Young Thug wants to reach star status by any means necessary. He’s even willing to give up his old moniker to do it. On “No, My Name Is JEFFERY,” the A-Town rapper trades in his old nom de guerre for his birth name. He also trades his usual skinny jeans for a periwinkle dress and an umbella-like hat on the cover art that breaks through all kinds of gender norms. This experimentation reflects Thug’s push towards joyful, gushing tracks that never stray too far from Thug’s gangster material of the past. The verdict: Name change or not, “JEFFERY” sounds more Thug than ever.
At a lean 10 tracks, “JEFFERY” is a lush foray into Thug’s signature mixture of fantasy and reality. He’s perfected his wacky melodies, taking cues from Wyclef Jean (both a feature and a track on the mixtape). The songs also draw on reggae influences, creating an eclectic listening experience. Many of the mixtape’s standouts sound blissful and high-energy, moving towards pop. Yet Thug is as always a little too zany to fit squarely into mainstream sound, and mixed in with the love odes (RiRi, Pop Man) are aggressive throwbacks like Harambe (named after the deceased gorilla-turned-meme) and Floyd Mayweather. Thug moves ever closer to a pop breakthrough without compromising his musical roots.
The mixtape itself is a tribute to his sources of inspiration, musical or otherwise. The name of every track refers to one of Young Thug’s role models, including titles like Future Swag, Guwop, and Webbie. This choice might be a subtle indication that Young Thug himself deserves to rank among the list of hip-hop heavyweights. If anything, the mixtape propels him further in that direction. Its earwormy hooks and brash confidence (“I got me a high self esteem”) prove that Thugger is reaching new heights of musical mastery.
Yet in the end, despite the layers of lavish lifestyle boasting, it’s Thug’s sincerity that pays off. “I’m scared to trust you, I’m scared you’ll trick me,” he raps on RiRi. Thug’s fearless enough to reveal his emotions at crucial moments, giving his highly entertaining songs a counterpoint of depth. That combination of the fun and the heartfelt makes the mixtape an all around-hit. If it takes a name change to do that, that’s a small price to pay. Young Thug is dead, long live JEFFERY.