youngthug01What am I supposed to do with Young Thug? I love his music. I get a charge from listening to it. I think he’s one of the most exciting musicians working today. But what am I supposed to do with his unapologetic recklessness? What am I supposed to do with his unending vulgarity? As a Christian, what am I supposed to do with this, from “With Them”:

“She suck on that dick on the plane and I just called her airhead / I just went hunting, I found a rabbit, I picked out the carrots / I’m just tired of smoking kushy, I need some Moonrock out in Cali / I got a white b*tch  and she give me that Becky but her name is Sari”

Forget understanding what the lyrics mean. While any scrub can look up a Young Thug on Genius to understand what each individual line means, these bars don’t add up to much, regardless how much research you do. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

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It’s not like Thug is the first rapper to trade in absurdist, stream-of-consciousness lyrics that also happen to be vulgar. But every song is like this. Feel free to listen to his entire discography for a few days if you don’t believe me. You and I may have different definitions of vulgar, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me this doesn’t fall in the category.

While I find myself getting pumped when I hear a song of his come on, when I think about it, my mind always goes to how I should be responding to it. Should I embrace the music wholeheartedly, regardless of its questionable message? Should I shun Young Thug’s work, ignoring the way it makes me feel? Or should I choose indifference, not rejecting the music outright but not commending it either?

The first option is silly. The things Young Thug raps about have nothing to do with my life, and, just to be clear, that goes deeper than black and white. Maybe I can embrace aspects of Thug’s music, like his general joie de vivre, his punk-rap aesthetic, his excitement for rebellion against oppression. But I’m not smoking “kushy”, I’m not joining the mile-high club, and I ain’t never called a woman a “b*tch”. Fully embracing Young Thug feels like saying I’m okay with all of these things. Some of them I could care less about and just aren’t a part of my life; others are things that, yeah, I’m not okay with. So fully embracing Slime Season 3 isn’t really an option.

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The second option is a frustration of mine. As a Christian, striving to keep oneself unstained from the world is a daily exercise of one’s faith. But I’ve noticed that there’s a tendency among Christians to embrace Christian rap and reject secular rap, because the message is so often antithetical to what we believe. But I don’t think listening to music is an endorsement of everything involved in its creation. You can experience culture without being in active support of it. So, on principle, rejecting Young Thug’s music feels like taking the easy way out and giving up on trying to understand him.

The third option seems impossible to me. I can’t hear “Slime Shit” come on and enjoy the slur of Thug’s verses without hearing him talk about being high on pills or about cooking bricks of coke. Also, I can’t hear the lyrics of “Worth It”, about Thug’s sexual relationship with his fiancée, and not bounce to the beat.

In many ways, this question about Young Thug isn’t a new one. Songs of all genres have been vulgar and nihilistic in the same way as Thugger’s, even if he is uniquely adept at his brand of obscenity. I’ve asked myself how I should be responding to the music of varied artists, from the Sex Pistols to Beyoncé and John Lennon to Kings of Leon. I don’t always come to a conclusion; there aren’t enough hours in the day to think too hard about everything. But the extraordinary lengths that Young Thug goes to in order to shock and titillate seemed worthy.

Ultimately, I think I land on the happiest medium possible: enjoy Young Thug for what he is, but don’t turn a deaf ear to the sin that is nearly always at the root of his message. I can appreciate his ear for an amazing beat and his fascinating punk-rap drawl while also abhorring the way he raps about women and his apparent idolization of money. But, unchecked, my critical thinking about his lyrics leads to judgment, and I don’t think that’s a good place to be. There’s got to be common ground between me and him in the freewheeling nature of his delivery and his desperate desire to remain on a high, and I’d rather spend my energy embracing that. I can’t ignore the other shit, but I can’t remain mired in it either.

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