In the spare bedroom of a small brick house in East Point, Atlanta, the 22-year-old rapper Young Thug is crouched in a cramped, wooden closet, ad-libbing into a microphone strung from the wall. Darting between warbling melodies and quick, halting yawps, his voice rings out through the other rooms of the house and even faintly onto the sidewalk outside, where it's cold and the lawn is newly covered in brown and yellow leaves. It's early December, and all along the street are cinder-block strip malls with Christmas lights and locked grates over the doors and windows, most of them shuttered for the night.
This house is only now coming alive. It belongs to another rapper, Peewee Longway, who at the moment is leaning against the closet door, gripping a stack of $20 bills and nodding to the beat, his camouflage cargo pants bulging with pharmaceutical prescription bottles.