an errant banger packed with ideas that burst outward at odd angles, "Danny Glover" is streamlined: the beat, courtesy Southside and TM88 is straightforward, its sour guitar tones cycling through only three notes while the snares and hi-hats snap on the heels of the powerful kick drum. Young Thug's approach to flowing feels spontaneous, experimental, as if he didn't know how he was going to attack the beat until he was sitting in the room. There's an undeniable catchiness to each line he spits, the rhythms and inflections putty in his hands: "OK cool, ok bool, I love her," "Money stand like eight feet just like TWOOOO midgets," "Ston-er my lifestyle/I'm living too wild." But dismiss his bars at your own peril; "Danny Glover" ranks as one of his most quotable songs, even if the lines can give you that gut-sinking "oof" feeling: "I just bought a Bentley and the bitch came with it!" "I don't like using profanity but the Young Thugger will cut you," "If she ain't a virgin then that bitch is only average." Damn, tell em how you really feel.

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