Young Jeezy: Beyonce Put Him On to Jill Scott for ‘TM103′
Seven years ago, seemingly out of nowhere, rapper Young Jeezy appeared with a fresh perspective on “trap rap,” adding depth and definition to the sub-genre, which had already been publicized by fellow Atlanta native T.I. His presence in the hip hop industry was instantly embraced as car trunks below the Mason-Dixon line boomed his very first DJ Drama-assisted tape ‘Tha Streets Iz Watchin.’ It wasn’t long before the rest of the nation caught on to the new heat banging out of the South, ironically coming from someone who called himself the Snowman. The rap star has always been relentless with his street-authentic storytelling, and seven years since he first appeared on the scene, his lyrics still remain raw.
Currently, his third installment of the ‘Thug Motivation’ series, ‘TM103,’ has been met with a number of setbacks within the past two years. People had begun to doubt that Jeezy could still deliver thumping tracks that spoke to the despair of those without hope. Others doubted that his label home, Def Jam, even believed that he was still capable of earning accolades with his newest offering. With the release of this fourth LP, slated for a Dec. 20 release, he’s prepared to prove how, simultaneously, things have changed yet remained the same. The BoomBox spoke with Jeezy about his goal to be the black Ralph Lauren, maturing in his career and how Beyonce helped him rediscover Jill Scott.
At the Atlanta listening session for the album, you started the playback with this quote: “I don’t believe in excuses. I don’t believe in making excuses.” Just in saying that, a certain level of confidence is necessary. How did you get to that point amid the pressure to drop ‘TM103′?
I’ve always had that in me, since I jumped off the porch, and one thing I was taught was that you will do what you say you’re gonna do. What’s understood ain’t gotta be said. I can’t ask anyone to understand the thing that was going on in regards to the album, whether it was political or whatever, but my job and my whole goal was to get it done and give the people an amazing album and that was it. Anything between was on me, and I just felt like, “Whatever.” If muhf—ers was mad and felt a way, I’ll take that and endure that because I said I would do the album and get it done. So I felt whatever excuses I could’ve made wouldn’t even have made sense. I felt like if you set out to do something and you do it and get it right, then it’s done. Everything else, I just gotta take.
Your beginnings with ‘Trap or Die,’ then the whole Snowman campaign, ‘TM101′ and even your membership in Boyz in the Hood, all of that was years ago. How would you say you’ve matured on ‘TM103′?
I just think that I’m a lot more comfortable making records than I was in the beginning. In the beginning I just had tunnel vision because that’s all I knew and all I saw everyday, all day, so with that being said, throughout the years, I’d been around the world a few times and met different people. I’d been in different settings and it was like, “You know what? I want everybody to feel me.” I definitely want the streets and the hood to feel me but I feel like I owe the world more than that. I feel like I’m a special person when it comes to communicating the struggle and the pain and the stress of my people. I can explain that to my people all day but it would be better if I could explain it to the world, ’cause now the world is my trap. It ain’t about just East Point or Decatur or the SWATS or Bankhead or Georgia. It’s the whole world and I feel like, I can’t short us or myself but just being one-track [minded], I gotta give everybody our struggle.
Watch Young Jeezy’s ‘F.A.M.E.’ Feat. T.I.
Who would you say you’ve taken cues from during your growth process?
Of course you know I listen to a lot of Tupac. A lot of the things he was saying while he was going through his struggle and when I listened to it when I was younger. I never got that a lot of the things he was saying was true, until I started going through them myself. So I could relate to a lot of that. Old UGK, 8 Ball & MJG music because that’s what they were going through at the time. And with my music, there are a lot of younger cats growing up on me, that will grow up and be in their situations and say, “Damn, Jeezy wasn’t lying. This s— is really real. N—-s really think and feel certain ways. I’m glad I got something to listen to to get me through that.” Sometimes you don’t have the people around you to give you that advice because nobody really knows. Once you get to a certain point in life, you leave a lot of muhf—ers behind that can’t give you advice ’cause they ain’t even there yet mentally.
You mentioned younger cats growing up on your music. At some point, they may want to start rapping, what’s the biggest mistake you see young, up and coming artists make?
I think the biggest mistake is trying to be something you’re not because everything’s always gonna surface. A lot of these cats screw up. They listen to gangsta music and think that they can go out and do all this crazy s—. Even if you look at my little brother, Boosie, he’s in a situation and it’s real… And Boosie’s a real guy so you gotta look at Boosie and say, “Are you really willing to do that? Are you really willing to be a T.I. and go ‘sit down’ and miss out on your family for two, three years at a time? Are you really ready to be in a box like Boosie?” ‘Cause that s— is real. And I commend cats like Boosie for being stand-up guys and going in there, but you coming out and talking all this gangsta s—, are you really ready to go through that?
You honestly seem like you’ve grown a lot even outside of your rap career, which as you stated, clearly comes from being exposed to different people and different situations. At the listening session, you prefaced the Ne-Yo-assisted ‘Leave You Alone’ with a story about you and this businesswoman. You said she liked you but was afraid of your street-certified past, like, “This dude is crazy!”
You know what? In a sense I really am, but I’ve been dealing with so much through the years. You can’t be the same way forever and if you’re a true leader, you can’t lead your people by being ignorant. You have to learn how to grow and become better to help anyone else become better themselves because you know, are you gonna keep telling a muhf—er to stand over a stove? [chuckles] Or you gonna tell ‘em that they can be better individuals? At this point, the game is so different I don’t want to use the power of my voice to stress bulls— all the time.
What are some new business ventures you’re pursuing?
I’m really into my clothing line right now. We’re the number one urban brand in America. I’m trying to be the black Ralph Lauren. Trust me on that [laughs]. So it’s like I’ve really been in that CTE world definitely. Shouts out to Gangsta Gibbs — Freddie Gibbs — out of Gary, Ind. He’s a big deal but that’s pretty much it at this point. I’ve been focused on the album getting everything done and I also have some acting coming up so I’m just getting ready for that.
Andre 3000′s verse for ‘I Do’ leaked a while back. Why did you decide to hold onto it as opposed to scrapping it for another verse with a different artist?
I always wanted to do a record with Dre, and I felt like Dre’s verse was crazy on the
record. It did have me a little upset because I wanted it to be an event for everybody. At the same time, it was out of my control and I just felt like, I knew I had the Jay-Z verse and I knew it was a good song, but I knew it needed to be the right timing. So I just held it, hoping that the hackers wouldn’t get it and I was glad they didn’t get the hook. You know, I was kind of glad people weren’t like, “Aaah. The Dre verse is old.” By the way, a Dre verse can never get old [laughs]. I don’t give a fuck if he spit that shit in ’91. I felt like aligning myself with legends like that would only make me legendary. I’m the first person in the world to have a record with Jay-Z and Andre 3000. How ’bout that [laughs]?
I could easily see that track being someone’s wedding song.
I could see a lot of people making it their wedding song. I felt like it’s my wedding song because I actually absolutely, positively feel like I’m married to the game. I’m married to the streets, but even when I hear it on the radio, I’m like, “Damn, OK. The ladies like it. But do they really know what I’m talking about?” [laughs] I’m talking ’bout the streets and how much I love the streets and how much I ain’t never gonna leave them.
Lody has done quite a bit of in-house production since you’ve met earlier this year. We hear he’s all over TM103 as well. He truly seems like one of those talents that just needed the right machine behind him.
My man Carbon 15 had Lil’ Lody come through to the studio to play me two beats that he had made for me but I saw more than the beats in Lody. I saw someone who just really needed some guidance ’cause he was young and he was wild and he just really wanted to win. One thing about Lody, he just brings that energy because he’s a kid that just watched everybody grow up in the game and he just want his shot. He drove up from Memphis and he came for one night and I never let him go back home after that.
Me and him, we just went in and started making records. We knocked out most of the album and the mixtape in maybe a month and a couple days. Then we went on the road and knocked out ‘The Real Is Back 2′. Lody’s just a good kid man and he’s very talented. He’s quick, and people don’t understand he’s making that s— on a laptop in three minutes. You can tell Lody, “I want a beat like this,” and he’ll go in there with his headphones on and come back with a beat in three minutes. I almost have to tell him sometimes to go back in there and think about it again, but then when he plays it for me, I’m like, “Aight, f— it. Cool. Let’s do it [laughs].”
Whose idea was it to include Jill Scott on the album?
I reached out to Jill and sent her the record. She said it was cool. Then I kinda told her where I wanted to go and she said, “You know what, Jeezy? Give me a week or two and I’ma send you something back.” She sent me ‘Trap Back,’ and I listened to it. I loved it. I hit her back and said, “This is it.” But we had some problems with the dude who did the track so I went and took the vocals to J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and had them re-do the tracks and revamp the whole song. I put my verses on it, and sent it back to her. She loved it.
I haven’t let my mother hear the song yet, but I’m quite sure when she hears it, she’ll come to tears because a lot of that s— she remembers but she probably don’t think I remember ’cause I was so young. But my mother is my strength at times, ’cause things were so hard on her and it made me go harder. I felt like I was trapped and had no way out and I just had to find my way through the maze and I felt like, I did it for us. I couldn’t see my mother struggle anymore so I had to do everything in my power to take it there. That record means a lot to me.
I told Jill I was a big fan. I knew about Jill Scott, but… one day I was chilling in Vegas with Beyonce and all them, and we were just chilling by the pool. She was playing all these songs and I was like, “Who the fuck is that?” and she was like, “You don’t know ’bout Jill Scott?” I’m like, “Yeah…” But [Beyonce] was playing all these records I’d never heard. I just became a bigger fan and I felt I just had to do something with her. I actually did a record with Maxwell too. Didn’t make the album but it’s a dope record so I’ma definitely use it later. But the record with Jill Scott was so crazy because it felt like I was back in my teenage years and I was looking at myself like, “Damn. Look how far you came and you was trappin…” I’m hoping that can be anyone else’s inspiration because a lot of times muhf—ers think they stuck and can’t get out.
Listen to Young Jeezy’s ‘I Do’ Feat. Jay-Z & Andre 3000