this instagram account compares young thug to historical paintings

Insta me like one of your French girls.

by Tish Weinstock
30 March 2017, 3:11pm

Now, if I were to ask you about Jeffery Lamar Williams AKA Young Thug AKA No, My Name Is Jeffrey, a 17th-century Caravaggio rendering of St. Jerome writing wouldn't necessarily spring to mind. Neither, I'm sure, would a late 19th-century portrait by renowned impressionist Mary Cassatt or for that matter a 16th-century Renaissance painting of the Virgin and child, by the great Bernardino di Bosio Zaganelli. For student Hajar Benjida, the brains behind @youngthugaspaintings, one of the funniest accounts on Instagram, it sure would. At just 22 years old, Benjida has already amassed over 25k followers on what essentially started out as last-minute idea for a school assignment. Though the account does nothing more than compare images of Young Thug to some of history's most revered works of art, the precision with which each image is matched to highlight Thugger's unique sense style, his music, and nuanced approach to gender fluidity, and the wealth of historical references Hajar explores, makes it one of the greatest visual projects we've seen in some time. Here, we meet the magical mind behind the meme to talk mentors, music, and old masters.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I'm from the Netherlands, but both my parents are from Morocco. I was born in The Hague. To be more specific I grew up and still live in this neighborhood called De Schilderswijk which literally translates to The Painters' District. Many of the streets in this neighborhood are named after famous Dutch painters.

How has your background shaped who you are as an individual?
I grew up as a very shy, introverted girl but every once in a while, I seemed to do or say something that would really shock the people around me. I'm literally still the same person as I was ten years ago. For some reason I seem to attract people that are completely the opposite of myself, those are the same kind of people I'm actually interested in. But once I'm comfortable around you, it's lit.

What is it that you do and why do you do it?
At the moment I study photography at HKU in Utrecht, I'm in my second year. Next to that I also take backstage photos of hip-hop artists. Everything I do is for myself and because it makes me happy.

Who or what inspires you?
Hip hop, classical art, my parents' home country, my own neighborhood, and my younger sister who is basically the same person as me.

Can you tell us a bit about your Instagram account? When did you set it up?
It was a last minute school project idea. We had to go to a museum and be inspired by someone's way of working. I drew inspiration from this artist who researched thousands of selfies of other people, and based on that, he made the ultimate guide to the perfect selfie. I had so many photos of Young Thug on my phone, so I just looked through them all and found some combinations. I actually had no idea what to do for this assignment until I came up with this the night before class and presented my idea in a PowerPoint in the morning. It's the perfect combination of two of my favorite things: hip-hop and classical art.

What are you trying to achieve with it?
I was curious how other people (including Young Thug) would react to it and I was just trying to pass this class. His image compared to the classic painting is like the version of a William-Adolphe Bouguereau that never existed in European art history.

I actually saw something at an exhibition in Rotterdam just recently that kind of reminded me of my own project. This is what they say about their work: "By Re-Mastering the Old World, each of these unique tapestries pays homage to the work of time-honored artists, while celebrating the perspectives of unheralded people of color.' 'I think it's funny how my account attracted middle-aged art history teachers telling me they would give me an A for my project, art curators, fan and non-fans of Young Thug, and people telling me I have all kind of demons in me. Someone even gave a lecture on my school project at a university in the US, that was definitely one of the coolest things to happen to me.

My ultimate dream would be shooting an album cover for Young Thug. Looking at some of his mixtape covers, he definitely shows interest in classical art. 300 Entertainment, the label he's signed to, hit me up not too long ago…. I was so stoked. I thought it would be Young Thug-related but it turned out they wanted me to do something similar for Migos' song "Bad and Boujee." Basically what I did for them was use a photo of Sarah Snyder or Cardi B as example to explain "bad" and a painting compared to their photos to explain "Boujee.'' I was really excited about this; I hope they'll publish it soon.

Where did this interest in classical paintings come from?
In school, when we started getting art history classes. It was one of the few classes I was actually good at. I always managed to pass these exams without having to study for them. I remember being pretty good at analyzing classic paintings and photos.

What is it about Young Thug that resonates most with you?
His music of course, it makes me really happy. I support his art. It's a combination of everything he does actually.

He's championed for his gender and sexual fluidity and his signature style. What do you make of this?
I think it's definitely something you can see on my Instagram account. I love his style, and his open mindedness when it comes to gender.

Young Thug is famous for having numerous mentors, who would you say has been a mentor to you?
Young Thug, I made my best piece of art because of him. I'm also thankful for school, I would've never come up with this idea and have been motivated to make something like it if it weren't for school.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Be a supportive parent to my future children.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
I wish people didn't have the ability to kill each other. It's so scary to me that another human being can just take your life away or decide for you where you can't live or travel to.

What do you stand for?
I like making people smile; I hope my work makes people smile.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I hope to discuss renaissance paintings with Thugger someday.

Read: In a series of portraits, Reuel Lara explores the meaning of love in all its various forms.


Text Tish Weinstock

Young Thug
young thug as renaissance paintings