Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Young Thug - No, My Name Is Jeffery Review

Earlier this year, after numerous failed attempts in 2015, I decided to check out Young Thug's latest project; Slime Season 3. My interest peaked when the mixtape's opening track, 'With Them,' blared through the speakers at Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3, as super-sleek camera pans moved amongst an emotionless crowd of trendy, new wave models. There was no greater distillation of 2016, apart from West's 'Famous' music video, than that moment, as I was captured in a bewildered trance, examining just how far and out there Hip-Hop had come. That song, along with a handful of others on the super condensed eight-track Slime Season 3, pushed the project over the top for me as I finally begun to see the worth in Thugger's curious appeal. He was rapping less meaningful proses than Desiigner, but hastily used his voice in unorthodox ways over production that encapsulated either the climax or the death of Trap, we're not quite sure yet. No, My Name Is Jeffery, Young Thug's first project since then, precariously, and hilariously, labeled under his real name Jeffery, seeks to recapture that lightning in the bottle. While SS3 contained a slew of grade A bangers, including an unmatched three-song streak to kick things off, Jeffery finds itself wallowing in the lackluster filler that plagued his earlier releases.

As the summer of 2016 winds down, one must look back upon it as a disappointment, at least through the lens of Trap. The genre figureheads showed their true colors, with Thugger and Travis Scott battling it out for supremacy of fan disappointment, as numerous delays, shoddy marketing campaign's, and a trove of unfinished leaks afflicted their roll-outs. We're still awaiting Scott's Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, and gauging how sloppy that calamity is, I wouldn't doubt that mixtape follows Kanye's trail of unfinished material getting promoted to the masses, except in an even more unprofessional form. Quality excused, at least we can rely on Young Thug to release a concurrent set of songs that accurately gauges his forever-changing headspace. Jeffery accomplishes that, as it sees the Atlanta emcee shifting his interests to more exterior endeavors, using fashion and trends to stay relevant, as seen with the album cover and some of its songs. But with that comes a more lackluster focus on what really matters; the music, which fails, sometimes gloriously, to make the same statements as his predecessor.

Young Thug's earlier material was filled to the brim with content, as filler ran rampant on 15+ track projects. Jeffery's biggest fault then arises in the fact that the filler, which mostly evaporated on Slime Season 3, encompasses over half of the project, despite only being ten songs. Apart from the relatively decent 'Wyclef Jean,' there isn't a single worthwhile track on the first half. These range from the watered down 'Swizz Beatz,' to the Future rip-off 'Future Swag,' to the downright awful 'RiRi,' complete with screeching vocals comparable to a yelping seal. These moments bring out the worst of Thugger's attitude, seeing content washed away with uninspired Trap and unimaginative performance art from the man himself, as it isn't until 'Harambe' that Young Thug brings something to the table we haven't heard before. That particular song showcases an explosive, almost violent energy that, while not too outstanding, snaps listeners out of a cruise-oriented funk. On the flipside, 'Kanye West,' with Wyclef Jean in place to null monotony, sees Thugger at his most earnest and melodic, bouncing with a scat-like vocal performance on the endearing hook.

The problem with both of those songs isn't what's contained within but what describes them; their titles. It's clear Young Thug is baiting his audience into a fervor with every decision he makes. Marketed as a change in sound, No, My Name Is Jeffery is anything but, sporting the same values he's promoted in Trap the past few years. A conductor to fan appraisal, the new Jeffery name, along with the meme-ready cover and a platitude of utterly pointless song titles that serve no purpose, positions Jeffery as a mixtape used to coerce hype and not actually encourage quality music. In other words, the sounds have become an afterthought. More people are talking about his attire, photoshopping him as a Street Fighter character or car wash wiper, than actually speaking on behalf of the music. And why's that? Because the music itself isn't interesting. In similar cases of meme-touting, Twitter-obsessed hype machines, like Kanye's Life Of Pablo or Drake's Views, the music came first and, at least in some respects, could be enjoyed without the accompaniment of candid, empty trends. The former's critical success and the latter's radio success proves that.

Where does that leave Jeffery? With the cover, titles, lyrics, and content adding zero value, we're left with the sonic scope and its handle on Trap. And yes Thugger fans, that includes his ability to use his voice as an instrument. It's safe to say 'Pick Up The Phone' is the best overall track here, despite moments flourishing on 'Kanye West' and 'Webbie,' which both utilize Thugger's ambidextrous hook appeal. Still withstanding, 'Pick Up The Phone' dropped in early June, years ago in Internet time, and has now seen considerable radio attention, making the fact that it's best work here troubling. Making matters worse, if the Travis Scott and Quavo-assisted finale found itself situated amongst Slime Season 3, it would struggle to be fourth best. So that's where we find Jeffery, both the mixtape and the artist, harvesting the mass appeal without the means to convince those it's actually worthwhile. Even if we address the mixtape as half full, that still leaves nearly half a dozen tracks that are utterly forgettable. And while there's a trio of new songs on the more expressive side that try and achieve some kind of artistic expression, their value is lost amongst the cluttered filler and pointless visual drivel. Slime Season 3, by all accounts, still remains Young Thug's best work.

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