Thug Life are a series of YouTube videos that typically begin with home movies of preadolescents using overly confrontational or expletive language, followed by a freeze-frame at a close-up image of the subject and an instrumental fade out to Dr. Dre’s 1992 gangsta rap song “Nuthin’ But a G Thang.”
The earliest known instance of the series, “Thug Life (nerf gun review),” was uploaded by YouTuber lolonym on June 13th, 2014. In the video, a young boy opens up a monologue of a NERF toy gun review, before he trails off and says “I don’t know what it’s called… maybe it’s called fuck you” (shown below). On July 20th, Redditor Russian_For_Rent submitted the clip to /r/videos in a post titled “my favorite video on the internet as of now,” which garnered more than 2,344 points prior to its archival.
“I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me” is a catchphrase used to express one’s pride in living the thug lifestyle, a concept that is typically referenced in hip hop music, particularly in gangsta rap. Although rooted in hip hop, the phrase or its snowclone variation is often paired with various images depicting White suburban stereotypes, similar to the usage of other hip hop references like swag and haters gonna hate.
The formulaic set-up of the thug life remixes also bears resemblance to “How to Shut Down a Ho” remixes, another series of remix videos that open with a verbal insult or a punchline quoted from a popular film or television show before suddenly cutting to a scene of a crowd’s wild reaction to the said line.
On October 3rd, 2014, the video remix fad really took off with a video submitted by Redditor Daco-roman to /r/videos, which shows another young boy talking back in expletives after being teased for struggling to tie his shoes (shown below).
In five days, the post accumulated more than 3,779 points (91% upvotes) and over a dozen of other similar videos of foul-mouthed kids in the comments section. That same day, Redditor imnotregolas launched the /r/UnexpectedThugLife subreddit to showcase the videos, which drew more than 15,000 subscribers within the first 72 hours.