There’s a reason why Jeezy is still your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper and your favorite trapper’s favorite trapper.
On Saturday, just an hour before doors opened at 8 p.m. at the Fox Theatre for the 10th anniversary of Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, the atmosphere in Atlanta felt electric, the anticipation high for their No. 1 trap star. On the corners of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, Jeezy’s street team, draped in all black outfits and wearing matching bandanas, swung CTE flags while oversized Da Snowman cutouts attracted photo ops from tourists and cars bumping Jeezy drove by. The city knew that 10 years in hip-hop was a big deal. So big, in fact, that the Fox Theatre was sold out the first day tickets went on sale.
Word on the street is Jeezy made a name for himself by sticking to his trap roots and staying consistent with hits about the struggle. Since his debut, released on July 26, 2005, Jeezy has evolved to be a street motivator and maintained an image of a Corporate Thug, best described as business savvy with a hustler’s spirit. If you had a dream of getting out the hood, Jizzle promised through hard work you could do what he did and succeed.
“He represents the struggle of black people, black people who didn’t go to college,” says Quadell, 27, an ATL native on the rapper’s street team. “In turn, they made mistakes and still made it to be successful. Even if he sold drugs or whatever, he still made it. I look up to that. I respect that.”
The Fox Theatre was flooded with like-minded fans excited to see the influential album performed in its entirety. The moment when the red curtain came down, we were about to see hip-hop history in the making. Jeezy went old-school with his attire, a custom-made TM 101 jersey in all black, and got the crowd on their feet for “Standing Ovation.” That favorite line we all know and recite echoed throughout the venue with authority. Backed by the band 1500 or Nothin’, the ATL superstar promised that this evening would be one big party for the struggle and the hustle. It was the perfect intro to “Let’s Get It/Sky’s the Limit,” a vintage inspirational anthem that immediately got everyone throwing their hands up.
“The streets love Jeezy, and I love them back!” Jeezy shouted. It wasn’t too long before we saw the evening’s first special guests—T.I. and Lil Scrappy—for “Bang.” The crowd went nuts. Shortly after it was “Last of a Dying Breed,” where Jeezy gave a proper tribute to the popular strip club DJ, and close friend of his, DJ Nando, through a video that showed him giving Jeezy props early on.
Then, Jeezy went back to hitting us with his classics. DJ Drama, another ATL stalwart who hosted tons of Jeezy tapes in the past, joined him for “Trap or Die.” As expected, Bun B came out for his verse, and confirmed that Jeezy was the realest of the real: “I don’t co-sign no suckas.” Drama stuck around and did not shirk his hypeman duties for songs like “Get Ya Mind Right.”
At that point, Jeezy teased there was going to be more than just a straight playback of his Def Jam debut. “I know I said this is a TM 101 show, but I lied. I don’t lie a lot,” he said. Jeezy's former Boyz n da Hood crew reunited for the first time in years for “Dem Boyz,” a song that Jeezy remembered making off “a hope and a dream.” Minutes later, he kept paying tribute to the A’s rich history in hip-hop, bringing out Fabo for “Geeked Up.” Before the Whip and the Nae Nae, you were getting geeked up in the club. Fabo made sure everyone didn’t forget by showing off a few dance moves.
The run of favorite songs continued: “Air Force Ones,” “And Then What” (with Mannie Fresh), “Tear It Up” (with Lloyd), and “Go Crazy” (surprisingly without Jay Z) that transitioned to “Trapstar.” Jeezy’s catalog is so well-known now that he didn’t have to rap entire songs anymore, with the audience taking over many of the verses. “The keyword is 10 tonight,” he said. “We are 10 years in, and we are working on the next 10.”
The momentum shifted when “Soul Survivor” brought the house down. You can’t be at a Jeezy show and not shout these lyrics in unison with him. He started to sprinkle in his current hits, and in Jeezy’s words, the mood went from celebrating to partying to clubbing. From there came “Supafreak,” “Lose My Mind,” and “Love in This Club” with special guest Usher. And the guests didn’t stop there.
In 2015, a solo performance by André 3000 is hard to come by, but the crowd went crazy when they performed “I Do.” Big Boi came out to make a cameo on stage afterwards for a quick pose for the cameras. OutKast and Jeezy sharing the same spotlight was surreal to see. Before the night’s final minutes, Jeezy thanked and shouted out everyone from Big Meech to the late Def Jam executive Shakir Stewart.
“For my momma to be here tonight and to see what her son accomplished when we was only living in a three-bedroom chamber [and] no beds to the motherfucking stage, I told her, ‘We gonna be alright. Let me figure this shit out.’ And we did that,” Jeezy said.
After all the success he’s had since his start, Jeezy will always put on for his city. The Recession cut “Put On” still holds a lot of weight for its message of repping your city to the fullest. Kanye West came out to perform the song, and the duo never looked better. It was fitting to watch Jeezy be in the forefront next to a humbled West, who once lived by the code of What Would Jeezy Do? during his early days. What’s even more extraordinary is after nearly a two-hour set, he didn’t want to stop. He kept going with another recent single, “Get Right.”
“I can’t leave it like that,” he said to a crowd who was willing to stay all night. Black Metaphor’s instrumental rang through the entire building as he performed “Seen It All,” a song that speaks on many levels of the Jeezy journey so far. As the crowd was exiting, you could still hear fans shouting lyrics to "Trap or Die." Ten years in, Jeezy’s still showing that the grind has paid off.
Eric Diep is a writer living in New York. Follow him @E_Diep.