Let’s make one thing clear straight away—without Prince, there would absolutely be no Young Thug. The flamboyantly funky icon not only blessed the world with his unique musical perspective, he forced a nation of squares to become better acquainted with the weird.
Through his sexually ambiguous persona, his frilly clothes, and his funky-as-hell music, Prince offended the status quo in nearly every way, but at the same time, he made music that was so good you had no choice but to accept him.
Earlier this summer, fellow purveyor of the weird Young Thug made a bold statement regarding Chance The Rapper, whom he had just collaborated with on Coloring Book. Thug compared Chance to The Purple One, saying that like Prince, Chance too would die a slept-on legend (though despite being a compliment to Chance, we'd have to disagree with Thug's comment as Prince was anything but slept-on).
I’m going to make an even bolder statement, however: Young Thug is the Prince of hip-hop.
Many of the qualities that once made Prince a force to be reckoned with can also be found in Thugger. The man has evolved from what many believed to be a Lil Wayne-biting, one trick pony into one of the most consistently exciting and boundary-pushing artists in music today.
Like Prince, Thugger maintains a sexually ambiguous persona, complete with dressing in female clothing, and a constant stream of controversial statements rolling off his tongue. He's worn a dress on a four-story billboard in NYC, and has said, "you can be a gangster in a dress." In society at large and in hip-hop specifically, sexual ambiguity is treated as a threat to masculinity and has made Thug a target of controversy since his entrance into the scene.
Young Thug offers constant reminders that no aspect of his controversial lifestyle is for any of us. It’s for him, and that self-imposed freedom has manifested itself in an increasingly experimental and quality catalog, showcasing an artist peeling layers of his personality back to reveal more complex and unconventional incarnations like a funky musical onion.
Another similarity between Thugger and The Purple One can be found in their respective abilities to use their voices in ways that nobody saw coming. Prince’s vocal range was one of the most exciting in music for decades, and in a similar fashion, Young Thug consistently surprises listeners with his off-kilter vocal inflections and unconventional delivery.
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Thug is well aware of Prince’s role as a musical pioneer, as he made apparent just weeks after Prince’s death when, while performing in New York, he donned an outfit reminiscent of the legend’s iconic stage garb, and went so far as to refer to The Purple One as “Dad” in an Instagram post before the show.
Of course, Thugger hasn't begun to sniff the heights of artistic and musical achievement that made Prince the legend he is, but let’s not forget that he’s only 25 years old, and has shown no signs of reverting to an artist that listeners might find comfortable or predictable.
Young Thug may not become one of the best-selling artists of all-time like his purple predecessor (recent sales figures have been underwhelming at best), but Thug sounds like no one else in the music landscape right now, and is already on his way to building an iconic catalog, with multiple projects garnering critical acclaim this year alone.
There are plenty of differences between these two artists, but the similarities are far more plentiful, and the more we get to watch Thugger evolve into the artist he’s supposed to be, the more I feel comfortable making this comparison.
Young Thug is hip-hop’s Prince, and I for one, can’t wait to see how weird he gets.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram