Few rappers have ever done so much with their voice as Young Thug—not just the physical action of bending the muscles in the mouth, throat and tongue but in using certain vocal tics and affectations to generate momentum. One of the great rap albums, Young Thug’s 2016 album Jeffery is worth it just for how his voice skids dangerously on the word “sleep” on “Wyclef Jean” to tease that “Life on Mars”-worthy octave leap. How the ascending “what-what-what” chorus of “Swizz Beats” seems to do backflips in midair. That third “earn” that rockets into the heavens on “Riri.” Everything is melted down into a hook with Thugger, and you’ll find yourself singing individual lines or even noises at least as often as the actual hooks. It’s one of the most audacious ways anyone has made pop, and the album establishes him as artist, stylist, star—and star child.
It’s exhilarating; but it also inexplicably features the turgid six-minute posse cut “Floyd Mayweather” as its second track, killing nearly all the momentum generated by opener “Wyclef Jean.” This edit shuffles “Floyd” to last, an idea ripped from a YouTube full-album video I briefly enjoyed in spite of the tracklist being entirely wrong (perhaps to deter sound-recognition software used to sniff out copyrighted content). I wish I could credit the creator of the original video, but Thugger’s lawyers got to it first. In its stead, here’s a Resequence that finds some of the momentum the original sequencing sorely lacks. I call it Jeffery: the Rudy Van Gelder Edition.
1. Wyclef Jean
2. Swizz Beatz
3. Kanye West
4. Future Swag
5. Pick Up the Phone
10. Floyd Mayweather
Songs omitted: None
This has to open the album. The record hits full throttle as soon as his voice jumps that octave and he starts caterwauling about his Franck Muller watch. By opening with such a curious image to represent the scale of his money—I, for one, thought of the old story about Dido founding Carthage—it tells us we’re looking not only at a star but a dude with a very different way of thinking about things.
This builds upon the good health of “Wyclef” and takes it to gymnastic heights. By bumping Jeffery’s third song up to second, the album achieves liftoff and barrels forward instead of stagnating.
This should deepen the album the way “Floyd” wants to. It completes a triptych of songs about how great Young Thug is, except instead of puffing his chest he’s cooing as if soothing his own baby self. It’s a Nativity scene with himself as Jesus, and to have Wyclef Jean play a wise man as the album’s first guest prepares us more adequately for the album’s strangeness.
Just right at number four. It’s one of the weaker cuts, and four is a great slot to stash a less-than-great song. Plus, it sounds better coming after the relatively quiet “Kanye” and picks the energy back up for a central core of bangers.
“Pick Up the Phone”
Technically a “bonus track,” but what does that mean in an era where physical formats are a niche product? To paraphrase Quavo, best not to discriminize. This was a tricky one to sequence, as it cuts off so abruptly it’s hard to transition it into anything. I considered cutting it, but it’s too good a song to do dirty like that.
Not a seamless transition, but least the horror-movie synths at the end of “Pick Up the Phone” warn us of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins hijinks of the album’s most extreme vocal take.
A whole album at the pitch of “Future Swag” would be overwhelming, so “Guwop” and its spidery dub-techno synths lead us into deeper territory. This is another posse cut, and as Thug’s so magnetic the two Migos who guest on the track, plus Gucci Mane affiliate Young Scooter, kind of fade into ambient squabbling. This is where things mellow out
Another one in the proper slot. This is Thug exhaling and blowing out steam. It’s the album’s prettiest song, the distant snatch of MIDI guitar perhaps illustrating his stoned rant about how nice his watch is (“it glow green at night… and when the sun hit it on the plane… you understand?”)
Let’s have this one as the climax. Thugger’s watch bit segues nicely into the “so I just came out the booth” babble on “Riri.” Isaac Hayes used to monologue for minutes on end on his classic songs. Why not let Thug talk for a while?
This song has always been a fly in the ointment for me. It doesn’t even start on a promising note: if we thought for a second Thugger actually stood by the post-gender philosophy the dress he rocks on the cover implies, wait until we hear the emasculating insults he hurls at a rival as the song begins. Then it’s another six minutes of his Atlanta buddies, none particularly working at the peak of their powers. Why not just cut it? Because it works as an anticlimax. Let’s pretend this is the bonus track instead of “Pick Up the Phone,” and we could say it’s a victory lap he’s earned.
Listen to Daniel’s version of Jeffrey here: