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Nothing Young Thug Says Would Change People’s Opinion About Gunna

Young Thug’s new album Business is Business dropped last week, and, as usual with an A-list rap release, the music isn’t the only thing making headlines. Thug’s third studio album, which debuted at number 2 on the charts, is his first full-length release while incarcerated and awaiting trial on the YSL RICO case. Some fans have been attentively listening to the project seeking inklings of Thug’s thoughts on the case and his — former? — friend Gunna. 

On Business Is Business tack “Jonesboro,” Thug rhymes, “Niggas told, and he was my homie, I can’t miss him, Ain’t nobody feel him.” Fans wondered aloud if the bars were in reference to Gunna’s December Alford plea, which included an under-oath admission that YSL is a gang. Thug tweeted, “Also, that song is six years old” on Friday — but it’s unclear if he’s referring to “Jonesboro” or a line on “Want Me Dead” that listeners initially thought was about Saweetie. 

If nothing else, Thug’s terse clarification gave a bit of insight into how the album was compiled. He’s obviously under creative limitations while incarcerated in Fulton County Jail. Thug has claimed he has over 15,000 songs in the vault and was set to release Slime Season 3 last Spring, so it wasn’t difficult for him to corral 15 previously recorded tracks for Business is Business. He spoke and recorded a verse on the album intro, “Parade on Cleveland,” but the mediocre vocal quality indicates that it’s the only verse he recorded that made the album. On Tuesday, Metro Boomin dropped his own version of the project, noting that it’s sequenced in the way he originally planned — he didn’t specify why that version wasn’t the official release. 

Business Is Business was at one point projected to become 2023’s first hip-hop chart-topper. The project is engulfed in mystery, including intrigue about how Thug feels about Gunna. Just a week prior, fans were listening to Gunna’s a Gift & a Curse searching for nuggets about Thug, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, or any of the other rappers who’ve shunned him. Rap fans are used to scouring a Drake album for Pusha T shots and vice versa, but it’s rarely been the case for people who haven’t actually clarified what they think about each other — and shouldn’t for legal reasons.

There’s no chance any of their future projects will be absorbed strictly on a music level. Thug’s music will be pored through for potential Gunna shots, while Gunna has to contend with squares fighting their inner Avon Barksdale to enjoy his melodies. Although both projects benefit from the hysteria, it’s worth wondering what both men think about the dynamic on an artistic level. They’re only this popular because of their love for music, but now their personal lives are overshadowing their creation. 

Though Gunna’s Alford Plea can’t be used against other YSL codefendants, he’s been demeaned as a “snitch” by people who felt like he shouldn’t have said anything to a judge implicating YSL as a gang. Durk threw a shot at him on a song snippet, while Freddie Gibbs snidely noted Gunna was “Pushin Plea” on Twitter. Lil Baby rhymed, “Niggas taking plea deals, I know slime ain’t happy,” on a snippet of a Lil Dann song. He’s persona non grata in the rap world, but there was still positive reception to Gunna’s album. There will be people like clubgoers in Atlanta who recently stopped dancing when his music came on, but there will also be enough fans to help him weather the sentiment — and the sensational headlines. 

On the day Business Is Business released, media personality DJ Akademiks added fuel to the fire with leaked audio he alleges is Thug informing Lil Durk of his plans to drop a surprise album “the same day that fuck nigga droppin’” and asking Durk to give him any verse he had dissing the undesirable. Most people are assuming the “fuck nigga” shot is referring to Gunna, whose album dropped the Friday before. 

But there’s no proof that the audio is even real. Thug’s sister Dolly White commented on a post of the audio claiming that “this is AI,” immediately raising doubts about its validity. Artificial Intelligence has been permeating society, and the rap world, more intensely over the past several months. Generative audio has allowed people to concoct fake songs using convincing (enough) vocals of famous artists, and now the prospect of fake phone call audio looms. It’s possible that his sister is protecting Thug because it’s not in his best interest to be speaking negatively about a co-defendant in his case. Claims of being framed by AI may just become the new “I was hacked.”


Or it’s possible that AI’s reached a new depth of manipulation. What’s to now stop a troll from making a fake phone call of Artist A dissing Artist B, leading Artist B to clap back in a way that a simple “I didn’t know it was AI” can’t mend? In the rap world especially, where things can get violent (and fatal), it behooves the people engineering fake audio to be responsible about what they create. But, as this potential fake audio demonstrates, that’s probably not going to happen. 

For now, Gunna’s plight is a messy situation where dangerous voyeurism, parasocial relationships, the criminal justice system, and anti-Blackness are coalescing in ways nobody deserves.

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