OK! I’m a little late to the party on this one, but let’s talk about about the two most kindred spirits in rap: Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug. If you’re familiar with these two, feel free to use this article to rediscover some of their greatest jams. If you’ve never heard them, I strongly suggest you get to know their work. They’re two of the more exciting MC’s alive right now. I like their ability to sing and rap with equal carelessness. Both artists have styles I can’t quite pin down. Each of them knows how to make a chorus work, but where Young Thug has an almost overzealous love for insane vocal syncopation, Rich Homie Quan uses his deep southern drawl with a more laid back approach. When they work together it’s pretty unbelievable. They don’t really harmonize so much as create complicated, textured vocal patterns, the likes of which I’ve never heard before. Neither of them have released a proper album yet- but their one off features and mixtapes so far have been solid.
Both young men are from Atlanta. A city with a proud tradition of producing groundbreaking hip hop–such as Outkast, Gucci Mane, and more recently 2 Chainz, Migos, and Future–and both Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug seem to have learned a lot from their forefathers. They just released an excellent mixtape that they made together: Rich Gang: The Tour, Part 1–which you can download for free here. As usual, there are potent choruses and stylish beats soon to be heard bumping out of a car near you.
So, what better time than now to celebrate their already impressive contribution to hip hop? I now present to you a brief introduction to what has, in about a year, become an impressive body of work by these two young men.
YG (ft. Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan): “My Nigga”
“I need a set of wings cuz I’m too fly, nigga, and I’m all about my business like a suit and tie nigga” – Rich Homie Quan
What happens when you take a beat that relies heavily on Luniz’s classic “I Got 5 On It” and give it a chorus that appropriates Lil’ Wayne’s “The Sky Is The Limit?” In all probability, nothing worth writing about. Then there is “My Nigga.” A song that became an unofficial anthem for a lot of people last summer. I think criticizing this song for it’s borrowing is a bit misguided. Every great artist stands on the shoulders of giants . So, it’s just as likely that this was a statement of purpose, seeing as how Luniz was from the west coast, and Lil’ Wayne is from the south. There’s a similar demographic with YG, Mustard, Jeezy, and Rich Homie Quan.
For Rich Homie Quan and YG this was their first breakout hit. It also solidified DJ Mustard as a force to be reckoned with. This beat is classic DJ Mustard in that the beef is in the details. For example, he slyly uses the rattle from a spray paint can for ambient percussion. It’s a stroke of genius. While I admit, there is a thin line between plagiarism and paying respect, I’ll let you decide which side of that line this song falls.
Young Thug: “Danny Glover”
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“Every time I fuck I gotta hit me least like two bitches.” – Young Thug
Chauvinistic? Definitely. But that is an enviable amount confidence, my friends. It also happens to be how Young Thug positioned himself to take over the rap world. Thugga released “Danny Glover” earlier this year to promote his Black Portland mixtape with Bloody Jay. He came through on the promise of his earlier mixtapes with one full of batshit, uncategorizable rap–a lot of it I’m not even sure if I like. It’s just so bizarre that I’m transfixed anyway. “Danny Glover” is the clear standout. Yes, Young Thug is covering some tired subject matter here. He has lots of sex and money, and of course he’s selling drugs–these are typical tropes of hip hop that all MC’s have difficulty escaping. What matters is that I’ve simply never heard anyone rap like this before.
Check out the verbal gymnastics on the second verse. He unloads a mouthful with unprecedented finesse, “I knew that I was gonna run my money up and everybody didn’t / All these niggas, pussy niggas, tellin’ on they partners hope they pussy nigga get a bigger sentence.” You may find his words atrocious, but his delivery has as much virtuosity as a Dizzy Gillespie solo. Besides, he apologizes–sort of–for his crassness a couple bars later, “I don’t like using profanity, but the Young Thugga will gut you.”
Rich Homie Quan: “Type of Way”
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I’ve spent some time pondering why this song touches me so. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve come up empty handed–all I can tell you is that it cuddles my soul like a puppy dog. Apparently life changed rather quickly for Rich Homie Quan once he became a famous rapper. So he wrote a song about it. Money and notoriety has it’s privileges. For rappers, those privileges are known colloquially as “hoes.” Quan isn’t the first rapper to recognize that fame attracts a certain kind of woman. Nor is he the first to respond to this phenomenon the way he does either. Which is to say, with complete disregard for the “hoe’s” so-called “feelings.” He explains the situation thusly, “that car I’m driving make you feel some type of way / That custom Breitling make you feel some type of way.”
To that he adds, “I’m shinin’ hoe!”
In other words, Rich Homie Quan isn’t taking himself too seriously and he understands some fundamental things about fame. First, hoes are attracted to shiny things–that probably should have gone without saying. Second, this new found attention from women isn’t necessarily a good development in his life. I sense a certain level of dissatisfaction. Maybe that’s why “Type of Way” is uncommonly powerful. Yet, while Quan’s voice can be evocative, he’s doesn’t seem to be trying to get any sympathy. Maybe I shouldn’t parse his words, but it seems to me that ultimately this song is about not knowing for sure if true love exists and just saying, “Fuck it.” If that doesn’t make you feel some type of way, then maybe you need a hug.
Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs and A$AP Ferg: “Old English”
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“Hell nah, I ain’t (the police), but if I like it I cop it.” – Young Thug
I bet there’s been a million rap songs about malt liquor, but I can’t think of any right now. Mostly because all I want to do is listen to this one–it renders all other malt liquor raps superfluous. This beat, provided by Nick Hook and Salva, is like a magical beer that never goes stale. It only gets colder. I’ll admit, I’m obsessed. I’ve listened to this daily for months, and it makes my heart flutter every time I hear Young Thug say, “Sliiiiiiiiiiiime.”
This is a chorus for the ages, “Catch me ridin’ with them slimes, them my youngins / catch me boolin’ with them slimes, them my youngins / I’ll be sliming with them slimes, cuz they my youngins / catch me slidin’ with them slimes, cuz they my youngins”–what the fuck? I understand exactly zero of that, but it’s changed my life nonetheless. I’ve taken to calling my best friends “slimes.” And you know what? It’s perfect.
Rich Gang (feat. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan): “Lifestyle”
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“I’m on top of the mountain, puffin’ on clouds and niggas still beginnin'” – Young Thug
This song was a hit this summer. It’s easy to see why it succeeded. It’s fucking lovely–a slowjam for people who didn’t know that they could love incoherent mumbling. It’s also an excellent example of Quan and Thugga’s charisma when they get together. I don’t have much more to say about “Lifestyle” other than that. So I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about something related that just might shock you: Hip Hop’s Top 40 songs don’t completely suck right now. Even Iggy Azalea isn’t that bad.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. The top 40 is usually a clusterfuck of bullshit. The thing is, right now, there is a lot of quality on the R&B airwaves. Just as striking is the diversity in songs like, “Hot Nigga,” “2 On,” “No Flex Zone,” “Believe Me,” “Fight Night,” and my personal favorite, Usher’s “She Came to Give it to You,” which is some of the most exhilarating straight-up R&B I’ve heard in a while. I sort of can’t wait for his record.
Young Thug, Birdman and Rich Homie Quan: Rich Gang: The Tour, Part 1
“Got more verses than The Bible.” – Rich Homie Quan
The first thing I need to do is admit that this tape isn’t without some awkward moments. It’s partially a vehicle for promoting an arena tour that Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and Birdman are about to embark upon. To be honest, the marketing is shameless. Worst of all, it’s non-stop–an anonymous DJ comes in every other song or so to remind us, “we about to blast off, city to city, state to state, we coming to your town!” It doesn’t end there either, every 30 seconds you’ll hear someone holla, “Rich Gaaang.” Of the latter, I can’t say I mind that so much, it’s unobtrusive branding and it’s done artistically. Though, I must say, the former cheapens what is otherwise an outstanding mixtape.
What makes this tape all the more unexpected is Young Thug’s highly-publicized record label troubles. Long story short, he’s been unable to release a proper album due to a bad record contract that he can’t get out of. It’s unfortunate, as this is clearly an artist bursting with creative energy. Enter Birdman, who’s primary contribution here is not musical–though he only does a handful of verses on this tape. Rather, as owner of Cash Money, he seems to have provided a venue for Young Thug to release new music while still wrestling with an enormous amount of record label red tape. Birdman spared no expense, the beats here are uniformly excellent.
The first point where we encounter something really special on the tape is, “I Know It.” An uptempo beat with a team of synth blasts that work like horn section and what sounds like a Hammond B3 organ. It’s irresistible. The kind of beat you can’t get enough of. Rich Homie Quan takes the chorus on this one, “I can’t hear what you sayin’ right now my weed too loud and I know it.” If I was DJing a dance night somewhere I’d definitely play this song–and it would fail miserably–because I’m pretty sure a beat this syncopated would go over like a fart in a car in SLC. White people can’t dance to this shit this fabulous. I’d expose them to it anyway, which is probably why I don’t have my own DJ night anywhere.
There is a lot of talent on this tape. Unfortunately, a lot of the beats are uncredited so we don’t always know who made what, but the two best beats here belong to Atlanta’s London On The Track. The slinky “Keep it Goin’” and the deceptively bangin’, “Flava” are two very different beats, but they both allow room for Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan to work their magic. On both tracks Thug and Quan profess their love of “pussy” with an enthusiasm usually reserved for men just returning home from prison, but once again, it’s not what they’re saying, it’s how they say it. Lines like, “it’s a shame how I yell at these niggas, but never lose my voice / It’s a shame how my ice so cold, but I leave these bitches moist,” come off sounding like … I don’t know actually, but Thug rhymes voice with moist and he doesn’t sound like an asshole. If that’s not an accomplishment, I don’t what is.
Anyway, I’ve saved the best track for last. Here’s to hoping these two keep it goin’.