Why Young Thug is Just as Important to Hip-Hop Culture as Kanye West

2016 is here. You know what still isn’t? SWISH.

There’s something to be said for rappers who push back albums for months.

Dr. Dre’s Compton, which came 16 years after his last album, was critically acclaimed and is Grammy-nominated; the rarity and suspense around the Wu-Tang Clan’s secret album drove its sale price to $2 million; and though nobody really knows what happened to Frank Ocean since dropping Channel Orange three years ago, we’re still on the edges of our seats awaiting his next move. In an interview with Out Da Box, rapper Ka said, “It takes time to sculpt,” stressing that constructing the Sistine Chapel wasn’t a race to the finish. “If you don’t hear a lot from me, it’s because I’m pulling a lot from me and spending a lot of energy to give you these songs,” he said.

But there’s something about the way we perceive the music that’s taken months or years to reach our personal libraries that’s different than those which (we’re told) were put together in a few weeks. When albums take months or years to manifest, we subconsciously believe that they’re of higher quality, or are timeless, powerful, and more culturally progressive than albums recorded off the cuff—and this is incorrect.

Did you know that there are 10 more completed Young Thug albums in existence? Ten. Over seven months in 2015, the same rapper handed us three full-length releases. Lots of critics have applauded Thug’s impressive productivity and output levels, but because we have so much Thugger at our disposal, we don’t tend to categorize his projects as worthy of dissection or intrigue as we would with releases from Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, or Kanye West.

But Thug’s musical contributions are just as culturally significant as those of his colleagues whose work ethics aren’t as fast paced. Time and time again, Thug’s bizarre imagination has made him a surrealist storyteller; he consistently challenges accepted gender norms in a hyper-masculine hip-hop culture, and he camouflages beautifully rich wordplay under seemingly gibberish mutters and a facade of unintelligibility. I’d argue he’s one of the most imaginative lyricists in hip-hop right now. Why does the fact that he can piece together an album in a few days discredit his music as surface-level?

What we need to consider, as a culture, is how we define “good” or “better” in regard to the quantity-quality theorem. It’s kind of like the art world: some incredibly detailed landscape paintings are sold for just as much money as minimalist abstract pieces; while one took years to make, the other may have been produced in a matter of hours. But they’re still highly regarded and recognized as fine art, just in different ways.

By no means am I dismissing the groundbreaking innovations brought to hip-hop culture by rappers who cautiously and unhurriedly craft musical projects, but when an artist doesn’t work like that, we shouldn’t discount his artistic complexity. At the very least, we need to move past this common opinion that grandiose ideas and musical brilliance only come with album delays.

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