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This or That? Slim Thug vs. Young Thug

Slim Thug and Young Thug share the same burden of destined stardom, though one carried it years ago and the other faces it today. The original Thugga was flirting with the spotlight in 2005, when his debut album, ‘Already Platinum,’ dropped on Pharrell’s Star Trak label. A year before, he’d featured on Mike Jones’ biggest single, ‘Still Tippin,’ boosting his exposure to the public at large just in time for Thug’s album. But it came a lot earlier than expected – an advance copy of the album leaked in October 2004, prior to the expected ’05 release.

It f–ked things up for Slim, to say the least. His ’3 Kings’ single with T.I. and Bun B also dropped in ’04, so to have his entire album available for free just as his new single came out was a serious problem. The original LP also had songs that were later cut from the final version, including the sultry ‘Chicken Strip’ with Pharrell, a stuttering track called ‘Problematic,’ and the Dipset-esque ‘Move Somethin.’ Jay-Z was originally on ‘I Ain’t Heard Of That,’ and even blogger Byron Crawford, who hates everything, reviewed the advance for his website and gave it a positive write up. Whether it was the Neptunes production that fed off off their peak success or Thug’s baritone scowl, which Tom Breihan said sounded like it had “been echoing over canyons and through caves since before time began,” Slim Thug was central in the mainstream conversation. But repeated delays didn’t allow the album to drop until July, and despite the album getting critical praise across the board, Thug had already lost steam.

The advance version was undoubtedly better (‘Do It For U’ is what happens when a Southern slab lover meets N.E.R.D. swing), but Thug was doing his thing before Pharrell ever came into the picture. The rapper from Houston’s northside was originally signed to Swishahouse after being discovered by DJ Michael “5000″ Watts in the late ’90s and joined the ranks of Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire. Inspired by DJ Screw’s S.U.C., Swishahouse utilized the same chopped and screwed style on mixtapes like 2001′s ‘Let Ya Nutz Hang,’ featuring slowed-down songs and freestyles from Swishahouse artists. It’s on tapes like these where Slim Thug first began to gain recognition, and through his countless freestyles, he became one of the most respected spitters in the Swishahouse camp.

it pays to keep in mind that while Houston rappers like Slim Thug and Lil’ Flip were seeing success from major singles, they were also contemporaries with Lil’ Jon and the Ying Yang Twins, who had asserted their dominance on the airwaves with chart smashing singles like ‘Get Low’ and ‘Salt Shaker.’ Thug’s brand of rap was less ornate, and while it still worked in the club, his brand of more traditional rap was being overshadowed by Lil Jon’s gigantic crunk movement.

Young Thug is an outlier of Atlanta, where rappers like Future and Migos have churned out recent hits and helped fuel the city’s rise to recent rap prominence. Thugger put out his first mixtape, ‘I Came From Nothing,’ in 2011, and has gone on record to say that he was heavily influenced by Lil’ Wayne when he started. Three years later, he still is, but he’s taken that alien persona and transmogrified himself into a creature of outerspace. He doesn’t need to say he’s a martian – he actually sounds like one on his records.

Thug is the one to watch in rap right now. He released back-to-back viral sensations with ‘Danny Glover’ and ‘Stoner’ last year, both of which have prompted everyone from Nicki Minaj to Slim Thug himself to make their own versions. Now the whole industry is holding their breath for his next single ‘Eww,’ supposedly featuring the ever-vampiric Drake, to drop while the seedy details of his transfer from Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad to Lyor Cohen’s 300 are finalized. It’s very possible that like Slim Thug, many will lose interest by the time he gets around to organizing and releasing a proper album, but his latest single, ‘The Blanguage,’ took Drake’s ‘Language’ to new levels thanks to Metro Boomin’s stunning production and Thug’s fearless vocal exploration. He’s still the rap world’s object of fascination.

The two Thugs have drastically different styles. Slim relies on his drawl to stand out from the crowd, which has been hard to do since Pharrell inflated his image years ago, while Young Thug seems to lose his mind on wax, often launching into indecipherable words, sounds and screeches throughout any given track. He uses phrases few understand, which serves his “not of this earth” persona, and he often breaks into song, further strangling the already blurred line that Drake and Future have toed in their rap & B approaches.

As it stands today, Young Thug is a bigger deal in hip-hop, and he may historically end up holding a more memorable position than Slim Thug, even though the memory might unfortunately be tied to his unorthodox style of dress and banter on Instagram. Slim didn’t do much to change the game, although a Southern rapper on Neptunes beats was shocking at the time. Young Thug is poised to bring a post-Atlanta sound to the rap world, one that sculpts hits out of the most outlandish of sounds. If he can balance oddity with the right dose of melody, he’ll be around for longer than many anticipate.

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