Young Thug Is All Work on the Muddled 'Business Is Business'

BY Vernon AyikuPublished Jun 27, 2023

It's not a stretch to say Young Thug is one of the most influential rappers of the last decade. His signature high pitch sing-song sound is now a staple in the industry — even with endless imitators, his absence since his incarceration on racketeering charges last year has been duly felt. This obviously made the announcement of his latest project, Business Is Business, a truly welcome surprise. That surprise comes with a wealth of unfortunate, real-life baggage filled with legal drama and personal grudges that — while making deciphering Thug's lyrics a fun exercise in detective work — distract from the actual music, ultimately making this genuinely shocking release an exciting cultural moment but an overall disappointment musically.

Let's address the biggest elephant in the room; Young Thug releasing a week after former label mate and co-defendant Gunna dropped a Gift & a Curse was a calculated move, as their legal issues and public beef continues to play out and making comparisons between the two albums fair game. To recap, last May, numerous members of Thug's label YSL Records, including Thug and Gunna, were arrested on racketeering charges in Georgia. Adding to that, Gunna entered a guilty plea to the court to earn probation and avoid jail time, while many say criminally indicting Thug and the rest of his former YSL labelmates. Currently, Thug and other members of YSL remain behind bars awaiting trial.

Gunna's album noticeably has no features, while Thug's is filled with a list of noteworthy guests like Drake, Travis Scott, Future and 21 Savage (though none give particularly noteworthy performances). That contrast gives a clear indication on where the hip-hop community and court of public opinion stand, with many in the culture labeling Gunna a snitch. Unfortunately, it's impossible to talk about Young Thug and Business Is Business without understanding the full scope of the real life issues surrounding it. That's mainly because the strength of the album lies not in the actual music, but in its position as a cultural artifact and the curiosity surrounding the legal issues Young Thug currently faces. Reasonably, Thug is only capable of so much behind bars, but even with Metro Boomin at the helm and with assists from some of the biggest names in the industry, Business Is Business feels more like an incomplete posthumous album than a cohesive body of work. 

In fairness, there are two camps to fall into when considering Business Is Business — those with sympathy for Thug's situation and an understanding that the usual tools available to him were limited, and those who'll be judging the album against Thug's high water marks. In the former camp, Business Is Business is mostly a showcase of Metro Boomin's abilities as executive producer. Those in the latter camp, however, will likely find that besides a few memorable hooks and some gritty new flows, Business Is Business falls short of Thug's former output. 

The album isn't a complete and total disaster — it's primarily guilty of being average. Legally, Thug is limited in his ability to speak his mind as he awaits trial and must be extra careful, especially since Georgia State prosecutors have already used his lyrics as evidence against him in his RICO case. This would normally be fine, considering most people don't turn to Young Thug for introspection and reflection; he's at his best when being fun and whimsical. 

However, that crucial wildness is also missing (somewhat understandably, given his current situation),  and he instead forgoes his usual melodic sound for a more straight-up gritty rap flow. The approach gives the illusion of a more personal album, but it actually repeats many of the same concepts he's explored previously — for an album so mired in talk, Business Is Business has very little to say . Overall, the album doesn't have a lot of replay value besides a few stand-out songs like the Drake-featuring "Oh U Went" and "Went Thru It," which is led mainly by the strength of Metro Boomin's production.  

It's a shame that the things people want to hear from Thug are the things he cannot say — aside from a briefly illuminating verse on "Jonesboro," Business Is Business squanders the intrigue and excitement that's been built up around it. 
(YSL/Atlantic )

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