With his fourth album on deck, Young Jeezy is graduating to the next level. Let the lesson begin.
When you are the trap, it’s always hot in these streets, even when they’re the manicured asphalt of Manhattan. So Jay Jenkins is still pumping that weight—just in the gym of the plush London Hotel. See, it’s all part of the upkeep for Young Jeezy™, Household Name. He’s got a Wayne/Drake tour to stay in shape for and a new album (Thug Motivation 103) to promote. In other words, time for another assault from rap’s most counterintuitively creative man. Seriously. Admit it: You don’t think Jeezy is lyrical, or even artistic. Yet, he sold a milli (twice) in an age when gold makes moguls, and even Kanye has requested a personal consult. Is the man a thug motivator or a deceptively savvy songwriter? Why choose one? After all, there’s a reason we paired him with graf god ESPO: both know that it takes both qualities—vision and skill—to get over.Everyone seems to downplay your creative process as a songwriter. So walk us through developing a song.
Young Jeezy: I don’t go in the studio like, “I’ma make a smash today”—that ain’t my whole method. My music is feeling. If I just left the club or somethin’, I’ll probably go and cut a club record. If I’m going through something, then instead of it being bright in the studio, it might be a little dark, a little mellow in there, and it might be a feeling song.
What are the images that come to your mind when you’re doing a club song?
Young Jeezy: When I go out, I kinda just take my mind off everything that’s going on and have fun like a regular dude. Every other song that come on, you [go] “Ohhh!” That’s the feeling. It’s like triumph. You work so hard, you should play even harder.
What happens when niggas become niggas in the muthafuckin’ club?
Young Jeezy: That’s what we there for. [Laughs.] You know what I mean? We gonna hold our own. We do this every city, every state, whether it’s hood or dress-up shit, whatever. I’ma be there.
Obviously you have success now, you’re in a secluded gym—
Young Jeezy: Only because—
It’s all good! Because you deserve it! It’s all good!
Young Jeezy: Only because I got a show in an hour! That’s it! [Laughs.]
So how do you connect with the blues? It’s not like before.
Young Jeezy: You know how you get on and you mad talented and that’s all that fucking matters? You might be the weirdest muthafucka in the world, but you got talent? I’m vice-versa. A lot of people question how talented I am. But I’m a real dude and I know real things and I’ve seen real people get their head blown off. I really came from that, so I’m gonna have to always be able to adapt to it. I eat where everybody eat; it ain’t no secluded shit. I ride around in my car by myself all the time. Niggas don’t bumrush me, niggas come gab me up: “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Once you lose that, then how can I make music? Who am I making music for? Not the people staying here. [Laughs.] They ain’t gonna relate to me, shit!
So when you’re writing rhymes, and shit’s starting to connect, how do you feel?
Young Jeezy: Oh man, I get this shit in my stomach, it’s almost like butterflies.
People probably understimate your level as an artist.
Young Jeezy: Yeah, but you know, it’s always that fourth album. It’s like, niggas question Jay, niggas question Tip, niggas question Wayne, you know what I mean? It’s that fourth album: “Can you do it again?” Like I did it the first time. Came back, The Inspiration, done it again. The Recession, done it again. TM103, we’re doing it again! And it ain’t about a fan base—these are not fans. I look at this shit like family, like when you talk to your cousin: “Get your money.” But it ain’t what you got, it’s what you keep.
What does it take to be a songwriter?
Young Jeezy: You gotta explain yourself, and know who you’re talkin’ to, to be a songwriter. Take R&B music— and I ain’t no in-love-ass nigga, so I can’t really relate—but when I just see how it make other people feel, I’m like, Damn! You know what I’m saying? My mom, she didn’t have nothing to occupy her time, so that’s how she lived through the music. Sat around, drank a few beers, do what she do, and listen to music all night.
Anyone in your family have musical talent?
Young Jeezy: Nobody really, man, it’s crazy. We always hustlers, we just know how to hustle.
Your whole family?
Young Jeezy: My grandmother ran numbers! You know what I’m saying? Pretty much my whole childhood, she was the number lady, so she always had a pocketful. Bought the boys Pumas every now and then, you know what I mean?