It’s been a dazzling year for hip-hop, with stars new and old releasing quality projects. However, two of the game’s biggest superstars stood above the rest by showcasing their knack for taking over someone else’s song. The question is, who did it better in 2020, Future or Young Thug?
To put it lightly, 2020 isn’t making anyone’s short-list for the best year ever. Despite that fact, it has been a surprisingly fascinating and successful year for Hip-Hop. The Drakes and Kendricks set the year aside from a few features and are content to wait until 2021.
Meanwhile, the younger generation showed themselves ready for the big (virtual) stage as Lil Baby and Gunna, amongst others, started building their mainstream credentials.
In the midst of all this going on in the rap world, two staples, Young Thug and Future, remained focused. They unleashed a string of features that positioned themselves as the top two hired guns when artists need a hit.
The Case for Future
In terms of raw output, Future’s work ethic puts him in a class of his own. This year alone, Hendrix put out the 21-track “High Off Life” and followed up this week with “Pluto x Baby Pluto,” his joint album (+ deluxe version) with Lil Uzi Vert. However, for this exercise, none of those tracks are in consideration. We’ve come to know what to expect from most Future-focused projects.
For over a decade, we’ve listened to Future’s signature mix of rampant misogyny, and his addiction-aided vulnerability take turns (often in the same song) bouncing off trap beats and Metro Boomin shout outs. Feature Future maintains a lot of those same characteristics but exists free of the restrictions of Album Mode. In those cases, he’s able to lean further into the eccentricities that make him special.
I’ll admit, the first time I heard Future while on “Pardon Me,” I threw my phone. Thirty seconds in, before we even hear Lil Yachty, I had to pick up my phone and start over. Over a Mike Will Made-It beat that seems perfectly crafted for Future’s rolling flow (and sounding sonically similar to the unreleased Future-Mike collab “Al Sharpton”), the best version of Future shines through.
As soon as the song starts, Future’s in attack mode. He boasts from the hook, “Pardon me; I’ve been still acting poor” all the way through his closing verse, “counting all this money I might just OD.”
This bookend of boastfulness suffocates an inspired, yet ultimately inconsequential verse from Yachty. When Future was doing this interview, he knew that wouldn’t be the last time he took charge of a Yacht.
The Case for Young Thug
If Future’s signature is his unwavering commitment to his brand, Young Thug specializes in adaptability. Expanding back to the release of “Out West” with Travis Scott (technically, it came out in late December of 2019, but if quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that time is a social construct), Thug has been in his infinitely deep bag all year.
As with “Out West,” Thug puts himself in the unique position of mostly being the first voice the listener hears. On Uzi’s “Strawberry Peels,” Thug’s energy provides the foundation for Gunna and Uzi to follow. On Ty Dolla Sign’s “Lift Me Up” (off his album Ft. Ty Dolla Sign. We’re getting meta here), Thug’s melodic singing on the hook beats Ty at his own game and, ironically, outdoes Future on the track. If a track says “Ft. Young Thug,” and Thug is the first voice you hear? Enjoy the ride.
Just as Future does for Doe Boy, Young Thug provides his services to those he has put on. The difference is, the people who Thug is responsible for have become superstars in their own right. Thug shows up numerous times on Gunna’s “Wunna,” but two tracks stand out.
“Dollaz on my Head,” another Mike Will Made-It produced banger, is the more traditional of the two, with Thug delivering a single (albeit mesmerizing) verse. The other standout track is “One Watch” from the Deluxe (another Deluxe?) version of the album.
“One Watch” is Thugger’s tour-de-force when it comes to features. The high pitched musing about diamonds, the flippancy about relationships, the double-time flow, all of it is on display. Where Future can overpower a beat, Thug slithers his way in and out of pockets in a way that keeps you on your toes.
When you reach the same level of stardom as these two, it would have been understandable to take 2020 off. To hunker down (in Atlanta, maybe?) and rest on the laurels of a successful career until the world returns to “normal.” Lucky for music lovers, Young Thug and Future chose to do the exact opposite. If the world is on fire, Thugger and Pluto went on a scorched earth tour, dropping gasoline at about the same frequency as Patek mentions.
That being said, I would say Future’s highs have been higher. “Pardon Me” is the best thing either of them has released this year and in contention for feature of the year. However, Thug’s consistency gives him a slight overall edge.
You never know what you’re going to get with a Young Thug feature, but you know it’s going to be provocative. Regardless of who wins, we all win. After we’ve been through in 2020, only Super Slimey 2 can save us.