So Much Fun is Young Thug’s effortless victory lap

The Atlanta rap deity avoids contrived narrative building on his debut album by leaning into what’s made him great from the start.

August 20, 2019
<i>So Much Fun</i> is Young Thug’s effortless victory lap Photo by Albert Urso/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows  

So Much Fun, Young Thug’s relentless new debut album, doesn’t bear much of a fourth wall; it’s Thug staring into the camera more often than we can count, then swinging for every lens in sight. For a debut, it’s neither a subversive statement piece or semi-autobiographical account aimed for the gold. But Thug remains in rare form, baseline unorthodoxy and visceral grisliness intact. Not to mention the humor, whether subtly tucked in an adlib or plastered over the lawn on the cover. SO MUCH FUN means that, and nothing else. It’s a victory lap and a proper introduction in tandem. The sign and the slime are outfront, and Thug litters many treats across the grounds for every hubby and lover that’s lifted him (ergo, us). A further glance uncovers Thug’s persistence in worldbuilding as he leverages his long memory to highlight the extent of his trolling.

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In the opening minute of “Just How It Is” he both clarifies and deflates the JEFFERY artwork that further propelled him to fame as the streets aimed to set him aflame: “Had to wear the dress… cuz I had a stick!” Later, on “Lil Baby” — arriving after “Bad Bad Bad,” featuring the Lil Baby — he declares himself Young SEX via adlib in resurrection of one of many name changes that never came. This not only furthers the canon of Thug naming songs after people, but the canon of featuring the people he’s named on the same album with songs named after them as well. On the Uzi collab “What’s the Move?,” Thug sneakily reposes the Twitter-infamous question: “Bitch tryna drive in the Rolls Royce or the bus, girl?” In its original format, he rhetorically asks a woman where she’d rather cry. The older version wouldn’t work here, though Uzi’s familiar with women crying, and struggles with whether or not he really cares about it.

Once the expected suspension of belief subsides, So Much Fun emerges as an album where Young Thug’s the most focused he’s been in years without reducing him down to overcalculated moves or undercooked attempts to rehash former glory. It’s become nearly commonplace to refer to Thug’s glory in the former, largely driven by a career marred by leaks and stacked with releases that go severely underpromoted or land underwhelmingly. His mixtape Barter 6 and Rich Gang’s Tha Tour, with Rich Homie Quan, are regarded as classic works of this decade. Thug’s a festival mainstay with 11 platinum singles, over 20 releases, and no defining debut album to reconfirm the range of his talent while launching him into a higher level of superstardom he’s long deserved. Much like his counterpart Future, Thug’s continually seized his relevance by churning memorable singles out even from autopilot. Future’s recent album The WIZRD exemplifies that kind of tunnel vision, archiving baseline renditions of his stylistic innovations to signify a leap forward. So Much Fun may have doomed itself to a similar bloated fate, ultimately evading the unfulfilled duty of smashing the glass ceiling over Thug’s potential.

In the name of a summer left barren without a smash, the album never makes 19 songs feel like forever; they slither their way through the synapses, relentlessly nudging the pleasure center with colorful efforts. It soon becomes irresistible to surrender oneself to the aimlessness, Thug feeding any palette with his seasoned expertise. All his IDs appear, rooted in the present: the druggie, the heartthrob, the antagonist, the antihero. Thugger runs from cops with meds in his socks. Thugger tells the judge how dirty his piss will remain. Thugger’s still haunted by his trauma, but will have you murdered for ramen. Is Jeffery’s new house an investment for his children, or a harbor for future fugitives? Be it Southside or Wheezy or ATL Jacob or the weirdest of Pi’erre, Thug never lost how to captivate his audience in dazzling detail. Every big moment merely reconfirms Thug’s half-decade stranglehold on the forefront of rap.

As YSL members — signed and affiliated — mobilize their respective takeovers, Thug’s most celebrated children and confidants arrive on the album at their most unbridled and unhinged. Anything less does a disservice to Thug’s power to make everyone bring their best selves out. One can hear Gunna over Madden start-menu horns and abrasively positive synth lines, deadpan floating across the wavelength with its own subdued intensity no matter how the surroundings morph. Lil Duke applies the Thug notes on his appearances by contrasting his more straightforward delivery with a high-pitch hurried energy, reaching for the edge of his range like he’s moments from falling out of the pocket. Once Lil Keed arrives on “Big Tipper,” his voice melds with Thug’s as the baton audibly passes, enabling him to tiptoe into unloading his eccentricities.

Thug also gathers a rise out of the most unlikely contenders: Quavo dashes around the hats on “Circle of Bosses” in what feels like a refreshing return-to-form. Juice WRLD, still expanding his repertoire, manages to finagle “Mannequin Challenge” into a final verse that crescendos like a blaze of glory on one of the album’s most unexpected backend cuts. And aside from how (executive producer) J. Cole leans heavily into Thug’s vocal cues on “The London,” did we mention how the stakes on “Boy Back” manage to make NAV sound… hungry?!?

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Par the course for how the game moves, we’ve seen some of hip-hop’s most innovative stylists be catapulted into the discourse, only to stall out or fade away in mere months. The ascension quickly pivots to pressure, and the shtick grows stale or doesn’t translate to an album as a definitive statement to keep them in our attention. Young Thug’s persevered through many waves; he’s ushered in his flock of pupils as the game ran to ride his wave. No matter the formalities or misfortunes, Thug’s shaken the world and broken the Internet many times over with an oeuvre that’s made him undeniable without a proper debut. For any lingering detractors — or tired fans with whittled faith — So Much Fun’s arrival could signify the next chapter in Thug’s arc that finally grants him the level of critical acclaim that warrants far more respeck on his name. (R.I.P. Rich Gang, gone but never forgotten.)

Young Thug’s no stranger to the Internet crowning him king, but So Much Fun’s impact is currently hittin’ different: like SpongeBob “Sweet Victory” overdubbed with Gunna’s verse on “Hot” different. That meme features a hatin’-ass Squilliam Fancysun is tagged with “oldheads.” The song's producer Wheezy is Patrick on the drums. Gunna is SpongeBob on the lead vocals as Thug is Squidward, anxiously conducting the band before relishing in a Sweet Victory, as advertised. As for us, the onlookers, our lighters are up and the tears are falling. Whether this particular meme was engineered by the people or the promo rollout, the sentiment remains poignant: the same lanky East Atlanta prodigal son that told us his money stack tall like Ludacris afro. Jeffery — the child of Dr. Carter, of Big Guwop, of Future Hendrix — may be on the verge of seizing the Sweet Victory that’s eluded him so. He’s self-aware as ever, relishing as the glow finally calibrates itself correctly. During press time, Thug quote-tweeted a meme comparing his relationship to protégé Lil Keed to that of LeBron James and his son Bronny with the caption “No Bap.” Keed’s reply: “Love you pops.”

So Much Fun is Young Thug’s effortless victory lap