Young Thug Is More Relevant Than Eminem In 2016

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Simmer your butthurt reactions down, this isn’t trolling or click bait, it’s true, and this article will prove it. Young Thug preys upon hip hop’s pretty hilarious fear of anything even remotely gay; and this translates into attention. Eminem used to have this skill down, but in 2016 it’s growing old.

In 2016 Eminem and Thug both make music. The difference is that Eminem has been making music for 20 years and Thug has been making music for 5. Surprising to some the two rappers actually have something in common; controversy. In ’99 hip hop’s shiny suit era was in full swing, until Eminem’s brand of wife murdering, mum raping, gay bashing hip hop made headlines. And now, where hip hop is struggling between a macho identity and hipster fashion sense, Young Thug:

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Of course the difference is substance. A thing that Eminem has that Thug does not, in spades. A thing that isn’t quite as respected as it once was. The Kendrick’s and Cole’s have platinum top 20 charting singles; but Kendrick’s is a catchy song about drinking with chorus that allows you to ignore the deeper message; and Cole’s highest charting songs are all about sex. Not to say that they’re without substance, but their equally great singles with deeper messages tend to go overlooked in the mainstream.

Drake is the biggest rapper and his two biggest singles are about a girlfriend who used to call him and wanting to have a single dance.

Maybe substance will sell well into the millions again someday, but right now a catchy beat and/or hook is everything. Young Thug is the rapper that exemplifies this generation. His biggest songs? One is intelligible and the other is a nursery rhyme song about friendship. And people love it. Maybe not you, but there are people who love it. Em released his last studio album in 2013, since then Thug has released EIGHT official solo projects and as a result has crept further and further up the charts.

In 2016 quantity is king.

Just not this much quantity. ‘Campaign Speech‘ boasts Eminem’s hyper technical rap style, which is good. But nothing else, which is bad. There’s barely any content and….NO DRUMS!!! And most pointedly, the song is nearly 8 minutes. An 8 minute freestyle with no beat is the antithesis of everything that is 2016.

In 2016 we have Vine videos (had R.I.P). 7 second videos that tell entire stories; we watch entire seasons of TV in a day and have an app for everything else. Everything is faster and our attention spans are shorter. When Em started rapping, the standard song had 3 verses, now it’s 2. It’s a big ask to get someone to listen to 3 verses much less an 8 minute song. Hip hop has shifted back into a golden era where club music isn’t just a facet, but the dominant part of the culture. New dances come with an instructional song that sinks just as fast as it appears. Talent isn’t enough to hold an audience’s attention anymore.

And Eminem is aware of this. He always has been, since the start of his career. Em knew just being a great rapper wasn’t enough, hence the wife murdering, mum raping, gay bashing. He shocked everyone into paying attention. But 30 million records later he still feels he needs to do that and it’s sounding really tired. Case in point:

Fart jokes and celeb bashing that wouldn’t earn you a high school detention. When Eminem runs out of ideas he makes ‘We Made You’. But when he’s on he makes…

Everyone loves ‘Rap God‘, but ‘Rap God‘ isn’t just a good song with a fun part where he raps fast. It’s the perfect representation of Eminem. The song is taken from his 8th album and while the song is essentially about Em being a ‘rap god’ it actually covers some other topics.

Everything from paying homage to his influences to discussing why after all this time his music means so much to his fans. It manages to be one of the most impressive freestyles as well as one of the greatest Eminem songs ever. So while every single song recorded can’t be ‘Rap God‘, there is a certain expectation when Eminem releases new music.

Rap God’ also tells us something else about Eminem. A thing he’s been saying for a while.

‘See if I get away with it now, that I ain’t as big as I was…’

Despite being one of the most acclaimed rappers ever, Eminem still struggles with confidence. He has from the start of his career and it is one of his most endearing qualities. His vulnerabity is one of the reasons his music has been so appealing. The same vulnerability that seen him work harder than most to prove himself. The same vulnerability that results in his trademark ‘shock rap’ in 2016.

In ’99 was a breath of fresh air, to quote an executive at Em’s record label:

‘He’s rappin’ about big-screen T.V.s, blunts, 40’s and bitches. You’re rappin’ about homosexuals and Vicodin’

With lyrics that unashamedly depicted his poverty and insecurities, Em added to depth to what on the surface was just ‘shock rap’. But this shock rap sold 5 million copies in the US alone. The Marshal Mathers LP dropped with more shock rap and it sold 10 million copies (32 million world-wide). But over a decade later the album isn’t remembered for shock rap; the most memorable moments are the incredible songwriting displayed on ‘Kim‘ and ‘Stan‘ and the raw emotive rap on ‘The Way I Am‘ and the title track. Eminem proved himself as a credible mc, but with each album after that the first single was also comedic shock rap. Discussing 4th album Encore he mentioned that he wanted to go with serious political anti-George Bush song ‘Mosh‘, but instead went with more comedy shock rap on ‘Just Lose It‘. And 5 years later  working on comeback album:

‘I’d had conversations with Dre over the years about what people wanted f rom me. I was hearing all these things about what if Em comes back and the different ways he needs to reinvent himself as a completely diff erent person. Dre was just like, “Man, people want to see you, they just want to hear you get the fuck out there again.” I don’t know if it was the first, second, third time he said it to me but then it just clicked. Like, “He is right.” I don’t feel like I need to reinvent myself, I feel like I just need to go back to doing what made me me in the first place.’

Eminem’s biggest problem is despite all of the awards, record sales, acclaim and respect from rap fans; there are still parts of him that feels he has something to prove. This is despite the fact that he is the most feared rapper…no, artist alive. This is based on the fact that Eminem is pretty much the only artist who can diss someone and they take it as a compliment. And rappers are famously sensitive (just dial your mind back to the ridiculous Drake/Meek Mill/Game beef/any rap beef post Jay & Nas) but every rapper has pretty much bent over to acknowledge that Em is not to be messed with. From The Game throwing his hands up on the third verse of ‘We Ain’t‘ and declaring:

Em just murdered me on my own shit

To Drake at his most confident in 6God mode, pre-emptively squashing a beef with Em based on a false rumour. Drake later replied to Pusha T who has been sending shots for years, but wouldn’t dare try Eminem as he was well aware the damage he could do to his career. The only rapper more beloved than Eminem is Pac. Jay? People try Jay all the time and then get on records with him. Jay has certainly cemented his place in hip hop history but no one in hip hop inspires the fear/respect that Eminem does. Jay considers himself the greatest rapper alive, yet even won’t dare get on a record with Em again.

So I guess the only question is: Why doesn’t Eminem believe in himself like the world does? Why does he feel the need to try to be relevant with celebrity disses and shock rap? Honestly? No one is shocked anymore. A billion ideas ready to top the darkest thing Em has ever said are just a Google search away. Eminem hasn’t been around for 20 years because of how shocking his music is; it’s because there is literally no one who can touch him in on a track and when he’s focused and filters out expectations he is the rap god.

It’s highly unlikely we’ll be talking about Young Thug in 5 years much less 20, but he represents a time and only a few artists have the talent to transcend that. Ye, Jay and Em (honourable mention to Snoop) These artists don’t follow trends, they create them. Eminem’s legacy is cemented but his technical abilities show he has so much left to give. His new album will be dope and sell millions, but is it too much to ask he leave the jokes at home?