Young Thugger Armstrong: Tracing the “Harambe Flow”

Editor’s note: a previous draft of this article was accidentally published missing the entries for “I Do” and “Heatstroke,” which have since been added.

The release of Young Thug & DJ Carnage’s “Homie,” the ferocious lead single off their collaborative EP Young Martha (slated for release September 22nd), has everyone trying to determine the origin of Thugger’s part-DMX, part-Louis Armstrong impersonation. Diehard fans were quick to pinpoint a snippet for an unreleased remix of Young Greatness’ 2016 breakout hit, “Moolah,” and while that lo-fi teaser is definitely the most Thug has ever channeled Satchmo’s beautiful rasp, other fans are just as right to look to “Harambe” as the most formal introduction to this relatively new vocal technique.

Now, we say “relatively” because, if we dare to strain our collective memory a bit, this aggressive Super Saiyan Thug can actually be traced as far back as his breakout mixtape, 1017 Thug. Before giving it the proper rollout this past year, Atlanta’s foremost innovator has been quietly perfecting this delivery at his own leisure. And, as you will see below, the natural progression is apparent.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a quick timeline of the “Harambe Flow” as we see it (feel free to tweet us any crucial additions we may have glossed over).

“2 Cups Stuffed” (2013)

Quite possibly the earliest instance of Thug going ape shit, “2 Cups Stuffed” is a roaring tribute to properly served lean. From “Two guns up, Ferarri SMASH” on in the first verse, you can hear what appears to be a proto-version of the so-called “Harambe Flow.”

“Chanel Vintage” (2014)

Future’s probably to blame for Thug’s aggressiveness on this one. It seems like the only way to match his elder counterpart’s enthusiasm was to take it to the next level himself.

“Givenchy” (2014)

By the time Thug’s voice starts unraveling on the intro to Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1, it’s pretty clear to everyone listening that something otherworldly is taking place. It’s not the deep growl he’s developed as of late, but it’s in the same vein of emotive explosiveness.

“Keep it Going” (2014)

You know you’re pushing the limits when you have to remind yourself mid-verse that you’re gonna lose your voice if you keep screaming. Just like “Givenchy,” “Keep It Going” takes its time building to a riveting climax, but is also perhaps the first instance of this inflection in a fully tangible form (though, as you will see, it would continue to get more pronounced and exaggerated as times goes on).

“Spaghetti Factory” (2015)

What was originally leaked as the “OG” version of Travis Scott and Young Thug’s “Skyfall” collaboration, “Spaghetti Factory” has a dark, almost murderous vibe. The brooding aesthetic is matched perfectly by Thug’s fluctuating aggression throughout the track.

“Rarri” (2015)

This instance is obvious from the jump, with Thug’s gruff delivery encapsulating the hook as a whole. In some ways it seems more like a direct precursor to last week’s “Homie” than any other track on this list.

“Don’t Know” (2015)

This underrated cut off of Slime Season 2 features a balls-to-the-wall breakdown mid-verse that sees Thugger declaring: “I’M A LEVEL-FIVE GOBLIN!” He comes through with the ferocity of at least 50 of said goblins and stretches the strained delivery for the next four bars with the utmost conviction.

“Drippin” (2016)

The unpredictable stream of consciousness of “Drippin” sees Thug takes his lyrics and his vocals in a dozen unexpected directions. One of those direction is a straight up war cry, followed by unnecessarily aggressive declarations of his unparalleled authority in the fashion world.

“Guwop Home” (2016)

The sweeping ode to his mentor, “Guwop Home” serves as a crash course of all the neat little tricks Thug learned in Gucci’s absence. One of these weapons in his arsenal just so happens to be a warm, raspy croon that he employs on the main section of the chorus.

“I Do” (2016)

Shortly before “Harambe,” there was “I Do.” This awe-inspiring feature shows Thug at his most militant and his vocals entirely match the defiance found in his lyrics.

“Harambe” (2016)

The most formal introduction to the now trademark roar, “Harambe” sets the tone right off the bat with an unfiltered shout of “MAFIA!” to open up this punk jam. In terms of vocal delivery, “Harambe” draws as much from the post-hardcore genre as it does from traditional rap in the vein of DMX and Mystikal.

“Youngsta” (2016)

“Youngsta” was overlooked because it was on a Blac Youngsta project before he really had any traction. However, it was the perfect followup to the tone set by “Harambe” a month prior and showcased just how flexible Thug could be with this newfound voice.

“Cop Me A Foreign” (2016)

What was clearly a solo Thug song before he gave it to his newest YSL signee, Gunna, “Cop Me A Foreign” sees the YSL President effortlessly bounce between measured lows and unhinged highs before settling into a deep, rolling intonation.

“Bit Bak” (2017)

The most recent instance of this delivery prior to the release of “Homie,” “Bit Bak” was supposedly the first single off of Rich Gang 2. Just like “Lifestyle” once introduced an entirely unheard of vocal style to the rap community, “Bit Bak” goes out of its way to highlight the impressive spectacle of yet another Young Thug innovation.

“Heatstroke” (2017)

Thug’s performance on “Heatstroke” was one of the most captivating turns on Calvin Harris’ star-studded album, Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1. “I’m tryna talk to you darlin’,” he pleads with a gentle twinkle in his voice before bellowing “Do you hear me?” It’s this sort of range and control that makes Thug an inimitable vocalist.

“Homie” (2017)

Finally, we have “Homie.” During a recent interview with HotNewHipHop, Carnage explained how he wanted to take everything we love about Thug and turn it up a notch or two. This apparently included the “Harambe Flow” and the results are nothing short of spectacular. It’s the most refined we’ve ever seen this delivery and is proof of just how far Thug has come in a relatively short period of time. We’ll find out just how far Carnage pushed Thug on the EP when Young Martha drops on September 22nd.

Did we miss anything? Tweet us at @SoundsPurp and let us know!

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