In the late 1920s three people sparked a revolution that permanently changed modern art, they recognized its existence. Miss Lillie P. Bliss, Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, and Mr. John D. Rockefeller recognized the art community and traditional museums did not adequately illustrate the quality and depth of art that has been, and is still being produced in modern times. The three of them, along with four additional trustees, created the Museum of Modern Art in 1929. The MoMA quickly became known as one of the most complete and comprehensive collections of modern art in the world with a catalog that rivals second to none. According to the MoMA’s official website, its collection has grown to include,
“Over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. MoMA also owns approximately 22,000 films and four million film stills, and MoMA’s Library and Archives, the premier research facilities of their kind in the world, hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, and extensive individual files on more than 70,000 artists.”
From paintings to films the MoMA only accepts the most prestigious of all arts. With the MoMA’s vast catalog it should be the concrete apex of all art collections, but to suggest such an idea is an insult to art itself. The most comprehensive modern art collection in the world would not lack representation of art in its most influential and groundbreaking form. In order for the MoMA to justify its own reputation it needs to finally emancipate itself from the prehistoric ideology of art and finally include art in its most fluid, important, and interactive form in modern times. Music.
Music is the most widespread form of art in modern society. It is in our cars, elevators, dentist office, and anywhere in between. It is present in every culture in all different shapes and forms. Over time music has transcended from being a form of entertainment to a medium that has connected people across cultural and physical barriers. With music’s influence ever increasing across the globe it’s representation within the art world remains at a constant nonexistence. The MoMA has yet to accept any form of music within their collection. Modern art cannot be studied without subsequently studying music. In order to be the epicenter of modern art the MoMA has to end its irrational apartheid and allow music within its confines, and few pieces are more deserving of such an honor than Young Thug’s debut album, Barter 6.
Since the creation of the MoMA no form of music has effected society more vastly and in as many different avenues as hip hop. From physical art in the form of graffiti, fashion, dance, and vernacular hip hop has transcended form a music genre to a lifestyle. Through the creation of the most popular dance crazes, the new slang that travels across the nation, and even making the theme music to political protests, hip hop in the 21st century has become intertwined with American culture. As an art form hip hop at its root provides more depth than any major form of music. Hip hop’s creation in the South Bronx had political seedlings within it form its conception. The legend of hip hop’s creation traces back to one house party where a group of kids and a DJ got together to breakdown cultural barriers and just past some time. The plight of black Americans was a topic of no importance within music at the time, as a natural product of black culture hip hop filled that void and brought black culture to the mainstream. Hip hop’s ties to the politics of a nation have always been close and no genre of music gives a better snapshot of the nation than it. As an institute of modern art the MoMA should end their outcast of music by accepting their first piece of music as a hip hop piece. It’s the most listened to genre of music and it is the best representative of American culture that music has to offer. Barter 6 is the piece most deserving of the honor of being hip hop’s and music’s representative into the world of modern art.
One look at Barter 6’s cover art and you’ll understand the mystique that surround the man known as Young Thug and the seemingly contradictory world he walks in. He stands alone naked by himself with nothing but a red canvas as a backdrop. This is far from the masculine and rough image that hip hop artists love to portray themselves as getting naked on camera is usually left to women. But this is not the first time that Young Thug has bent the line between genders. He’s worn everything from dresses to leggings and he himself has admitted 90% of all of the clothes he owns was purchased from the women’s section. This is not something rappers do. Hip Hop has long had the stigma of being the least inclusive of all music genres. Rappers are expected to maintain a very strict idea of masculinity and anyone who dwells from this is immediately ostracized. A rapper who openly embraces cross dressing seems like an oxymoron, on the surface they are two lifestyles that have not and can never coexist. The contradictory nature of Young Thug becomes even messier the more you learn about him. The album’s title is inspired by Lil Wayne’s series of albums known as Tha Carter. The reason why Thug swapped the C in Carter for a B is because Young Thug is a member of the Blood gang. When one makes a list of the qualities of a gang member, “cross-dresser”, is about as far away from the top as it could get. But it is in this contradictory world where Young Thug lives. Not only does he proudly proclaim his fondness of cross-dressing, but he dares you to even question if that makes him any less credible (excuse me, bredible) in the streets or the studio. Not only will he threaten your life but he’ll rock the hell out of a dress while doing it too. Young Thug should not exist in Hip Hop, but the fact that he does shows it’s growth.
For the longest of times misogyny and homophobia appeared to be unofficial staples of Hip Hop. While both those things are still far from absent from today, Young Thug’s presence is indicative of a change within the Hip Hop world. That fact that a man with so many “gay” and “feminine” tendencies can not only strive, but thrive in Hip Hop is indicative of a change to more openness and acceptance. The rapper Chingy once claimed he lost a record deal simply because of a rumor he was in a relationship with a transgender woman (which was false). Young Thug was recently named the prince of Hip Hop, and possible pop, by Rolling Stones. Young Thug is also a snapshot of the nation as a whole 2015 introduced the world to Caitlyn Jenner, and I Am Cait, the reality show about her life, was just renewed for its second season and will appear premiere in March. Jaden Smith was just announced as the new face of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear. The lines between genders has become more blurred than its any been. Gender-fluidity is becoming less of an idea and more of a reality for people both nationally, as well as internationally. Hip Hop has always, and will always be a product of the people. It has a pulse on the nation that is unrivaled and the artwork coming out of it has always been an illustration of something far greater than it. Young Thug’s revolution in Hip Hop culture is a mirror image of the revolution in the society that surrounds him. Thug is inciting a debate about the definition of masculinity in a space that traditionally has only accepted the most extreme model of it. He is the very manifestation of the change that many have so desired for Hip Hop, and the larger world, to go through. This change has not come without push back. Even though he is engaged (and soon to be married) to a woman, Thug is often questioned about his sexuality as many people have (a simple Twitter search is more than enough to illustrate this). He’s constantly bombarded with homophobic comments, and has been told his clothing is destroying hip hop. The backlash in the Hip Hop community mirrors the backlash society has towards transgender folks. As transsexuals have been pushed more and more in the public’s image transphobic hate crimes have risen according to the FBI. A radical alteration of both Hip Hop and the world that surrounds it. Historians will look back at this time period and expect to see this revolution highlighted in the art of the time period. Barter 6 is the MoMA’s representative to this change and the album transcends its own genre as a symbol of a change in the art world and beyond.
Young Thug is arguably the most polarizing figure in all of Hip Hop. He’s been acclaimed as the next great rap superstar, and the man responsible for trying to singlehandedly sabotage the entire genre. On Barter 6, all the potential people associated with Thug manifested in forms previously unseen. His screeching transformed into flows that no other artist could even conceive of copying. He perfectly matched his cadence to every single beat as if the beat was the product of his raps and not the other way around. Not only does he find a new flow to perfectly match the song, but he seems to have 12 different flows within the song itself. Halftime is the most perfect example of this as Young Thug changes his style up about every four lines. While other rappers use the same repetitive cadence for every track, Young Thug can’t seem to use the same one on any given verse even if he tried. He is taking your favorite rapper’s style, outperforming it, and then dares them to even attempt to do better. There have been many great rap albums, but few have attempted to elevate the game as Barter 6 has. Thug finds new flows and cadences previously unheard of in the genre. His style of constantly switching up both the way he raps and how he sounds rapping makes every other artist seem boring in comparison. There have been artists whose fans have groaned that they were difficult to understand, but Young Thug is not one of those artists because he is not difficult to understand, he is damn near impossible to understand. People try to decipher his lyrics as though they were the next Da Vinci code clue. This isn’t on accident, as Thug has the ability to annunciate his words clearly, he just simply chooses not to. The brilliance of Young Thug is that he has transformed this supposed handicap into one of his greatest assets. His incoherent raps have given him his own unique identity and style. Instead of being frustrated from not being able to understand what is said, Young Thug causes people to marvel in wonder as people try to come to terms with this man that sounds like he is from another planet.
Young Thug has consistently done what others conceive to be impossible. Even after four decades of existence, Thug manages to find new ways of rapping that other people didn’t know were possible, or were too scared of even attempting to try. A man who is difficult to comprehend isn’t supposed to be repeatedly played radio stations because he can’t seem to stop climbing the charts. Young Thug repeatedly does the impossible, and each time he is changing the world around him.
Just like all major art forms, Hip Hop has artists who will copy another style simply because it is the trend, but Young Thug is more than just the hot trend, he’s at the centerfold of a change that’s much bigger than him. Barter 6’s cover art gives you a snapshot of the societal culture that surrounds it. The lines between the sexes are becoming increasingly blurred as the demographics of this nation are undergoing a massive paradigm shift. Homosexual as well as transsexuals are becoming an increasingly present and apparent demographic of this nation. They are moving from an ostracized group of people to one that are considered an integral part of the community that surrounds them. This shift in paradigms has not come without some backlash, as some people believe this change is for the worse, not for the better. When Young Thug revealed the artwork for Barter 6 the backlash he received was similar to when people come out of the closet. Many of his peers looked down at him for it and claimed that it went against the values of what a man should be. Young Thug’s manhood has constantly been questioned as an open cross-dresser. His credibility as an artist is questioned because of his wardrobe, and every time he steps out Hip Hop’s ugly history of misogyny and homophobia rears its head again.
Yet despite all these different outside sources wishing for his downfall, Young Thug thrives. The fact that he prospers is a testament to the changing landscape of Hip Hop and the world that surrounds it
Barter 6 would be deserving of entrance into the MoMA based solely on its cover, but its credential multiplies exponentially once you play it. Metaphors and similes seem to roll of his tongue with such ease it almost seems unfair. While Young Thug is a certified gangsta, he is not afraid to expose his inner demons in order for the world to see. Barter 6 opens up with Thug asking someone to pour himself some more lean (slang for a drink that has codeine mixed with it). All throughout the album he talks about his love for drugs and his abundant use of them. But on the song OD the listener hears Thug talking about how he knows he is on the path to overdosing on that which he loves, as he cries out for someone, anyone to help him. He dedicates his album to his brother who was murdered when he was young, and then immediately turns around and yells “fuck the crimestoppers.” He chastises the same people that could have saved his brother he so deeply misses, highlighting the complicated relationship and seeming contradiction between the police and people who supposedly needs them the most.
The MoMA currently resides in a state of limbo. It is a museum of modern art that does not accept the most widespread form of modern art. Art is often a commentary of the society that surrounds it, and as the epicenter of modern art the MoMA should house pieces that best illustrate the culture of modern society. That is why it is essential that Barter 6 be accepted into the realms of the MoMA. It is able to capture the revolution that is happening in both the Hip Hop world and the larger world that surrounds it. Barter 6 is the rare work of art that is brilliant when looking at it as strictly a work of art, or a commentary on society. The Museum of Modern Art is the finest institute of the collection of art the world currently knows, so it’s about time it accepts one of the finest pieces of art in a very, long, time.