Age: 28
Last Year’s Rank: 4

For the entirety of Young Thug’s career, he has operated a few steps ahead of mainstream trends. When he first broke through, Thug’s experimental approach to rap and occasionally indecipherable lyrics were often too far left of center to connect with a wide audience. Unorthodox choices like recording a full country-inspired rap project and wearing a dress on an album cover alienated some fans. By 2019, a whole generation of artists—ranging from Gunna and Lil Baby to Lil Nas X—had come up in Thug’s wake and wouldn’t stop gushing about his influence. But he hadn’t achieved the commercial success many had expected of him, and a No. 1 album still eluded him. That finally changed with the release of So Much Fun—a project in which he consciously gave fans what he knew they wanted for the first time. “I always put music out for myself,” Thug explained during an interview with TIDAL. “This album, I focused on what people like. I always knew what people wanted to hear.” Fortunately, the end product isn’t a neutered release that strips away the experimentalism that has always made Thug so great. So Much Fun still has plenty of thrilling quirks—his duet with Lil Uzi Vert over the sounds of birds chirping on “What’s the Move” is a top 10 moment of the year—but Thugger manages to pull together one of the most focused and cohesive releases of his career. The world is finally catching up to the genius of Young Thug, and he took advantage of a golden opportunity to reach more ears than ever before. —Eric Skelton