There is a certain mystique to Young Thug that can’t be ignored. Whether it’s his music, style, or personal life, it’s easy to become intrigued by his sudden rise in hip-hop.
His lyrics are often fast-paced, indecipherable, and reminiscent of jazz era scat singing. But his music also possesses an intoxicating quality that will have you humming the lyrics and hook after one listen. It’s hard to deny the allure of hits such as “Danny Glover,” “If It Ain’t About the Money” and “Lifestyle.”
When it comes to style, his eccentricity would suggest the fashion influences of Jimi Hendrix and, possibly, Motley Crew. Some may question his sense of style, but he’s daring to the point where he sets trends for his generation.
At 23, Young Thug has only begun to implement himself as a staple in hip-hop and pop culture.
But beyond the stoner music and bold sartorial style, Young Thug’s personal life is as much of an enigma as some of his lyrics, which may require time and patience to decode. Standing at 6-foot-3, he commands an entire room while saying very few words. He’s rarely interested in talking randomly to individuals outside his inner circle. He does most of his talking in the recording booth and leaves it up to everyone else to figure him out for themselves.
But on a muggy summer day, he met with rolling out at Studio 2B in Atlanta. Along with his fiancée, Jerrika Karlae, he was particularly willing to share his story.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Young Thug.
To begin to understand Young Thug, you must first learn about the things he cherishes most. His family, fiancée, friends, and fans are his biggest motivators. Everything else is secondary.
“I do it from the heart,” Young Thug says when speaking of giving back to his family. “I don’t do it for the fame. My mom got 11 kids. We struggled. But I [recently] bought everybody a car. I’m the type of person to put myself in everybody else’s shoes. If I was coming up and my sister had the money, I would want my sister to buy me a car. No matter what goes on, no matter if I go broke doing it. It’s hard for me to say, ‘No.’ ”
Young Thug often takes his fiancée with him to the homeless shelter so that they can give to the less fortunate. It’s a way for him to stay grounded and to never forget struggle while in the midst of his rise to stardom.
“The other day, I was getting furniture and [there] was a lady in there who wanted to buy something, but she didn’t have enough [money],” Young Thug revealed. “So I helped her get it. She didn’t know who I was. By the time I paid for everything, her kid got out the car and her kid [recognized me]. She just cried.”
Young Thug is willing to give so much because he had very little while being raised in the Jonesboro South housing project in South Atlanta. He understands how it feels to live without. His older brother was shot and killed while Young Thug was in elementary school and he has another brother who is in jail on murder charges. Given his opportunity, Young Thug doesn’t want to take anything for granted and encourages those around him to do the same.
He’s especially motivating to Karlae. The two fell in love after initially meeting at a studio and developing a strong relationship over time.
“I was in the process of starting my swimwear line and he would always ask about it,” Karlae says when discussing why she knew that Young Thug was the man she wanted to be with. “He always just seemed into me and my work. Something that I really liked about him was the fact that he was into something else besides saying, ‘Oh, she’s cute.’ He’s still like that to this day. He’s very concerned with what I’m doing with myself. Since we’ve got engaged, I’ve been chilling and he’s telling me that I have to start working and get back to my business. That’s the thing that I love about him.”
When it comes to the music business, several major labels and execs have been affiliated with Young Thug at some point since his initial start in 2011; however, the one person who has had the biggest influence on Young Thug is Cash Money CEO Birdman.
“Birdman helped because there is so much that he’s doing,” Young Thug says. “But when you’re close to him, you learn [how he does it]. I know [a lot] about him. When he got his first check, he signed and got $7 million. His next big check was when he was 18 years old and he signed for $30 million …”
Before his initial rise in rap, Young Thug was signed to Gucci Mane’s label, 1017 Records. And although there have been rumors of issues between the two, Young Thug still respects Gucci’s business acumen.
“Gucci and I are from the same set,” Young Thug says. “Gucci is going to make you a man. Gucci is going to make you a monster. Gucci is going to make you rich. Gucci is going to make you share. It’s hard to believe, too. He gave my partner some money. I’ve always been a sharing person. But he made me keep going because at one point, I was on the verge of not doing s— for anybody, because nobody was doing anything for me. But I’ll hear him say nobody does anything for him and that he does everything for everybody. But he still gives.”
Other artists who have co-signed Young Thug include T.I. (“All About The Money”); Nicki Minaj (“Danny Glovery” remix); and Drake. But Kanye West has provided keen advice and compares Young Thug to a music legend.
“[Kanye] didn’t have a phone for like three or four years,” Young Thug says. “When I first met him, I went to his house and he was like, ‘We gotta keep in touch; here’s my email.’ But he came on tour with Travis Scott and me. [Kanye] said he has a phone now because he has a wife. So he had to get a phone. But he called me Bob Marley. We [were] backstage at one of the tour dates at the Staples Center in L.A. and Kanye was backstage. He had a Beats Pill and was like, ‘I wanna hear all of your music in the world that’s not out.’ So I was letting him hear all the music. Then he said I was like Bob Marley and he wanted to do an album with me. I was like, ‘Let’s roll!’ He’s a fan. So that leads back to me saying fans are the main reason you stay motivated and become who you want to be. Kanye is like my brother, but he’s a real fan. He bought me some Yeezys and went on eBay to get them for me. That’s motivation.”
Young Thug doesn’t believe in being outworked. He may appear to be laid-back and extremely quiet in most circumstances, but he’s always thinking of ways to stay ahead musically. With his family intact and his fiancée Karlae serving as support, he’s more than prepared to reach his full potential. But more importantly, he’s comfortable with himself and has an idea of where he wants to go.
“You have to be yourself,” Young Thug says. “You can’t worry about what [anyone] in the world thinks. Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself. But I just want the up-and-coming artists to be [themselves]. Don’t worry about what [anyone] in the world thinks but God, your mom, dad and your kids if you have them. Keep going. If you stick to something for a long time, it’s gonna come. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you just wake up every day trying to work on a billion dollars, you’re gonna get a billion dollars.”
In Young Thug’s world, anything is possible.