Atlanta has gifted hip hop fans with countless brilliant rappers. From the classic rhymes of OutKast to the lavish life bars of Lil Baby, there’s someone for everyone. Included in that is the one and only Young Thug. Since breaking out with 2013’s 1017 Thug mixtape, Thugger has become a global star. He has also lent his talents to collaborate with fellow rap heavyweights like Drake and Future, as well as pop stars like Camila Cabello.
Though Thug may not be the first to come to mind when we think of lyrical ability, the artist has shown that he deserves more credit than he’s given. When weighing lyricism in a rap context (bars and wordplay) and considering its definition (“an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way”), it is clear that Thug has exhibited lyrical skill throughout his career. Whether demonstrating this talent in his songs or features, the Atlanta star has created a distinct style by fusing an eccentric delivery with bars, which made him one of contemporary rap’s most fascinating figures. These are 15 of Thug’s musical moments that prove his lyricism.
1. Sacrifices: “I got my mink off a monkey / I’m talkin’ monkey like Jumanji … My diamonds wet, it cost me money / I’m talkin’ wet like it’s runnin’ (Sink) / I’m talkin’ wet like Katrina (New Orleans) / I’m talkin’ wet like Dasani.”
Whether it’s this section, another one or the verse as a whole, Thug’s feature on Drake’s “Sacrifices” is undeniable proof of his lyrical capability. With each line, you’re given more detail of Thugger’s riches, which he does in a way that’s extremely evocative. When he raps, “I’m talkin’ monkey like Jumanji,” you know the mink is ferocious. And if you had any doubt about how wet his diamonds are, it’s clear from those last three lines that his jewels leave him drenched any time he puts them on. Imaginative and playful, Thug’s verse steals the show.
2. Mine: “If I leave a n**ga white T-shirt red, it’ll be a peppermint or a baseball, n**ga.”
In its simplicity, this clever and menacing line says so much. If Thug has to resort to violence, just know that you’ll either end up looking like one of the least beloved candies ever made or a ball from America’s favorite pastime. No matter which one it ends up being, both are obviously bad. So, maybe take Thugger’s warning, and go enjoy a baseball game while eating peppermint candy instead.
3. MLK: “I pray my deaf brother don’t run into the police / ‘Cause you tellin’ him to put his hands up, he can’t hear / Ain’t goin’ for deceased / These rookie police need to get trained, even in their sleep.”
It’s a poignant collection of lines that show Thug can speak on more than just his lavish life. Police in the United States often abide by a “Shoot first, ask questions later” protocol, which results in countless tragic incidents that may have gone differently if officers didn’t reach for their guns first. Thug hopes that his brother doesn’t become another one of these tragedies since trigger-happy cops could misinterpret his unawareness due to a disability as resisting arrest.
4. The London: “Pimp talk, church talk, I can make a brick walk / Up north, down south, Bankhead to Rachel Walk.”
Thug is malleable. In any environment — whether it’s around the pimps, preachers or in the different Atlanta neighborhoods — he can sell a brick. It’s a straightforward pair of lines that display Thugger’s hustle in his hometown, and he delivers them with a confidence that shows he can rap alongside contemporary greats like J. Cole.
5. Old English: “I wear that white, I cook that white, but I am not no chef / Add a little soda to put the tan on it / I got the s**t for the L-O, and my shawty want it.”
This may be one of Thug’s best lyrical moments in terms of wordplay. He sets us up for a line about not being a chef to then take it in another direction with the Shawty Lo reference; it’s all so witty. When you’re rapping alongside more than capable rappers like Freddie Gibbs and ASAP Ferg, it’s only right that you’d go a little harder than you normally would. Thug does that and then some on this song.
6. 2 Cups Stuffed: “500 horses inside my machine / 500 DNAs in my ding ding.”
Thugger’s breakout mixtape, 1017 Thug, showed just how delightfully absurd the rapper could be, and “2 Cups Stuffed” stands out in that regard. So many other lines from that track also speak to Thug’s lyrical creativity, but there’s something about these two in particular. The wildly cartoonish way in which he raps them, and the vividness of it all — it hinted at what was to come.
7. Check: “If cops pull up, I put that crack in my crack / Or I put that brack in my brack.”
Is Thug making this correction because he aligns with a certain gang? Is he showing a united front by acknowledging both pronunciations? Regardless of how you interpret these lines, what’s undeniable is how laugh-out-loud-worthy they are in their comedic glory. It’s another instance of one of Thug’s greatest strengths: His ability to turn the bizarre into the profound, and leaving you with lines you’ll randomly say to yourself once you’ve heard them.
8. Draw Down: “I love green so much all my money f**king moldy / Hi Benjamin, Grant, Jackson, I’m just focused.”
We know many rappers love money to the point where it becomes a concerning obsession. Thug is no different. The artist loves green so much that he’s allowed it to take on new shades as it molds and says, “Hi” to each dead president on their respective dollar bill as he continues to stack money. It’s a slightly surreal approach to bragging about cash, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from Thugger.
9. Webbie: “But my hand is way different, got the Midas.”
Thug could’ve simply said he has the Midas touch. Instead, he plays around with it in a subtle way. This makes it stand out from past references to King Midas’ cursed wish. Easy and effective, it’s a one-liner that shows Thug can put his own flair on some of rap’s most overused allusions.
10. Tomorrow Til Infinity: “B**ch, I keep a knife like Michael Myers / I was ’boutta stab ’em 30 times like porcupines / And I got rainbow diamonds on like Mike and Ikes.”
What really sells the Michael Myers line is the porcupine. Its quills are very painful, and if you had 30 of them lodged into any part of your body, you’d probably wish Myers would just end your suffering. Thug wants you to know the type of pain he’d inflict on you if you cross him, and he warns you while bragging about his candy-colored jewelry.
11. Mamacita: “I do not f**k with America / I get it straight off the boat.”
When it comes to these bars, it’s less about what Thug raps and more about how it’s being expressed. His staccato delivery almost makes them sound like a drug-smuggling nursery rhyme. Thug playfully hops across each and every word. These two lines remind us that Thug’s lyrical prowess isn’t just in his wordplay but in his delivery, too.
12. About the Money: “Bustin’ out the bando / A n**ga jewelry real metal like a can opener / I went from rags to riches to a feature with Tip / I went from Smart Card to a b**ch with some smart lips.”
The immediacy of Thug’s delivery here is what makes these lyrics such a highlight. He’s unrelenting, rhyming with a hunger that is fitting for an up-and-comer who raps alongside a vet. The way in which he quickly weaves together each and every word barely leaves listeners with enough time to catch up. It’s a testament to Thug’s versatility in which he is able to offer rapid-fire rhymes and effortlessly play with rhythmic pockets.
13. Minnesota: “I’m cooking bean on jelly beans / No need to smell it, all is clean / That money talking, Charlie Sheen.”
Aside from Thug’s smooth reference to Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker’s Money Talks, the second line is what makes this section from “Minnesota” great. It’s like he’s talking to a potential buyer and is assuring them that they can trust the product he’s been working hard to make.
14. Imma Ride: “My weed is loud and you smokin’ libraries.”
There are so many rap lines about weed out there, but this one may be one of the best. It’s obvious but not too obvious. Thugger encourages listeners to think a little bit about this bar. Your weed isn’t loud; it’s hushed, whispered and practically mute. It’s a hilariously smart line that’s delivered in a way only Thug can pull off.
15. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times): “I’ma ride in that p**sy like a stroller / I’ll survive in a mothaf**kin’ gutter / That’s my mothaf**kin’ woadie like the Nolia / And, and I’m comin’ red like Coke-Cola.”
You can imagine Thug’s arms stretched toward the sky and his diamonds glistening in the light, as he happily proclaims what he’s about to do in that first line. From there, he maintains the momentum of his opening, rap-singing the rest of his verse jubilantly. It’s a moment that shows how Thug’s lyricism is also in the way he expresses what he says.