Atlanta rapper, fashion icon, and status quo-challenging Young Thug broke through in 2013 with a series of successful mixtapes and singles. Born Jeffery Williams, Thug mixed the radio-worthy weirdness of rappers like Waka Flocka Flame with the hooky underground anthem sound of artists like Chief Keef. With his distinctive rapping style -- which, at times, was almost unintelligible -- and preference for wearing women's clothing, Thugger flouted hip-hop convention while defying gender and sexuality stereotypes.
He released three volumes of his mixtape series I Came from Nothing before joining Gucci Mane's 1017 Brick Squad crew in late 2012. His mixtape 1017 Thug followed in early 2013, featuring the quirky street single "Picacho." Later in the year, his "Stoner" single appeared, but it didn't catch fire until 2014, when an authorized remix featuring Wale opened the floodgates for a series of unauthorized remixes from artists like Jim Jones, Iamsu!, and Trick Trick. The original track peaked that April and was eventually certified gold by the RIAA. That same year, Thug signed to 300 Entertainment, the Atlantic-distributed imprint co-founded by Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, and continued recording mixtapes. His first release for the label, 2015's Barter 6, climbed up to number 22 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
In 2016, he released I'm Up, the first of many mixtapes that year, which debuted at the very same position as Barter. Months later, he dropped the Top Ten hit Slime Season 3. Before his next release, he was awarded a platinum certification for his 2015 track "Best Friend." At the end of the summer, he unexpectedly issued his third tape, originally titled No, My Name Is Jeffery (changed a week later to simply JEFFERY). With its provocative cover art and concept (each track was named after one of Thug's idols), JEFFERY featured reggae/dub flourishes and appearances by Migos' Offset and Quavo, Gucci Mane, Travi$ Scott, and Wyclef Jean. As fans waited for Young Thug's next project, a new song, "Best Thing of All Time," leaked near the end of March 2017. However, the track turned out not to be on Thug's next album, his studio debut. Entitled Beautiful Thugger Girls and released in June of the same year, it was a somewhat more accessible release that flirted with country and pop, while keeping Thug's trademark weirdness at the fore. ~ David Jeffries & Andy Kellman