Young Jeezy’s ‘Thug Motivation 101′ Album Is the Playbook for Go-getters Worldwide
"I used to hit the kitchen lights, cockroaches everywhere / Hit the kitchen lights, now it's marble floors everywhere," spits Jay Jenkins, better known to the world as Young Jeezy, on "Thug Motivation 101," the opening salvo on the rapper's major label solo debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101.
While that line may be an offhand couplet for most, it was a stone cold fact and summarized Jeezy's trap-to-riches journey within the span of two bars on what may very well be the album of the decade as far as the streets are concerned.
Born in Columbia, S.C., Jeezy and his mother, whom was estranged from his father, relocated to Macon, Ga. to live with his grandmother when he was just a kid. Later, he move to Atlanta's Fourth Ward area during his teens.
While a change like that could be a shell shock to most teenagers, Jeezy was not average by any means and quickly adapted to the fast-paced lifestyle, cultivating his hustle and breeding a determination that would shine through during his pursuit of rap stardom. "I don't want to be a statistic," said Jeezy in an interview with Nooreen Kara of British website The Situation. "I don't wanna be dead or in jail without nothing. It happens a lot where I'm from; people get killed, people go to jail, and people forget about them. I won't let that happen to me."
Deciding to try his hand at the music business, Jeezy and his friend Demetrius Ellerbee, aka Kinky B, joined forces, founding Corporate Thugz Entertainment in 1998, marking what would be the beginning of a six-year journey to the top. Originally intending to be a producer, Jeezy instead transitioned to a rapper due to many of his artists getting arrested. He took on the moniker of Lil J and released his debut album, Thuggin' Under the Influence, independently in 2001, before changing his name to Young Jeezy and releasing his sophomore LP, Come Shop Wit' Me, in 2003.
The project would move an impressive amount of units independently, prompting a slew of major labels to come knocking on the rapper's door, one of them being Bad Boy Records, whom he signed on with in 2004, to be a part of the group's southern supergroup, Boyz N Da Hood. The deafening buzz surrounding Jeezy, largely due in part to his DJ Drama-hosted Trap or Die mixtape, led to him inking a solo record deal with rap powerhouse Def Jam Records and releasing his third album, Thug Motivation 101, on July 26, 2005, amid much intrigue and fanfare.
Watch Young Jeezy's "And Then What" Video Feat. Mannie Fresh
"And Then What," a collaboration with former Cash Money producer Mannie Fresh, which was tapped as the album's lead single, had simmered for the first half of summer and when matched with his hit single and buzz from his work on the Boyz N Da Hood album, amounted to Jeezy landing in the position of hottest new rapper in the game. That claim was backed up when first-week sales reports showed that 172,000 copies of TM101 had been sold, earning him the No. 2 slot on the Billboard 200 chart -- not bad for a former narcotics trafficker that stumbled upon rap.
Despite his lack of lyrical depth, there was a certain magic about Young Jeezy's words that drew listeners into his world, one that was filled with bricks of cocaine, wads of cash resembling phone books and all the trinkets that come from success in the street life. But there was also a certain sincerity in Jeezy's verses that made you aware that these were far from fairy tales, but first-hand testimonials about the ever-tipping scales concerning the street life.
When he claims, "These are more than words, this is more than rap / This is the streets and I am the trap" on "Standing Ovation," you don't doubt a single syllable. Small subtleties like the gunshots at the beginning of "Gangsta Music" ring clear through your ears and by the time the Shawty Redd-produced beat drops, you find yourself hypnotized and under Jeezy's spell and ready to off a kilo or two while he scoffs at CB4-esque MCs and talks heavy all over the track.
Thug Motivation 101 finds Jeezy rhyming solo on many songs on the album, but he brings a few fellow hustlers to break bread with. One of those instances is when the rhymer hooks up with country cousins Young Buck and Trick Daddy on the brooding "Last of a Dying Breed," which also features vocalist Lil Will giving a stellar performance on the hook. Young Buck emerges with the bragging rights, serving lines like, "I done seen n----s come and go / S---, the whole world done seen what I done done before / We do anything when the funds is low / I'm the reason out of towners don't come no more." He's referring to the knife-work the G-Unit rep put on display at the 2004 Vibe Awards show.
Listen to Young Jeezy's "Go Crazy" Feat. Jay Z
T.I. and Lil Scrappy pop up on the aptly titled "Bang," which celebrates gang culture, murder and mayhem prevalent in the streets of Atlanta. But the most memorable appearances from rappers on the album comes in the form of the Bun B-assisted heater, "Trap or Die," and the remix to "Go Crazy," which features a verse from Jay Z and stands as one of the more popular tunes on the album. "Trap or Die" is a rambunctious number with one of the better lyrical showings from Jeezy. "Last time I checked, I was the man on these streets / They call me residue, I leave blow on these beats / Got a diarrhea flow, now I s--- on n----s / Even when I constipated, I still s--- on n----s."
Produced by Shawty Redd, "Trap or Die" wins with the catchy refrain, "And all these hoes love a n---- 'cause they know that we the truth / Got the Chevy same color Tropicana Orange Juice / We trap or die, n---- / We trap or die, n----," while Bun B shows why he was one of the Snowman's favorite spit-kickers as a youth.
"Go Crazy" is nothing short of a national treasure with Jeezy mixing cautionary bars ("Buy 18 the hard way / Will have a n----- thinking bout gun play / Now who the f--- wanna play wit' guns / A lot of holes, a lot of blood, dog, the s--- ain't fun") and dope-dealing exploits ("Wrap the work like spandex wit' latex / Then we ship it outta town, call it safe sex) before Jay comes through and gives one of his most quotable verses post-The Black Album. This collaboration would be the first of many times the two former brick-layers would connect and display an immediate kinship and respect for each other that seemed to extend beyond bars and hooks.
One of the most poignant moments on Thug Motivation 101 is "Don't Get Caught," a tutorial on how to avoid the penitentiary, and "Talk to Em," which finds Jeezy baring his soul and recounting better days with one of his partners caught in the penal system over the Nitti-produced beat. You'd be remiss not to mention choose cuts like "Get Ya Mind Right," "Bottom of the Map," and "Air Forces," which stand as some of the more potent tracks Jeezy has ever released in his career thus far.
"And Then What" may have been the first single released and a smash itself, but the most popular cut on Thug Motivation 101 may very well be its second single, "Soul Survivor," which carried the album all the way past the million copies-sold mark. Jeezy provides social commentary on the ills of his thuggish lifestyle and the strength it takes to weather the storm that is the illegal life. Produced by Akon, who also appears on the track, "Soul Survivor" earned the Snowman his first entry into the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at the No. 4 spot and dominating radio for the latter half of 2005.
Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 is one of the best releases of 2005 and is more than a mere rap album, serving as the creed that hustlers live by and a playbook for go-getters worldwide. This is an opus filled with plenty of lessons and rules of "the game." Thug Motivation 101 may not have the lofty numbers to its credit that albums like 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and other select efforts released during the aughts have, but it stands as the most memorable album from that decade far as the streets are concerned and is without a doubt a certified classic.
Watch Young Jeezy's "Soul Survivor" Video Feat. Akon
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