On Friday, Young Thug released his second compilation album, Slime Language 2, with members of his YSL Records label. YSL Records is a relatively new label. It was formed in 2016 and the label’s first signee was fellow Atlanta native, Gunna. If you have been following rap for the past few years, you’d know Gunna is now one of the biggest rappers in the industry. While listening to Slime Language 2, I am transferred back to the early 2010s when Young Thug first came out. He was once a young, aspiring, and enigmatic artist that was comfortably under Gucci Mane’s wing. Fast-forward 10 years later, we see Thug now breaking new artists on his albums.
Young Thug’s Beginning
Young Thug first began making music at the turn of the last decade. He slowly began to gain traction in his hometown of Atlanta with his I Came From Nothing mixtape series. None of the music from these tapes received national attention but they did catch Atlanta legend, Gucci Mane’s ear. Soon he was signed to Gucci Mane’s record label and appeared on countless of the rapper’s mixtapes. His first radio hits, “Stoner” and “Danny Glover”, were released in 2014. He gained some mainstream attention but he still was not a household name. A lot of the time, when an artist is signed by an artist, it is harder to get noticed. The label owner is usually more concerned with releasing music themselves than breaking a new artist into mainstream media.
He would eventually sign with 300 Entertainment. After signing to 300, he released a slew of projects that solidified him as one of the leaders of hip-hop. With albums like Barter 6, the Slime Season series, and Jeffery, Thug became a favorite for rap fans.
Young Thug Influenced A Generation
His early mixtapes are integral to understanding the new artist coming in the last few years. Every single one of them has taken something stylistically from Young Thug. You can hear the influence in music from artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Gunna, Lil Baby, Lil Keed, Roddy Ricch. He was an artist that many were hesitant about listening to. Serving as a disruption to the status quo, he was one of the most interesting new artists out of Atlanta. He rapped in such an unorthodox way and there was no one like him. Listening to a deeper cut off an album like 1017 Thug 2, and then listening to something off his debut studio album, So Much Fun, you can hear the same hip-hop daredevil. He tries things that no other artist would even think about.
Guiding a New Generation
It’s important to understand who Young Thug’s inspirations were to see where he is headed in his career. Gucci Mane was the first big artist to introduce him to the world, but Thug also had aspirations to be the next Lil Wayne. While he is like no artist before him, Thug certainly has parallels to his biggest inspiration, Lil Wayne. From the meteoric rise, the huge influence on the youth, and even their relationship with Birdman, Young Thug has had a career eerily similar to Wayne. After Wayne became one of the biggest artists in the world, he decided to form Young Money Records. Now as he has become one of the best artists out, his focus has shifted to form a label.
Like his mentor before him, Young Thug began to shepherd the youth of Atlanta into the rap game. Fans of Young Thug may remember Gunna first appearing on “Floyd Mayweather” off his mixtape, Jeffrey. Soon after, Gunna released his debut mixtape with YSL Records. It didn’t take long for Gunna to become a huge rap star like his mentor before him. He has taken on more protégés after Gunna’s success. Rappers like Lil Keed and Lil Gotit, have been under Young Thug’s wing for some time now. The artists that are influenced by Thug are so sonically similar to him, sometimes you can’t tell who is rapping on a track. While Gucci Mane’s 1017 label is still breaking new artists, we see Young Thug taking some of Atlanta’s latest upcoming talent.
YSL Records didn’t get a lot of attention when it was first formed. Most rappers form labels once they garner a large enough audience. The labels tend to be overshadowed by the lead artist of the label. We’ve seen it happen with OVO Sound and countless others, but YSL is different. After appearing on countless hits throughout his career, Young Thug decided to use his star power to introduce the world to the artist he discovered in his hometown. In 2018, Young Thug released YSL’s first compilation album, Slime Language. The album introduced the world to YSL artists like Lil Duke, Lil Keed, HiDoraah. Over the last three years since the first album was released, he has signed a handful of new artists that appear on the Slime Language 2.
Young Thug was always seen as a great musician. Only recently have fans been able to see him in a mentor role to Atlanta’s youth. Young Thug has been a part of the push forward for Atlanta rap culture. He has been a part of the come-up of the biggest new rappers from Atlanta. Although Lil Baby did not sign to YSL, Young Thug and Gunna were pivotal to his rise in popularity. Young Thug may be one of the most influential artists of the 21st century, but he is also setting himself up to being one of the hip-hop elders of Atlanta. Only time will tell if he can hold the same importance in hip-hop as the people that came before him.