Young Thug Credit: Connor Rathbone

Young Thug doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone anymore. In the early 2010s he emerged from the hotbed of Atlanta, the city that’s largely set hip-hop’s tone this decade, and his every heart-wrenching warble and hair-raising screech seemed to add speed to his ascent. His fluid flow has inspired some of Atlanta’s latest rising rappers, some of whom have released music through his YSL Records label—and three of whom, Gunna, Lil Baby, and Lil Keed, appear on Thug’s latest full-length, August’s So Much Fun (300/Atlantic). They mostly get lost in the noise, though, because Thug recruited more than a dozen guest artists for the album—and their performances largely demonstrate what a peerless force he remains. And while Juice Wrld and Lil Uzi Vert seem more likely than Thug to shape hip-hop’s future, their guest spots prove that neither is immune to his charms. On “What’s the Move,” Uzi seems happy to play the role of assistant, ceding much of the track to the star of the show. When Thug switches from half-singing in a deep, sensual quaver to rapping tightly wound verses in a high-pitched yawp, his turn-on-a-dime dexterity makes him sound freakishly alien, even as he conveys ordinary human vulnerability. It’s no wonder he has some of rap’s biggest young stars under his spell.   v