Young Thug wants to talk about faith. More specifically, he wants to talk about the faith that we should have in him, the kind he’s always had in himself. At numerous points during our phone conversation, he dances around the low points of the last few years and the arrests, familial struggles, commercial disappointments, and the critical grumblings that followed. Instead, Thug wants to bask in the positivity of this moment and the potential in the immediate future. His latest album, So Much Fun, is projected to sell between 125,000 – 150,000 equivalent album units in its first week, which is not only the biggest solo week of his career, but good enough to potentially notch him his first chart-topping album. The project’s lead single, “The London,” which features J. Cole and Travis Scott, is the most successful single as a lead artist of his career and everyone from Post Malone to Ed Sheeran to Lil Nas X have employed his talents in recent months.
“I’ve been going through the storm,” he says. “Once this album goes number one, the storm is over. The storm been calmed. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted it to be fun, because I felt like this album was going to go number one. I felt like it was going to be the highest-charting album in my career. I felt like everything that’s happening; I felt that it would happen and deep down I was going through a lot. That’s why I wanted to make it So Much Fun, because I wanted to really fall back on this and be like, ‘Damn, this is really [how I] overcome oppression and struggle.'”
After a half-decade of industry and media-led prognostication, Thug’s market heights finally match his outsized influence. In conversation, the Atlanta wunderkind dissolves all preconceived notions that have built up over the years about the formerly reclusive star. The central narrative of Thug’s career was one of inflexibility — of interviews avoided, rollouts botched, unending leaks, projects seemingly abandoned — but now, at least over the phone, he radiates a calm energy. Thug knows he’s built a career on his inscrutable nature, but his evolution leading a new generation of stars (Gunna, Lil Keed) on his YSL Records and having conversations with the likes of Jay-Z make the future clear, at least to him. Someone needs to be the new Tupac.
If projections hold true, So Much Fun, will be your highest first sales week. Does commercial success like that matter to you?
No, it don’t really matter to me, because it’s a sport. It’s not numbers to me, but it matters, the growth. I just want people to know that there’s a such thing as growing. There’s a such thing as faith, have faith in me. That’s the only reason why I care about the numbers at this point. Other than that I don’t really care about numbers, because I’ve seen artists sell a million records in a week and can’t sell out a show. They sell out 5,000 tickets, but you sold a million copies in one week. I’ve seen artists sell 10,000 copies, and then your tour sell out as soon as you put it on the market. I don’t really care for that. The only reason why I care for it this time is because I want people to see the growth and [have] faith in me.
Emotionally or mentally, where were you at during the creation of this album?
I’ve always had faith. So it wasn’t nothing that I was going through that I didn’t have faith or didn’t think could be done or happen. It was more about faith and perfect timing with me. I feel like it was the perfect time to put it out. My headspace was perfect. I always had a perfect headspace when it came to music even if my money was low, even if I had problems at home or even if I had problems in the real world or even if I had doubters or even if I had open cases or judgmental people. I never ever cracked under pressure on those types of things. I always kept a balance, and I was able to overcome any type of obstacle.
Did J. Cole really executive produce the album?
You guys have to ask him that. We have non-disclosures. We have forms we have to sign. He’s kind of like a prince at this point. It’s like, if anything comes out about him, he would like for him to put it out.
There have been a lot more videos, interviews, and high-profile features for you this year. What inspired you to do be more open with your fans and with press?
The fact that I never let people in and I always stayed tight when it came to that, because of critics. You know just simple things. Things that wouldn’t tear me down, but things that would tear people around me down, those sorts of things.
For much of 2018, it felt like you were investing in YSL and all the artists that you have on that label. How does being a label boss differ from your individual career?
My career is more about me, more about my label, sitting down having meetings discussing my business, my life, my whereabouts, my where-beings, and the label is nothing about me. It’s all about other people.
How does it feel seeing Lil Keed and Gunna becoming stars in their own right?
I feel naturally happy about it. I think I always knew the ground that those guys could shake-up. It wasn’t much of a surprise with me as it was with you guys and critics and fans. It wasn’t such a surprise for me, because I’ve always believed Gunna, Keed, and Lil Baby to be exact all of those these like my lil’ brothers. I done gave all them the game from my standpoint.
What was it like collaborating with a Lil Baby or Gunna on this album? You sound rejuvenated. It seems like a different Thug when you’re on a track with them.
Just those guys being who they are and coming up in the game and being able to take care of family and do things that I’ve been able to do for the past 10 years, it just gives me a different type of boost. Then me knowing that I was one of the reasons that they’re where they are. You know, on a very humble scale, I was one of the reasons not physically, but mentally. I was a real mentor for these guys lives to keep them on the path that they’re on. Don’t spend money. Don’t do this. Don’t make the mistakes I’ve [made]. It makes me so happy.
These guys are making a way for themselves, and I really wanted this. It’s not nothing that just had to happen. It’s not like “Lil Baby ‘bout to blow up so you got to gottdamn ride his coattails.” It’s like nah, Lil Baby was my little brother. I was giving Lil Baby 20,000, 50,000 dollars. Me and him just swapping money with each other before he start rapping. It wasn’t about an image. It was more about real love and purity, structure. That’s what keeps me boosted is seeing those guys be able to do what I’ve been doing and keeping it up and not falling off.
Do you still enjoy being a rapper or does the life of being a celebrity ever get to you?
I prayed for it my whole life. So I don’t think I ever be over it. I enjoy it every single day. I enjoy taking pictures. I enjoy people asking for pictures even the days I don’t take pictures I still enjoy people asking me. If I don’t take pictures I be like, “No, I don’t like taking pictures, but thank you so much.” I can’t ever get tired of it. I hear other artists saying they get tired and it’s draining. I don’t understand. Maybe they didn’t have the dream I had. I always dreamed for these things. So I don’t think I can ever get tired of it, because I really prayed for it.
What will separate Punk from So Much Fun?
So Much Fun is like nothing to be thought about. It’s only for fun purposes. The name of the album is directly what it means. There’s no static to it. It’s just so much fun. I don’t even want you to think when you listen to this even if I’m saying a metaphorical bars or anything. I don’t want it to be nothing thought too hard about. I want it to be only party. If you’re not partying, if it’s not Friday you just got your paycheck you in the car with your friends, if you not in the club drunk, if you not just having fun doing whatever you feel like, don’t play this album.
The difference from that and Punk is Punk is me letting them in on my real life. Me letting them know all the situations I’ve been through. Opening up, letting the fans in, I feel like I never let ‘em. I feel like I was always quite about certain things, because of people.
With people starting to rank the best albums of the decade, personally which of your albums do you think is your best or favorite?
I would like to say Punk is, even though it’s not out. My best album would probably be Punk, because it’s more like real life. It’s more like Tupac. Tupac could be one of the biggest rappers in the world, because he rapped what he rapped about. I had conversations with Jay-Z and he told me, ‘We gotta learn how to continue what Pac had going. Pac was a teacher. Pac teaches.’ This album Punk that I’m going to put out soon is probably going to be the best album, because it really teaches you, gives you life situations, it’s teaching I’m human. I am you. I am him. It’s very verbal. I think it’ll probably be the best album even though it’s not out.
What inspired you and Future to include Lil Baby and Gunna on Super Slimey 2?
The impact that Lil Baby [and Gunna had] when they dropped theirs [project]. We always compared it like “Damn, there’s no such thing as a better duo, except those guys.” Then these like our little brothers, for real. Future really dropped knowledge on these guys. We dropped knowledge on each other. Sometimes they drop knowledge on us to now. We dropped knowledge on these guys and we feel like it’s just the right thing to do. Anything other than that is unacceptable. Like saying that there’s not a better duo or anything than Gunna and Baby was. So I feel like we needed to combine those two, Super Slimey 2.
What do you personally think is the biggest misconception people still have about you?
Who I am. I’m still misunderstood.
Do you think people will ever understand who you are?
People still misunderstood. You know I’m going to put this album out Punk, and it’s going to let them know a little about my life, let them know a little bit about life itself. I don’t think I want to make them to understand. I like to say that I’m misunderstood. It keeps it tense. It keeps it perfect.