Trying to place Business Is Business within Young Thug’s timeline is a bit challenging. It marks his first album since 2021’s Punk, but more importantly, it’s his first release since being incarcerated over a year ago. Currently facing a RICO case alongside his label, Young Stoner Life, Thugger’s been a significant force in the rap scene since his breakout single “Stoner” in 2014. His unique voice, treated as a fourth-world instrument, has continuously pushed the boundaries of melodic expression.
In recent years, Young Thug has found his comfort zone. While he might not be as groundbreaking as he was a decade ago, he’s also not as eccentric as he was in the late 2010s. Albums like So Much Fun from 2019 showcased that Thug could still sound like himself while evolving his style. However, Business Is Business feels like a somewhat deflated version of Young Thug’s artistry, lacking a clear direction. This isn’t to criticize his lack of commentary on the American justice system—rappers shouldn’t be obligated to address such issues. But it’s perplexing that there’s almost no mention of his own situation in the album.
Interestingly, fellow YSL artist Gunna released A Gift and a Curse a week before Thug’s album, which dealt with the YSL RICO investigation more explicitly. Gunna explored issues like dodging snitching allegations and processing his despair. On the other hand, Business Is Business barely touches upon Thug’s situation, apart from a jail phone call in the album opener and the intro to “Global Access.” The album’s tone remains ambiguous and lacks a clear context.
Setting aside the prevailing context, Business Is Business remains a solid Young Thug record. He retains his trademark strangeness, experimenting with his voice in inventive ways. On tracks like “Cars Bring Me Out,” a collaboration with Future, Thug forgoes melody but keeps the autotune, creating an uncanny valley effect in his vocals. His flow experiments shine on “Money On The Dresser,” where he mimics Project Pat’s style, and on “Hellcat Kenny,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, where Thug’s delivery is dreamy and enigmatic. “Uncle M” showcases his quietly eccentric vocal work, complete with autotuned whistling and a quavering hook. The song’s cartoonish menace is captivating and unsettling.
Metro Boomin’s role as the executive producer is crucial in shaping the album’s grayscale sound. While Metro provides most of the beats, other producers like Wheezy, Aviator Keyyz, and F1LTHY contribute to the album’s uneasy atmosphere. The production feels somewhat paranoid, from the twinkling synths on “Gucci Grocery Bag” to the heavy sub-bass on “Wit Da Racks.” Despite Thug’s usual materialism not always matching the gloomy production, Metro skillfully maintains a high energy level with well-sequenced tracks.
As for its place in Young Thug’s discography, the true impact of Business Is Business remains uncertain. The cover photo depicts Thug sitting in a courtroom, appearing stern and confrontational. Unfortunately, the music doesn’t provide much more context, lacking the fun and inventive elements found in his previous work. It’s challenging to grasp exactly what Thug was trying to convey with this album; if it’s intended as a form of escapism for both artist and audience, it leans towards the brooding side.
Perhaps, as the RICO case unfolds and Thug’s future becomes clearer, Business Is Business will take on a more significant meaning in his body of work. For now, we’re left with a bleak and enigmatic album that leaves us pondering its purpose and direction.