I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
Jamie xx, Popcaan, Young Thug
A roguish but joyous summer anthem about sex, friendship and hope for the future. Set to optimistic tropical xylophones, it is a perfect example of Young Thug’s freewheeling vocal style and weirdo lyricism. A summer classic.
lust · sex · friendship · freedom · nostalgia · hope · contentment
The first sound we hear is the close snap of needle on vinyl as the smooth acapella of The Persuasions plays on a turntable. The harmonies are warm and comforting. A man singing the song’s central lyric — ‘I know there’s gonna be good times’ — cuts through the hum as the music starts in earnest. Jamie xx sets up a light, colourful xylophone riff as the skeleton for a spacious, easy-going vibe; a synthesiser warps and rings, following parts of the vocal melody. Popcaan, his Jamaican accent gently curling his words, sings softly about unwinding at the end of a long week:
Work everyday ’til me meet ends
Haffi turn it up ‘pon the weekends
Buss a toast, be a real friend
And tell me what you drinkin’, cuh
He is joined by a simple clap-and-click rhythm, then a pizzicato bassline and the central Persuasions sample which loops, serving as the chorus. The atmosphere is carefree, confident. Overeager to get started, Young Thug’s tenor twirls into the background:
And- he- runnin’ up all this money on these hoes…
It’s a nonsense adlib, but he plays with it joyously, syncopating the first two words, cascading downwards across the syllables into the final ‘hoes’, where he extends and twists the vowels.
With an echo, the Persuasions sample vanishes, leaving us with the bassline and the far-away plink of the xylophone. The shift creates space for Thug’s nasal tones to enter the foreground proper. Just like his musical idol Lil Wayne, Thug’s lyrics are scatterbrained, full of non-sequiturs and opaque references. His semi-deliberate Southern drawl blurs words together and skips over consonants, adding to the stream-of-consciousness feel of his flow. His vocals inhabit an unpredictable world between rapping and singing, and they are autotuned subtly to accentuate this versatility. The whole effect is dramatic: he seems to spin and cartwheel through his lines like a man possessed by his own conceptual impulses.
Good times, there’s gon’ be some good times
‘Member we used to pull up and let ’em fight? That’s that hood time
‘Member I used to grab on that ass when it were ‘bout that wood time?
If that lil’ bitch walk up trippin’ she get that mush time
I don’t waste time, I don’t waste time
I don’t have patience, baby
Thug’s first lines are bouncy; he flourishes at the end of each bar and spirals ‘mush time’ into a plaintive whine. He is nostalgic as he talks about the violent interactions of his childhood and introduces the main topic of the song: his love of sex with a particular woman.
He is impatient; but he is also playful, tempering the aggression with kind-heartedness, painting a gentler picture than at first glance. He alternates between controlling and coy from line to line: he calls her his boss, bosses her around, then sings the characteristically cryptic ‘I let her write me my suggestions’. (Is this deference to the opinions of his lover? Or does he mean something more literal like suggestions for rhymes? As with many aspects of Thug’s persona, this line is played for deliberate ambiguity.)
In the next few lines Young Thug skips mercurial between ideas, gleefully mixing metaphors (‘Watch her come to my lights like a reindeer’), evoking the sparkling of his jewels (‘My diamonds could never stand still’) before coaxing, ‘Where you going? Can you come here?’ as his muse begins to lose interest. He finishes off his verse flippantly: ‘I’ll always take you back for your sex appeal’.
Popcaan brings in the chorus with sing-song sensuality, inviting his lover to ‘come have a good time, buss a bad wine’. Wining is a sexually suggestive dance that has its origins in Jamaica: the dancer (generally a woman) winds their hips around suggestively, sometimes pressed against someone else’s crotch — drawing attention to their buttocks and unapologetically evoking sex. Its reference here adds to the open, free enjoyment of the sexual dynamic that underlines the track. He goes on:
Know say you wan’ gimme somethin’ long time
Me deal with the scene rough somethin’ like crime
You make me sing this line
Despite being classic male expressions of lust, the words come off as crooning, gentle, even loving. The lyrics are overtly sexual without being oppressive. Popcaan’s chorus ends, the crisp drums swell and the soulful refrain returns to the foreground: ‘I know there’s gonna be good times…’ Idling while he waits for the next verse, Young Thug mutters to himself, ‘I say what I dig, you know, bro… and therefore…’
All the instruments except the drums disappear briefly to give focus as Thug catapults himself into the opening couplet with joyous abandon, straining his voice passionately:
I’ma ride in that pussy like a stroller
I survive in the motherfuckin’ gutter
These lines are effortless but delightfully expressive of his two-tone personality. He juxtaposes the childlike vulnerability and release of ‘riding’ in the loins of his lover with the dirty, grimy streets of his not-so-distant youth. He is both a lover and a fighter; as an artist, he embodies contradiction, by turns brash, bellicose, joyous and open — often all at the same time.
He doubles down on the romance in this verse, first referring to his lover as his ‘motherfucking woadie’, a resounding endorsement whose use is generally reserved for longtime nonsexual (male) companions. After a quick diversion linking the red of the Bloods and the red of Coca-Cola (once again dropping contrasting imagery into the mix like flecks of paint), he continues with his very particular brand of charm:
I swear to God I can’t never sideline lil’ shorty
She say she like all of a nigga rhymes
Where is my phone? That pussy callin’
I want you to pass it to Thugger Thugger
Even in the summertime, me and lil’ shorty cuddle
The roguish love permeates throughout Young Thug’s delivery here. He syncopates ‘she say’ and then positively croons the rest of the line about her love of his music, something a lot like pride audible in his voice as he twirls softly around the words. The flirtatious joke about her sex calling to him is followed up by a line about cuddling (cuddling!) even when it’s hot. Especially for those who have heard the same man making wild macho threats to unseen rivals and reducing countless women to mere sex objects in his other songs, the sense of human affection in his lyrics here is striking and effective.
Bringing the carnal back into the mix, he promises ‘I don’t bite, but my teeth do’, before shifting back into a position of power: ‘I wanna control you like voodoo’. He rounds off his verse with a bittersweet shoutout to his incarcerated brother and friends, affirming that whenever he has a good time, they do too.
Another chorus from Popcaan and The Persuasions. All the instruments are now present in a display of everything the song has to offer, distilled into a few moments: a echoey sample of Young Thug’s lines from near the start of the song bounces back and forth, chasing its own tail, accentuating the pure musicality of his vocals. Before too long, the beat falls away in favour of more winding Persuasions harmonies. A muffled, lilting synth plays the last few notes in the riff as voices chatter and laugh contentedly in the distant background.
What makes this song so effective is its vivid sense of hope and fun. The instrumental is lively but timeless, faded, as though seen through that lens of calm perspective that allows us to be nostalgic for the past and optimistic for the future. Popcaan’s chorus is delivered with a lusting gentleness, the perfect foil to Young Thug’s jubilant experiments with timing and melody; even the latter’s usual sexist swagger is diluted with a genuine sense of tenderness as opposed to domination.