Under Piff'd Off, British writer Anthony Walker chats every month about the best in current mixtape culture.
Earlier this month, when T-Pain was discussing his solo return with Hartford, Conneticut's Hot 93.7 he had choice words for the new generation of rapper-turnt-singer. Future “is writing great songs,” T-Pain explained: “[but] as far as how he uses Auto-Tune… I think he’s thinking you just turn it on, and it happens. There’s a lot of stuff you’ve gotta know about Auto-Tune before you can start using it, because it’s the hot thing to do. ” The mid-2000s Auto-Tune standard bearer – who stormed the charts and was the expert Kanye West flew in specially when he was recording '808s & Heartbreak' – has a point but misses the larger picture. He may strive for clarity and a touch of Roger Troutman vocoder nostalgia when he distorts his voice but Future clearly isn't interested in that. His voice is fraught and futuristic: cutting through tracks and spreading a metallic sheen over everything that actually highlights any imperfections. His debut album 'Pluto' is eccentric,intense and – though the space stuff is mostly conceit – his music is meant to be genuinely dynamic and transformative. If anything, Future would want to sound more like Cher on 'Believe' than he does T-Pain.
Future started out making hit songs like 'Racks' for the strip clubs in his city but his recent success has moved him into another bracket – more artist-musician and less personality-performer. It's a path that his contemporaries are obviously keen to follow but, though young rappers who use Auto-Tune are not hard to find, the jump from local hitmaker to chart-topping songwriter has proved tricky. Cash Out actually managed to top the US rap chart last year with his anthem 'Cashin' Out' but the follow-ups have been neutered in comparison and similarly Rich Kidz – a duo who do a boys-next-door thing surprisingly well, thanks in no small part to member Skool Boy's golden voice – followed the very good 'Everybody Eat Bread' with the t00-grizzled 'Straight Like That 3' last year. Another, Rich Homie Quan, sounds extremely similar to Future and deals with the same dilemmas but lacks the necessary force or character to match him.
You just have to give full credit to someone who calls himself Young Thug Mufasa, acknowledges the cash he's thrown has paid for presents for stripper's nieces or describes his diamonds as dancing like Pikachu (they gon' wink at you).
Of anyone, Young Thug is the most promising. The first name that comes to mind when you hear is voice is often Lil Wayne and he himself has noted his desire to follow on where Weezy left off: rekindling the time when his un-mediated ramblings and outbursts managed an astonishing hit-rate. He often lands somewhere between sprite and gremlin and uses Auto-Tune to define youthful exuberance rather than gritty dramas: just as broad as Future's but pitched higher and twice as lively. You could argue that he's merely an approximation of Wayne and Future but that would be unfair. His lyrics are odd and coloured with more than a few scatological puns but he's more a personable joker than a conscious innovator, and whilst he uses Auto-Tune for a comparable effect his tracks - notably 'Haiti Slang' - show experimentations running parallel to the trademark Freebandz staccato or anything else.
He recently signed to Gucci Mane's 1017 label and his latest mixtape '1017 Thug' could have a few more features from older friends but continues on from his 'I Came From Nothing' trilogy well. It starts off steady with 'Yeah Yeah' but the next song '2 Cups Stuffed' is a more accurate mission statement with a slurred introductory verse quickly descending into an near-incomprehensible chant that sets the tone for the rest of the tape: Young Thug, basically, is a bundle of energy often falling over himself to shout about the new thing on his mind. He's a sharp and bright thinker, and you just have to give full credit to someone who calls himself Young Thug Mufasa, acknowledges the cash he's thrown has paid for presents for stripper's nieces gifts or describes his diamonds as dancing like Pikachu (they gon' wink at you).
The music is all about jubilation in the present and finer details fall like happy accidents or lucid moments rather than pre-planned machinations
Another refreshing thing about him is that while his style is singular, his themes stay flexible: others have faltered because they second-guess an audience – catering love songs too knowingly or making hard songs with obvious affectations – but Young Thug goes for everything with the same zeal and often combines his obsessions into the striking (like screaming “I'll shoot at you and your ho like a porno movie” on the chorus to 'Condo Music') and the sideways (like affectionately telling a girl “You don't have to walk no more/No wheelchair” on 'Miss U'). It's neither very considered nor profound but it's important that he doesn't tame his eccentricities because, firstly, it's fun and, secondly, the best way to find that hit is to ceaselessly trawl through all the rest; Future, don't forget, found last year's purest love song stumbling through the VIP lounge and suddenly realising that his girl's beamer was a loaner and he wanted better.
The music is all about jubilation in the present and finer details fall like happy accidents or lucid moments rather than pre-planned machinations. Ignoring the limits – of moral decency, emotional tact, processing software – is at the heart of the best Atlanta Auto-Tuners and it's most alive in Young Thug right now.