Young Thug: No, My Name Is JEFFERY

Each listen reveals a new level of commitment to the act that is Young Thug, of wondering if he could be saying literal gibberish and it would still be as compelling. The answer is probably yes.

Young Thug

No, My Name Is JEFFERY

Label: Atlantic / 300
US Release Date: 2016-08-26

What’s in a name? Marcel Proust, in his legendary In Search of Lost Time, wrote “A name: that very often is all that remains or us of a human being, not only when he is dead, but sometimes even in his lifetime.” Commenting on this line in her work Time and Sense, philosopher Julia Kristeva explains, “Sensation and pleasures that stir up the imagination take refuge in the syllables of names.” She further discusses the destruction of the proper name, “deflating it into a common noun”, and how in doing so we experience the full power that that proper name held. In hip-hop, the proper name is often reverse-destructed: artists eschew their birth names in favor of stage names that convey an intended message to their peers and their audience. "This is who I am now," they say, and we inflate this name with great meaning.

Young Thug, in this sense, has always been quite the interesting case. Stereogum’s Tom Breihan, in writing about Thug’s mixtape 1017 Thug, opened thusly, “Young Thug has probably the most generic rap name imaginable; it’s like a character that Finesse Mitchell would’ve played on a half-assed SNL skit in 2005. When you see a name like that, you imagine you know just about all you need to know about its owner without knowing anything.” As Breihan followed, and as anybody who’s listened to even a morsel of music Young Thug’s put out since his breakthrough year of 2013, that generic moniker has produced some of the strangest and most enthralling music, genre irrelevant, of his time. In the Fregean sense, the sense of “Young Thug” has been virtually the complete opposite of what Breihan’s exposition would suggest: a singular artist whose aesthetic is at one indefinable and all-encompassing, somebody who revels in eccentricity but with an authenticity that means his artistic choices are hard to question. When No, My Name Is JEFFERY’s cover came out and you saw Young Thug wearing that ensemble, were you particularly surprised? When it was announced that Young Thug was changing his stage name to “No, My Name Is Jeffery”, were you particularly surprised? But more importantly: were you even in the slightest put off by these decisions? Or, vaunted listener, did all of this make perfect sense of the sense that we associate with “Young Thug”? I’d like to think it did.

What is immediately evident on JEFFERY even more than his previous mind-bending performances is the vocal polyphony (that is, closer to Bakhtin’s term than to the musical term) that he employs. His contradictory lyrics were explored in the review of Slime Season 3, and though he doesn’t match past levels of speaking past himself, the way in which he says what he says has evolved to a level not yet heard before. There’s a surface-level explanation for this, and it’s one he himself said – that the song titles on this mixtape were named after his “idols”. In this manner, his vocal performance is quite obvious, that he is paying homage to these idols by adopting, to varying degrees, their styles. See the “Work”-esque repetition of “earn” in “RiRi”. See the startlingly accurate post-“Wicked” Future double-time of “Future Swag” throughout. Young Thug is adopting multiple personas – some his own, others he’s stylizing off of. Either way, each listen reveals a new level of commitment to the act, of wondering if he could be saying literal gibberish and it would still be as compelling. The answer is probably yes.

Some similarities are too great to ignore. Reverting back to the discussion of Bakhtin, he used the word “carnival” to describe the polyphonic relationship of multiple voices interacting with one another. And who but Wyclef Jean, maker of acclaimed The Carnival, has a song named after him and features on JEFFERY? There’s layers to this. These layers are what make JEFFERY, like all of Young Thug’s music, such a rich tapestry. A tapestry that has him sounding as locked in as he’s been since the high water mark of Barter 6.

Probably the most in-the-pocket he’s been, nay, any rapper has been, was on 2015’s “Hercules”, when he rapped “I call my migo, migo come and let me juug through the city." He fit that Metro Boomin beat like the snuggest glove possible, and the slightly stretched out “juug” was beautifully elastic. Though he’s hit high points since, he hadn’t had another moment like that until the first song on JEFFERY, the aforementioned “Wyclef Jean”. Over horns from TM88 and Supah Mario, he brags, “Shop at Saks Fifth, flow on DatPiff / Yeah, I’m that swift." The way he says it you’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t a more perfect grouping of words to fit the occasion. On the song’s bridge he sounds as soulful as he ever has, and the hook has him at his most nasal since 1017 Thug. Though that brag’s flowed the best on the tape, the tape’s best brag belongs to (who else?) Gucci Mane, sneering “You make me mad, I have a threesome with your bitch” on follow-up “Floyd Mayweather”.

The production on JEFFERY is unsurprisingly strong, an aspect that would make song namesakes Swizz Beatz and Kanye West proud. Subtle piano twinkles mix with muted bass and aggressive hi-hats, and though each beat is a part of a greater aesthetic whole, they proudly stand on their own. The work that Thug’s been doing with Wheezy over the past year has been nothing short of great, and his ability to elevate the productions of noted greats like Metro Boomin, London on Da Track, and 808 Mafia recall Pusha T’s brag “The only great I ain’t made better was J Dilla”, only the Atlanta version.

Lyrically, the mixtape doesn’t break any new ground, but everything is so rooted in the cosmic surrealism of his voice that they virtually cease to matter. Sure, he drops the “wet like a(n) x” line that I complained about in the review of Madeintyo’s latest mixtape, but he finds a way to sell it in its performance that makes it excusable. He’s self-aware when that’s been a rarity in his music (“I crack a smile for them folks”), acknowledging that he’s absolutely performing. But it never feels like an act. The authenticity of Young Thug or No, My Name Is Jeffery or just Jeffery is constantly compelling. The “earn”s in “RiRi” are yelped to the point of his voice cracking, showcasing his flaws in singing that he simply couldn’t care less exist.

The latter is yet another example of the many personalities exhibited in Young Thug’s music. No, My Name Is JEFFERY doesn’t contain the quotables of Barter 6 nor the progressive production of his one-off singles with Metro Boomin, but as a collection of songs, it’s his most realized set to date. He plays many roles, but all of them are directly connected to the overarching persona that is Young Thug. That he keeps getting better is just frightening, as he’s had a song that’s suggested a peak every year since 2011. And yet, here we are, continually marking the progress of Young Thug. No, his name is Jeffery.







The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.