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Young Thug isn’t afraid to do things his own way

Young ThugBy Joseph Gray //

Young Thug with Rich The Kid, Lil Yachty, Migos //
The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles
May 16th, 2016 //

Whenever I have been asked about Young Thug, it’s usually been prefaced with “I don’t know why …” or “for some odd reason …” before conceding that I enjoy his music.

Oft-inaudible lyrics. A wardrobe that includes as many free-flowing feather blouses as it does jerseys. These characteristics, of course, don’t make up what most hip-hop fans have come to expect from our fabled stars.

But Young Thug (born Jeffrey Lamar Williams) wouldn’t have it any other way. Managing to toe a stylistic line of convoluted brilliance, Atlanta’s 23-year-old cult hero remains an enigma with lofty pop-star expectations to meet. And they don’t appear to be far from a face-off.

Young Thug’s signature shrilling voice, enveloped with adlibbing squeaks and crazed barks, sounds almost absurd on the surface — until it isn’t. As he manipulates music’s interior over darker, bruising-yet-patient beats with a warm and swift flow, he has seemingly settled into a pace where the melodies will put an ironclad grip on your interest — and it should. Whether you understand everything or not, you’re likely to listen more intently.

A sold-out room full of devotees at The Fonda Theatre last Monday weren’t afraid to admit that and much more during the LA stop of his Hy!£UN35 (HiTunes) Tour, named after his much-anticipated Atlantic Records debut album, which still doesn’t have a release date.

Young Thug

“Can you pleeeease go to the side of the stage and steal us water? I can see some right there. Pleeeeease?”

Pleading front-row attendees, arriving at The Fonda by mid-afternoon for a headliner who wouldn’t descend upon the stage until closer to midnight, were extremely dehydrated and fatigued. They also were hell-bent on maintaining a prime spot for Young Thug’s psychedelic rodeo, willing to take — with the help of those working in the photo pit, including myself — from the stash of stage accessories for the well-liked openers. Among those were Atlanta-area upstarts Rich The Kid, Lil Yachty and a surprise guest appearance from the always juiced-up Migos. All of which would hurl more than enough water and raucous energy their way.

With water bottles in tow to complement dampened clothing, the crowd’s soaked anticipation and “Thugger!” chants would soon be rewarded when the venue’s large curtains were raised to reveal cutouts of Michael Jackson and Prince. And then there, sandwiched onstage between the cardboard iconic figures, would be their unapologetic version of a musical prodigy.

Fresh off releasing the latest — and final — installment of his Slime Season mixtape trilogy, Young Thug took his place on the stage. Arriving in a white blouse, multicolored sequined jacket, dark shades, a polka-dot head scarf and remarkably slim, golden pants, he aligned such a rangy and vibrant uniform with his performance.

There wouldn’t be any towering LED lights, stunts or stage diving. However, Young Thug, who for the majority of his roughly hour-long set played the lone wolf, delighted the crowd with his animated and bright delivery while running through thundering Slime Season 3 favorites like “With Them”, “Digits” and “Slime Shit”. The audience, ranging from high school seniors to seasoned workers likely with mortgages, strikingly recited every uncanny, controversial lyric and Ric Flair-esque “Woo!” like they had been analyzing them for years.

Young Thug

Young Thug’s glossy sleeves weren’t without surprises in the lining, though. While returning to breakthrough hits like “Stoner” and “Hookah”, Young Thug welcomed collaborator Tyga, who provided a jolt to remind us of the moments he had before TMZ’s cameras arguably took the rest of them. Trinidad James and Yo Gotti also made appearances, the latter performing his megahit “Down in the DM” before the lighting started to dim.

“Give me more lights, give me more lights, give me more lights,” stage conductor Young Thug harmonized with a lighthearted and seemingly impromptu carol while briefly heading to his utopia. With his back momentarily turned to the camera-phone flash before the lighting guys again joined the party, Atlanta’s favorite outlander appeared to just take a moment. The point in time could have been one of appreciation or something else on a completely different side of the pendulum. That ambiguity is what seems to keep Young Thug and his pundits going.

What’s next? Last Monday, it was the nostalgic ballad “Worth It” ahead of crossover bangers “Best Friend” and “Lifestyle” to accentuate what appears to be an ascent in the making.

As far as the future? Only Young Thug knows and that appears to be perfectly alright with him and his fans.

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