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Young Thug’s ‘On the Rvn’ is tremendous trap music

Young Thug is one of the most talented trap musicians working today (DAN GARCIA/Flickr).

It has been almost a month since the release of Young Thug’s new EP, “On the Rvn,” and yet I feel a review is still in order.

Why, you may ask?

Well, for one, I haven’t heard it played on campus. In the myriad of pre-games and “dorm parties” I have the *privilege* of hearing in my all-frosh dorm (#RincLove), I have heard “SICKO MODE” and “The Race” an uncountable number of times. While my peers begin to expand their minds and employ their “intellectual vitality” in the classroom, why not do so outside of it well?

Additionally, when I arrived at Stanford last month, the week the EP dropped, I was shocked with the pervasive ignorance I encountered. When I mentioned Thug’s name, I received blank stares or “… the guy who mumbles on ‘Havana’?” And when I dared to suggest that he not only made trap music but made good music, people seemed even more confused. Yes, he goes by Young Thug; he doesn’t exactly evoke the ethos of a “serious” artist. But I maintain that his music is as worthy of your listen and artistic appreciation as anything else.

Thug’s power lies in the fact that he has no one, distinct sound. He makes a point of avoiding categorization in his real life — he is famous for wearing women’s clothing, saying in a Calvin Klein ad campaign that “you can be a gangster in a dress” — and this sentiment finds its way into his music as well. His capacity for diverse sound is seen across his discography, especially in “JEFFREY,” one of the three full solo albums he released in 2016. Each song on the album was made in honor of something that inspired him, thus giving each its own individual feel. While the distinct identities of each track are less prescribed in “On the Rvn,” Thug still manages to integrate a variety of sounds into the EP while still maintaining its feeling of cohesion.

The first two tracks on the album, “On the Run” and “Icey,” are as close to “standard” Thug tracks as you could possibly get. They incorporate the mumble-flow of his past albums and have more generic trap beats underlying them. “Climax” still has the bass line of a trap song but features Thug’s singing (as seen in his previous album, “Beautiful Thugger Girls”) and even features guitar (a la XXXTentacion on “Revenge” or “the remedy for a broken heart (why am i so in love)”). Keen artistic sensibility is necessary to make good (or, really, not ridiculous-sounding) emotion-laden trap music, and Thug is an artist has the artistic precision to successfully undertake this balancing act.

All of the hype surrounding the EP, however, was directed at the final track: “High,” a remix/reinterpretation of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” We’ll get to that. Before we do, I feel that it is my responsibility to correct everyone’s opinions: “Real in My Veins” is the best song on the album. Not only is Thug’s flow seamless on the track, but it legitimately sounds like he’s having fun. On top of that, its more discernible lyrics make the track an accessible and engaging listening experience. The final line of the post-chorus, “call your momma Thugger, tell her that you fuckin’ made it,” is not only adorable but also satisfying to sing along to. In that moment, the listener is proud of “Thugger”; he has “fuckin’ made it.” The repetition of this line comes full circle in the third verse, when T-Shyne raps, “I called my dad and told him that we made it.” This marks the end of the build of the song, and there is something not only sonically but also emotionally pleasing about it.

When I first heard “High,” I was in my dorm listening on a speaker and thinking, if I didn’t know this was Thug, I would think this was really dorky. The song, from a technical standpoint, makes fantastic use of samples from Elton John’s record. With just one line of “Rocket Man,” Thug manages to weave the sample into the very fabric of the track. There is no “sample” and “song”: They are one. Thug quite literally inserts his vocals into the sample in the chorus and uses the sample to punctuate each line of his verse. Its production is impeccable. This track is, once again, emblematic of the Thug sensibility: He’ll make a trap song out of Elton John as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. That is why, when listening to the song out loud, I worried that it didn’t translate. It’s not that Thug knows that the idea was unconventional and did it anyway. It’s that he doesn’t even see why it would possibly be strange because he doesn’t see the rigid genre-classifications that you and I do. That, in its essence, is the beauty of Thug.

OTHER THUG SONGS THAT DESERVE YOUR APPRECIATION:

“Constantly Hating”

“Kanye West”

“Wyclef Jean”

“Tsunami”

“Lifestyle”

 

Contact Christina Macintosh at cmcntsh ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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