A couple of weeks ago, Havier from the duo The Sidewayz Facebook messaged: “Dude, you made me start listening to Young Thug. Never thought I’d say this buuuuut thank you for that… Shit’s like pop art dude. The nigga’s the rap Andy Warhol.” A day later, he offered to write a whole piece about it for P&P, explaining that he’s not a writer, but he knows his rap. This is his piece.
By The Sidewayz
What do Young Thug and Andy Warhol have in common? Everything.
Well, maybe not everything—but the important stuff, the things that matter when you’re at the center of an artistic revolution—they have a lot those things in common. From their personal style to their similar approaches to creating art, these two men from very different backgrounds share something that is hard to articulate… but we all it know when we see or hear it.
It’s undeniable. It’s addictive. It’s simply It.
I was introduced to Young Thug’s music around this time last year, when an internet friend suggested I listen to him. But it wasn’t one of those, “Hey, you should check out this song” suggestions. It was more like, “Who, YOUNG THUG? Oh he’s just the new God and you’d be a fool to deny him” type of suggestion. Usually I don’t put too much weight into a person’s stan-like fandom for an artist. We all have those few icons who could get us to jump off a bridge if we ever met them (M.I.A and Banksy are on my short list), but this internet friend just so happened to be the creator of Pigeons & Planes, Confusion.
This internet friend was giving me the scoop from the front lines of hip-hop, so I had to pay attention. Being a rapper myself, it can be hard to keep up with other young rappers because I’m too focused on spitting that hot fire while staying in my own lane, and I don’t listen to other rappers and blah blah blah. Anyway, I gave Young Thug a try and I was really, really confused for real for real, to say the least.
For one, I couldn’t even understand 90% of the lyrics, and the ones I did understand were about as memorable as a TV commercial. The things he rapped about seemed like they could come from any Atlanta 20-something. I wasn’t impressed. In fact, I was the opposite of impressed. I was disgusted. I mean, here was this young dude Auto-Tune rapping about shit that wouldn’t make my middle school self pull out a dictionary, and this was the leader of the rap revolution?
As a rapper and deep thinker myself, my big-ass ego was bruised. I shut off the music and put on some Jay Z to wash away the Auto-Tuned echoes ringing in my ears. But then Jay name-dropped Andy Warhol in “Picasso Baby,” and I had an epiphany.
Young Thug is the rap game’s Andy Warhol. If you know anything about art, then you know that Andy Warhol pissed off a lot of critics and art snobs when he started printing pictures of Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. He didn’t draw sprawling pastoral landscapes, or splash gallons of paint on huge canvases, or paint pictures inspired by Greek mythology.
Instead, he made dozens of the same soup cans with slight variations and sold them for a lot of guap. Was he trying to send a message to the old guard? No. He did it because he could. He did it because it was easy. He did it because it was fresh, new, and different. He did it because it made him rich, and when you’re busy getting rich you don’t give a fuck about anybody saying, “Hey stop! You can’t do that!”
When Andy was on the come-up, screen printing was a pretty new technique that made it super easy to shell out dozens of soup cans and soda bottle pictures in no time at all. The post-war popularity of new technology (like Campbell’s mass production) ran parallel to our nation’s obsession with movie stars, which made it easy to sell pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in every color of the rainbow. Why spend hours drawing pictures by hand when you’ve already tapped the cultural pulse?
Andy (probably) asked himself that same thing and (probably) said to himself, “Nah bruh. Miss me with that bullshit. I’m finna get this bread right quick,” and ended up changing the entire fucking world’s ideals on art in the process. Pretty soon everybody was on his jock asking him why this and why that, all while he’s cranking out masterpieces in in mere minutes—with the help of a few uppers here and there. Fast forward to the mid naughties, and you have Young Thug goofing around on the internet, giving us millennials exactly what we want, even if we don’t know it. He’s giving us our soup cans and we’re eating it up.
After thinking about this, I had to listen to Thugger again, and I’ve been listening ever since. The same way you couldn’t ask Andy Warhol why he screen printed Coke bottles a thousand times, you can’t ask Young Thug why he raps about bitches with booties like Hummers. The same way Andy’s silver wig and one-word answers made him the weirdest guy in a room full of weird people, you can’t get mad at Young Thug when he wear’s tutus and leopard prints, gives zero-word answers, or trolls you on the Instagram with some super out-there behavior.
Andy Warhol once said that in the future, everyone would have their fifteen minutes of fame. Lo and behold, Vine is out here making stars in six second increments. Young Thug even did Andy one better, claiming he can make a perfect song in ten minutes. Why? Because he fucking can, and in the end, you can’t deny a true artist. You can only love him or hate him.