The Hustles Continues is a bit too busy and suffers from a glut of features, but once again proves J’s relevance and absolute buoyancy.
There are few constants in this precarious universe that we inhabit: the sky is blue, the grass is green, and as long as Jordan Michael Houston is still breathing, he’s going to be doing the thing he’s been doing since the early ’90s, which is turning the fuck up. The seasons change, Juicy J doesn’t. Or, as he once observed, “You say no to drugs, Juicy J can’t.” In a sense, his recent output is timeless in its inability to ever progress beyond a basic set of core tenets: loud bass, sinister piano lines, exuberant delivery, and shouting “shutdafukup” a whole lotta times. Which, by all accounts, should be the biggest detriment to any rapper over the age of 40; but with Juicy, if anything, he’s able to transcend such mortal understandings of artistry. Sure, he has exactly one flow, but he is the goddamn master of that one flow. He doesn’t chase trends, trends eventually chase him. That he’s been able to sustain a dual career as both a legendary hype man and a go-to producer for newer talent is further proof for such illustrious claims. He’s been consistent enough with his profligate image and output for long enough to have outlived the likes of bling rap, ringtone rap, and now Soundcloud rap — all of which, in some form or another, has bitten from the Three 6 Mafia sound or ethos. Much like an obstetrician who does late-term abortions as a side hustle, Juicy assisted with their gestation and let them die in his presence.
In that regard, The Hustle Continues is predicated on listeners fully understanding Juicy’s legacy up to this point. Opener “Best Group” even does a quick run-through of his greatest achievements (including being the “first n***a with a song with Katy Perry,” though Snoop Dogg has him beat by about three years) before getting into the first proper single, “Gah Damn High.” The enjoyable enough track, which has a music video where a quarantine-era strip club becomes a multi-million dollar idea (a logic only feasible in Juicy J music video), breaks tempo and switches beat mid-way through, which serves as a segue for a pointless Wiz Khalifa feature where he sounds like a bored Swae Lee with equally questionable lyrics (“If that’s your girlfriend, why she at my house?/If that’s your girl, then why my dick in her mouth?”). This moment, as seemingly inconsequential as it is on an album best defined by its inconsequential nature, is indicative of the project’s biggest recurring defect: every guest here is either clearly phoning it in, or they just simply can’t keep up with a dude twice their age. They may all be children of Juicy, but they certainly aren’t on his level of engagement. On a track meant to honor his fallen mentor Yams, A$AP Rocky instead sounds like he’s eulogizing his younger brother’s dead dog; conversely, Jay Rock brings the moxy needed on “Memphis to LA,” but is completely out of his element production-wise. The worst offender here strikes twice in the form of the biracial boy wonder Logic, who could keep up with some high energy (rapping really fast is this dude’s prime specialty), but is decidedly more interested in spitting a buncha corny nonsense about his supposed cultural ascension.
When it’s just Juicy on the mic (which is only five tracks out of 16) he’s a reliably buoyant entity; when not bogged down by undeserving mouths to feed, he serves as a counterpoint to a generation of rappers who can only get wild for short durations. Suffice it to say, he’s been doing this long enough to know how to whip these bangers out, and while he should be a little more conservative in his choices of collaborators, these are also what separate him from his peers. Would Nas or Jay-Z be willing to work with the likes of Young Dolph? Probably not — which also goes to show how much more tapped into the current cultural moment Juicy is compared to those two. He doesn’t need to work with these people, but chooses to anyway; the chances he’s going to outlive most of them in terms of relevancy is already predetermined. So while The Hustle Continues is, on the whole, only marginally better than the disappointing Rubba Band Business, it further cements the fruits of one man’s labor in comparison to other diminishing returns. One could call it a low bar to strive for, an argument to which the only appropriate response would be to kindly “shutdafukup” forever.
Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 4.