Young Thug, Prince & the Misconception of a "Slept On Legend"

Young Thug was wrong about Prince but I understand his point-of-view.
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Young Thug was wrong about Prince but I understand his point-of-view.

In the company of media, Young Thug is a man of few words. Journalists are rarely able to pull more than a few soundbites out of the outgoing rapper, but you can always expect at least one quote to set the blogosphere on fire.

While on the red carpet this past weekend for the 2016 B.E.T Awards, Thug was asked if Chance The Rapper's skills were "slept on"? "They been sleeping. I think they gonna always sleep on him. He's gonna die like Prince. He's gonna die a slept on legend,” he replied. If you listen carefully, you can hear the blogosphere roasting like a marshmallow over a campfire.

Understandably, there are a few reasons why Thug’s comment has mused many headlines and discussions. Predicting that Chance The Rapper is going to die a legend is a huge compliment, one that every artist silently hopes will be their future. To leave this world a legend is the highest achievement. Drake rapped about dying a legend on If You're Reading This It's Too Late and, even for an established and significant artist, his statement caused eyebrows to raise. Only time will tell if Chance is able to become a legend, he's full of promise, potential, and is already pulling off feats that will be cemented in music history.

When he mentions Prince and being a “slept on legend” is where things get confusing. What Prince accomplished while alive—as both musician and an artist—transcends what most could do in two lifetimes. He wasn’t slept on, a man with his impact, his influence, his spellbinding charisma could wake up a nation. And he did, on the day he died it sent ripples through the entire world. Everyone knew a great man, a legend, died on April 21. Something Prince never predicted. 

April 21 is also very likely the biggest Prince-related event Young Thug ever witnessed. Thug and I were both born the same year, 1991, the year Prince released Diamond and Pearls - his thirteenth studio album. We were just coming into the world, a world that Prince had already conquered. Throughout our lives, Prince was a name you knew, a mystifying figure, but I can’t recall a time in my youth when I felt Prince was the biggest artist in the world. Even though Michael Jackson had also been a dominating force in the world before our birth, he was a much bigger figure in terms of visibility. I saw and heard Michael everywhere. I assume that Thug might relay a similar sentiment.

If I had to guess, the reason why he considered Prince a slept on legend is because our biggest moments with him as a legend in the music industry didn’t come until he died; all the glowing praise, tributes, and admiration showed us of this man's huge importance and how it dates back far before our time and will continue on forever. Imagine witnessing the magnitude of Prince during Purple Rain and Prince during Hit n Run Phase One—same person just two very different holds on mainstream pop culture. 

Thug sees Chance as a talented artist, someone that’s adored, but isn’t recognized in the mainstream the way he deserves and that day won’t come until he dies. I don't believe once you become a legend that you can be slept on. Some legends are worldwide, some legends are local, but that status means you've impacted culture and influenced lives. Even the biggest legends can't be the center-of-attention forever.

The longer you exist in the music industry, time moves forwards. New kids replace the old and gain the attention of new kids born after your brightest moment in the spotlight. There have been a lot of legends who have passed this year that the young won't recognize. Kids who don’t know David Bowie or Phife Dawg but realize based on how the world reacted to their deaths that they need to know. A musician can be so impactful that his music and art never dies. For generations, their name will be on the tips of tongues, in music devices, and influencing the next wave of musicians.

Only time will tell if Chance is one of those artists, the same goes for Young Thug. If they are able to reach that status there is a good chance they won't always be the most seen or the most heard, but there was a time when they were—for doing something legendary, something impactful, something influential and that’s what matters. Once a legend, always a legend. A status that’s eternal.

By Yoh, aka D.I.Y(oh) aka @Yoh31