Is his name still Young Thug? Or is it No, My Name Is Jeffery? Or just Jeffery? None of these questions seem to matter much, because after a now-routine period of release date pushbacks we finally have the latest project from the artist formerly-or-perhaps-still known as Young Thug, No, My Name Is JEFFERY. (I’ll go ahead and address him as Jeffery from here on out, for the most part.)
Already the third project of 2016 for Jeffery, following the slightly disappointing I’m Up and the more cohesive conclusion to his Slime Season trilogy, NMNIJ and it’s accompanying moniker changeover was positioned as the signaling of a pivot in the eccentric Atlanta artist’s career. As for how different Jeffery would be compared to Young Thug remained to be seen, but the artist appears steadfast in distancing himself from negative connotations ("I don't want my kids to grow up and call me Thug..."), and his label 300 Entertainment and its co-founder Lyor Cohen certainly believed a change (or the illusion of one) was necessary. Thugger was already on a path to a more refined and intentional output of music, rather than recording so many songs only to “leave them like orphans.”
For an individual so constantly defying expectations, NMNIJ continues the surprise factor even before pressing play. The ripe-for-memes cover features Jeffery in a dress, looking like some fanciful cross between Raiden from Mortal Kombat and a proper Southern belle circa 1890. The track listing reads as a checklist of Young Thug’s “idols,” and the selections range from obvious (“Guwop”) to unexpected (“Swizz Beatz”) to hilariously, ludicrously hyper-relevant (“Harambe,” may he rest in peace).
No, My Name Is JEFFERY isn’t a drastic sonic departure from Young Thug’s catalogue over the last two years, but rather a step forward towards more polished material. For an artist who boasts the ability to write a hit song in ten minutes, these records sound like they were given some semblance of extra thought without taking away from the carefree attitude so attractive to his fanbase. The sound varies tremendously, but not to the effect that it detracts from its cohesion. Given that this is now Jeffery’s third straight project not extend past 10 tracks, it seems he’s found his sweet spot for trimming off filler and presenting a product that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
3 Standout Songs
The project kicks off in the tropics, ushered in by some sneakily creative flexing (Jeffery’s specialty) with the line, “My money way longer than a Nascar race,” before Thugger explains that he needs to ejaculate before he’s able to fall asleep. It’s difficult to not just smile and sway side to side as the beat and flow fit each other like Jeffery in women’s fashion.
This song is lightning inside of a Bentley, and Jeffery rides this TM88 beat like a tidal wave. The only acceptable action to take once you press play is to find the closest automobile, turn the volume to eardrum-shattering levels and drive as fast as physically possible with no regard for personal safety (note: don’t actually do that). Let's all pause to celebrate the fact Jeffery and Future are no longer at odds.
“Webbie” (ft. Duke)
Complete with shots fired at “fake” politicians, an appropriate amount of love to Patek Philippe timepieces, intense warbling and a motivational backdrop, “Webbie” is an immediate standout. Most pleasantly surprising is the inspired guest verse from Duke, who shines in opening up about his personal journey from nothing to something and understanding the opportunity that Thugger’s given him.
At first listen, HMNIJ is Young Thug/Jeffery’s most compelling work. The production is great, both from established collaborators like Wheezy and TM88 to the less notable Billboard Hitmakers. Thug is at his weirdest, doing unparalleled tricks with his vocals and delivery at nearly every turn - and all of it works, from the puppy-esque chirps on “RiRi”’s hook to the enraged ghasps and groans of “Harambe.”
Aside from some unremarkable contributions from some of the higher-profile guests (Gucci, Wyclef and ⅔ of Migos) and an apparent lost Travis Scott verse on “Floyd Mayweather,” missteps are few and far between. Summer anthem “Pick Up The Phone” as a bonus track is the cherry on top, both for fans and the label ready to attach millions of streams to the project’s sales figures.
At the end of "Webbie," Jeffery has one line that really hits: “Yeah, I used to do this shit to maintain, 'til I started using 14% of my brain.” If we only use 10% of our brains, that means Thugger is 4% ahead of everyone right now, and from how truly unique his sound is compared to everyone else in music right now, he might not be far off. This also means that if he was previously only doing what he had to do to maintain, and now he's actually trying, who knows how much further he could continue to progress?
Young Thug made music fun, but Jeffery seems to make it even better.
By Brendan Varan. Follow him on Twitter.