JAS PRINCE: Back in 2006, I was in school but I had told my dad that I wanted to get into the music business. He told me that I had to look for the hottest thing, to find someone who had a buzz. MySpace had a music explore page at the time, and you could see who was trending by zip code or whatever. I ran across all types of artists on there, like Soulja Boy, but Drake was the one that caught my eye. He was ranked number one or two on the unsigned trending artists list. His page just said that his name was Drake and he was from Toronto, and there was a picture of him and he had a video on there for the song "Replacement Girl" with Trey Songz. You know how MySpace had a little radio player on the right side? He had a couple of songs on there, and I was listening to him like, Damn, he's pretty dope.
Drake was like, "Was that really Wayne?" You know how Drake talks. I told him I was gonna fly him into Houston because Wayne wanted to meet him, and we flew him in the next day. He was being courted by other people at that time, too. But I told him, "I'm gonna make you famous, I believe in you and I'm going to give it my all. I'm gonna do it, I have a plan."
Then we started working on the So Far Gone mixtape. Wayne was on tour around that time. One night, I think in San Francisco, we went up on stage before him and the crowd is yelling, "Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy!" And we all were looking at each other like, who the fuck is Jimmy? You got 15,000 people yelling Jimmy and we don't know who the hell Jimmy is but they have Drake's picture on the screen. Finally he's like, "That's my character on this show called Degrassi in Canada." I was like, "What the fuck, you act, too?"
Five years ago this week, Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan joined forces for their first and only official full-length project together, under the mentorship of New Orleans rap mogul Birdman. Rich Gang: Tha Tour Part 1, which was released on September 29, 2014, now feels like something of a blip in Thug and Quan's career; despite the grand ambitions that surrounded this would-be supergroup, it received no retail release, and its download numbers on mixtape sites trail behind those of Thug's Slime Season series. But that doesn't mean it wasn't one of the most influential mixtapes of the decade. In addition to introducing and solidifying Thug and Quan as some of hip-hop's most exciting new players, its irreverent, melodic take on trap music made it the standard-bearer for what rap would sound like for the next five years.
However flawed its rollout was, though, Tha Tour is a musical miracle, a 20-song mixtape with virtually no skips. Where event collaboration albums like Watch The Throne simply brought together two established MCs, Tha Tour represented something else: Two newer artists hitting their respective peaks in tandem. Other than perhaps Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y, nobody did more than Thug and Quan to open mixtape heads to the possibility that collaboration projects could be an outlet for the best work from both artists, not simply a fun side project. And the brotherly bond between them is so evident that it almost feels beside the point to view them competitively: They sound as in tune with each other as Jadakiss and Styles P, or André 3000 and Big Boi.
In those more innocent pre-Desiigner times, critics had initially dismissed Quan as a Future soundalike. But he established himself as his own man with his own flow on Tha Tour, giving incredible performances on "Freestyle" and "Milk Marie" and managing not to cede the spotlight to the more eccentric and attention-grabbing Thug, whose elastic vocal style, although clearly heavily indebted to Lil Wayne's influence at one point, was quickly becoming something unique and widely imitated in its own right. With quips like "She said it's my time like Flavor," Thug demonstrated an ear for subtly compressed punchlines; he didn't need to follow up his sideways reference to the giant clocks worn by Public Enemy star Flavor Flav with an unnecessary explanation, as other MCs might. The mixtape also served as a coming-out party for the two most important producers in Thug's career, with five amazing beats from "Lifestyle" producer London On Da Track and the first major production credit from Wheezy.
Birdman is largely a stoic kingpin sidekick on Tha Tour, much as he'd been on Big Tymers albums and Like Father, Like Son with Lil Wayne. But "Flava" features the best verse he'd delivered since "What Happened To That Boy," whether or not, like many Birdman verses, it was ghostwritten. And though he only raps a handful of times on the tape, his is the only voice that appears on every track, mostly in the form of mixtape drops of him saying the words "rich gang" (triumphantly, his voice rising in pitch) and "rich girl" (his voice lowering in pitch, as if to communicate some combination of tenderness, lust, and solidarity with financially empowered women everywhere.) Typically, he reserves the latter for a particularly romantic line, such as Quan's "Baby I'm a hot dog / You can be the relish."
Thug has experienced many victories and setbacks over the course of his career, but this year's triumphant So Much Fun was his first number 1 solo album on the Billboard 200, cementing his status as one of his generation's most beloved rappers. Rich Homie Quan has been less prominent than Thug since the Rich Gang breakup, although his double-platinum "Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)" was for a few years the biggest solo track either of them had released. And while his influence is less ubiquitous than Thug's, you can hear echoes of Quan's bluesy melodic sensibility in more recent Atlanta hitmakers like YFN Lucci and Derez De'Shon, or even Lil Nas X.
Even though Birdman's apparent dream of Tha Tour launching Cash Money's next generation of stars didn't exactly pan out, the tape established a blueprint for Southern rap in the second half of this decade. The ethereal instrumentals and crooned vocals of opener "Givenchy" point toward the the sing-song flows and quiet-storm production of recent pop rap hits like YK Osiris's "Worth It." The chemistry between Thug and Quan marked them as transitional figures in the evolution of Southern rap, splitting the difference between the darker Young Jeezy-dominated trap sound and the impish, playful, and even more feminine variant of trap proffered by SoundCloud stars like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty.
Sometimes you hear an album and know instantly that it'll be a classic. Track after track, it hits you, lightning striking the same place 10 to 15 times. You get that feeling of premature nostalgia, where you imagine yourself playing the album for your kids in 20 years and hoping they think that you're cool. Other times, you reluctantly listen to an album and know that you'll probably never hear it again. If you get all the way through it, you say to yourself, "That was fine," before putting on one of the albums like the former, that still makes you feel like you're hearing it for the first time. It's not the average album's fault; if everything were a classic, there would be no classics, right?
He continued, "I'm happy he made that quarter. [I laugh at his backhanded compliment] You know that's what he made. Why you laughing like that? And make sure you put all these details in. I'll never let you interview me again if you take that out. Keep it. But, look I know he made 250k off the whole season, and that's good. Tell him I said, 'Congratulations.'" 2b1af7f3a8