By Martin A. Berrios
It takes a thorough and savvy individual to prosper during an economic downturn. Considering the current conditions within the music industry, Jay Jenkins certainly feels no pressure. But Young Jeezy has always made good out of any situation. Still under his original moniker, Lil J, he would make his name early on with his independent releases Thuggin’ Under The Influence and Come Shop Wit’ Me. Selling over fifty thousand copies on the street combined, the rep grew bigger and so did the label offers.
Monopolizing on his buzz, Jeezy would sign into Bad Boy group Boyz N Da Hood and his respective solo deal. Now with a classic debut and a respectable follow up in the bank, he is considered one of the Rap game’s brightest stars. As he walks into the conference room of his recording home Def Jam Records, the work never leaves his mind as he greets everyone in the room and makes sure bring up his upcoming album The Recession.
Attempting to further connect with his listeners, the subject matter on the upcoming disc will relate to the everyday struggles of the streets during the current economic slump. Jeezy does exactly that as he details his come up, stresses the importance of maintaining and why quitting school was possibly his worst decision.
AllHipHop.com: How have you been?
Jeezy: I’ve been grinding. I just wrapped up the Janky Promoters with Mike Epps; Ice Cube movie and s**t. Working on you know just my s**t, just getting everything together, getting the 8732, getting ready for re-launch to that; basically just grinding. Out here grinding like the boy Khaled say.
“I didn’t want to do album that was just based on selling units. I wanted to do something that muthaf***ers going to remember for that time and that era. I think back on the s**t I grew up on, 8Ball & MJG, you know Hot Boys, s**t like that, it takes me back to that era. I just wanted to get people through the hard times but give them something they can really relate to instead of just some sky balling ass, I’m on top of world type s**t.”
AllHipHop.com: Why the title The Recession for your new album?
Young Jeezy: Just coming up I’ve been through a lot trials and trills myself, and I always learned how to deal with them s**ts by just staying focused and maintaining and staying down. I think a lot of people think that you know in life you’re supposed to have a lot at one time; when you need money to survive. So it’s a course of maintaining; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You got your bare necessities then you got the s**t you just want or the s**t you think you need. So during a drought or a recession or what have you, if you continue to try live as everything is all good then your end result you’ll be f***ed up.
So The Recession to me was letting people know that’s it’s really f***ed up out here. Even though it might seem good tomorrow or six months from now, you can be on your ass. So with that being said and just seeing a lot people in my own communities going through a lot of changes, I just wanted to more so relate to the people. Because music as you know even during a time of war or whatever, people relate through s**t with music. But at the same time it’s like the recession is real, it’s like everybody is going to remember this s**t; ten fifteen twenty years down the line like the Great Depression.
People remember, so I didn’t want to do album that was just based on selling units or just making record sales. I wanted to do something that muthaf***ers going to remember for that time and that era. I think back on the s**t I grew up on, 8Ball & MJG, you know Hot Boys, s**t like that, it takes me back to that era. So with that being said I just wanted to get people through the hard times but give them something they can really relate to instead of just some sky balling ass, I’m on top of world type s**t, more so like get me by my day when I’m stressed the f**k out I know what to pop in, I know what number to go to and I’m good. I do that s**t for the streets, people relate to me because they know I know how to deal with the topics they going through.
AllHipHop.com: Sonically Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 is considered a classic while The Inspiration went hard, it didn’t hold up as well as the first album.
Young Jeezy: And I’ma to be real with you, I feel like that too because the second album to me didn’t relate to as many people. The first one did because it was raw like f**k that this is me; this is how I’m going to be. The second one was more so I want to reach more people, but how do I do it? That’s why I called it The Inspiration because I got inspired by the things that was going on around me to do bigger music. But then that’s when the reality check comes in; it’s like okay. It’s a bigger album but is it a better album?
Is it going to touch the hearts of men? Is n***s going to live or die by this s**t. And my answer would be the first one was more so like that and that’s why The Recession is going to be more so like that because I’m relating to the times and not just what I’m going through. When a motherf***er listen to your music, they listen to what’s going on with you and they kind of put themselves in that picture. So when I was doing The Inspiration I was more so going through trials and trills, just getting used to living a different way and just doing things different, f***ing with my career and just different things like that. And everybody else wasn’t going through that at the time and that’s what you had.
AllHipHop.com: So how does The Recession separate itself from the first two albums? It seems like you want to put more of a stamp socially with this effort.
Young Jeezy: Yeah I think it’s the same thing. As long as you got anthems on there and s**t that people want to hear, versus just some s**t you hear on the radio or some s**t you just hear in the club. Like you know you hear club music all the time, but when n****s go in the car they and listen to the s**t they want to listen to. And I think that what this album is, it’s more so like just solid. It’s straight me, it’s straight Jeezy, ain’t no sugarcoating, ain’t nobody in my ear, ain’t none of that. It’s just straight me, I’m going to the studio and this is what I came out with. This for ya’ll, look what I made for ya’ll.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us who’s on it production wise.
Young Jeezy: It’s a drought bro. I didn’t play the name game; I tried to help the n****s out around the way and you know upcoming n****s that were really trying to get on. The n****s that don’t really got it now; it’s a recession. I just helped the n****s that who was hungry; like me. Like Midnight Black, Shawty Redd, Drumma Boy, Toomp. I didn’t really play the name game, I just f***ed with n****s who wanted it; f***ing DJ Nasty. All these is just n****s who probably ain’t got a lot of placements and s**t. But them n****s was hungry and so it’s more so to feed the team type s**t, like making n****s eat and that’s the s**t I was on.
AllHipHop.com: You say you’re not playing the name game but you got Kanye West on the first single “Put On”.
Young Jeezy: It wasn’t even about the name game with ‘Ye; I just wanted to see what “Put On” mean to him because I knew what it was to me.
AllHipHop.com: What did it mean to you?
Young Jeezy: I mean putting on to me is - like right now its f***ed up. Instead of me trying to walk around with my head down or feeling a certain way because you know the game ain’t the same and the stakes are high but the sales are down. Like I throw on a white t and still put on. No matter what’s going on with me I’m going to continue to be Jeezy and do what the f*** I do.
And I just think everybody else should do the same, that’s how I felt about it. So I just wanted to see what putting on was for ‘Ye. When you heard his verse he gave you what putting on was for him and it was a whole different thing. I just did that song by myself; it would have been in one lane. Now the world can accept it. That’s a terminology that came from Atlanta. Like putting on is what we do; like damn you see a n***a it’s like that n***a put it on. He got the new Jordans, he got the new whatever whatever whatever; that’s putting on. But even when a n***a can’t afford no Jordans, he’ll go get his chucks and he still putting on feel me?
AllHipHop.com: What was the feeling in the studio when you were putting down these tracks?
Young Jeezy: I took it very seriously. I went in; I really concentrated on the songs. I turned down a lot of shows, a lot of other opportunities because I really wanted this s**t to be a real album. I didn’t want it to be a bunch of songs on the CD. I was real focused; that’s what we call it. I was focused for real; like some day in, day out, I lived with it. The s**t I was going through I went to the studio and put it right down.
AllHipHop.com: You want this album to appeal to everybody do you think it’s going to be received by everybody?
Young Jeezy: I think it will be received by the people that understand. Of course if you got it like that, this recession ain’t probably hit you at all. You in a different tax bracket or some s**t. But when you talking to a n***a when his brown paper bag getting halfway empty, he going to listen, because he want to fill that motherf***er back up or at least to keep it where it’s at.
“If you heard some s**t I said and you might not think I’m not as lyrical as the next n***a but if you go in the hood I’m God. You can’t tell a n***a no different. He going to walk up to me and tell me some s**t I said that I didn’t even know I said.”
AllHipHop.com: At the end of the day you want to sell records, so how do you reach out to those who can’t relate to that?
Young Jeezy: At the end of the day, one thousand, one million I ain’t never trip, I always wanted to be heard; that’s why I always went so hard. You got to understand that’s a lot of motherf***ers in this game that just got sheer talent. I got a big heart and a lot of grind. I’m not selling albums; I’m selling a way of life. Some n****s sell hit records but I sell real n***a music to real n****s and people who do appreciate, they understand.
If you heard some s**t I said and you might not think I’m not as lyrical as the next n***a but if you go in the hood I’m God. You can’t tell a n***a no different. He going to walk up to me and tell me some s**t I said that I didn’t even know I said. So it’s just different. It’s a lot of motherf***ers you seeing on TV everyday that look good but it ain’t solid. Any given time a n***a will be like f**k him.
At the end of the day if n****s listen to my s**t ten years from now they going to be like “Ok “Trap Or Die”, that’s that trap or die n***a”. That s**t really meant that at the time, n***a was really trapping or dying, that wasn’t a hit record; it was a way of life though.
AllHipHop.com: With the kind influence you have over your community, how do you try to encourage your fans?
Young Jeezy: I’ve always looked at myself as a motivational speaker as crazy it sound. Even my big homies used to call me about advice, I’m just a responsible ass n***a. Like if a n***a on my watch, ain’t nothing is going to happen to him; if we go out together we coming home a hundred percent. If anything happens, it’s going to happen to me first; because it’s always been like that. So I try to relay that in my music, I try to keep motherf***ers in tune to what’s going. Even though you see a lot of things on TV or hear a lot of things on radio, we still deal with real issues.
If you walk outside here right now and go to f***ing Flatbush, there some n****s out there who trying to get their life together and don’t understand how or don’t really have nobody around them to talk to make that step. So when n***a step to me, “How do I get on?" or "How do I do this?” That means a n***a watch my moves or something to make it somewhere, and it was influential enough to even ask me, “How did you do that?” Because that means he idolizing that s**t, “Like dam n***a, I remember seeing you walk around this motherf***er, how you get to where you at?” And I just try to put that in music.
It’s like being in the hood and your older uncle or big cousin or something, he come up, you want to know, how he came up? If you getting out of high school and this n***a driving around in Benzes, you’re like “How the f*** he do that? You ain’t got no job.” But the n***a had a brain though. You got to put that in the music.
It’s like the same thing...I got an eighth grade education but I can sit down with a n***a that run a Fortune 500 company and talk to this n***a about how to get money because I understand. When you have an understanding, understanding is the best thing in the world, you got to spread that understanding. You got to let a n***a know it’s cool to be articulate; it’s cool to be smart if you got common sense. But if you don’t hear that in the music… a lot of music you hear, you used to hear n****s say s**t back in the day, and you used to be like, “Why the f*** he say that?” but then as you get older, you’ll understand this n***a was on his s**t—I just didn’t know. And that’s how I want my s**t to be.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of personal matters did you touch on this album?
Young Jeezy: A lot of times I found myself reminiscing about a lot of s**t I went through coming up and I had to do to get where I’m at. A lot of times I remember being at my grandmother’s house and s**t and all that when I left my mom’s crib. I used to be out all day and night and I used to sleep during the day and she stayed right across the basketball court in the hood, in the projects. So I would sleep and dream about doing s**t like parking a yellow Ferrari in front of my grandmother’s house and just showing her how good I’ve done. I used to hear the basketball [dribble] all the time, every time I would sleep just hearing n****s talking.
But I used listen to them n****s and they weren’t talking about s**t. You ever sleep and you hear n****s talking? The things n****s was talked about; I was like my dreams were bigger than that. And I could do better than that and I took all that s**t and made it something. My grandmother is passed, but I remembered that and I remember all the trials and trills I went through; so what kind of n***a would I be to get on and know that was my motivation and inspiration and then forget it and drop it just because I want to sell records. That’s who I am. That’s my life. That’s why I’m here today.
All the s**t I went through was real pain and real struggle. Even if a n***a listen to my lyrics and he like, “Oh that n***a [isn’t real],” he’ll never understand it because he never been nowhere near what I just came from. And he’ll never go and even if you dropped him off there he wouldn’t know how to survive; he’d be f***ed up. The only way he’ll know how to survive is the guide; the blueprint (laughs). Take him through Thug Motivation 101, listen to it five times and drop him off in the hood. [Now] he’s a hustler.
AllHipHop.com: Detail how your transition from the streets to now.
Young Jeezy: It was day in and day out, just not knowing man, for real. Like even when I see n****s and hearing n****s talking about it, I just shake my head. This is not my fad to me. I hear n****s get into the game and just they say anything. To me it’s almost a sign of disrespect because I respect the game so much. Like I could be so much bigger if I just say f*** that. Keeping it real becomes keeping it dumb sometimes.
But to answer your question, it was hard then and it’s harder now. You should hear what motherf***ers say like “he always talking about that and he always talking about this.” Like n***a, what else do I know? What else could I tell you that you would listen to? I don’t know how to fix cars, or build houses. I don’t know that s**t. I’m quite sure if a n***a that was his area of expertise, he could tell you that. I’m a hustler; I came from nothing to this. And I’m not going to stop; this is not my stop, so I’m going to keep going. I'ma take the people that f**k with me, with me.
But to answer your question it’s hard. I think about the smallest s**t I been through, I think about all the times that I might have not been here. I think about all the n****s that just are seeing thirty, forty years in prison. I think about all the n****s that was hanging with me one day and they dead the next.
I got to fly to Baltimore this week; a n***a killed my little homey Mike. Twenty years old, all he wanted to do was rap. He was in the street. I’m in the studio, we kicking it and we talking. I go to LA to finish the movie, I’m on the set a n***a call me like they just killed Mike. I’m already knowing what it’s about, it’s the effects of the recession. People f***ed up. But you got to think I made it out of there and he didn’t. But a n***a look at my music as his entertainmentl this is what I deal with and I’m still not out of it. I’m still dealing with real n***a issues everyday. And a n***a looking at me like a rapper, and I’m like do you see what the f*** I’m going through?
“When I made my decision that was like the worst decision I ever made, but it was the best decision I ever made. It was the worst decision because everyone looked down upon me like “ah told you, you f***ed up”. You got to look at what my options were. When you quit school you kind of know what you dealing with; death or jail.”
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned earlier you have an eighth grade education, tell us about that.
Young Jeezy: But I’m smarter than a motherf***er, don’t get it f***ed up (laughs). Even in school just coming up, true story, I had to take care of my mom, my sister, and my grandmother, and a lot of my people, I’ve always been a provider. And it’s like I just learned sometimes you got to be focused, like you can’t have it all. I sent my sister through school, she’s a registered nurse, and got her life straight but she was always an “A” student even with the s**t we was going through.
Even when I went to school I was focused and I did my work, I understood everything. I helped my homeboy in jail get his G.E.D. when we was locked up. I can teach another person something. I just got to find ways to make it relate. What I did was, I knew I couldn’t focus. I would had loved to go to college, I used to ride by [the] A.U. center like everyday like, “Damn, if I could just go to this motherf***er.” But I couldn’t because I had to make do.
It was just hard waking up trying to make sure we straight and go to school, staying out late night, sleeping in cars and s**t. On the grind, just up with n****s all night and getting up and trying to focus and go to school. I remember listening to Da Brat every morning out of a little bitty radio, with a Brat tape she had this song called “I’m Going To Give It You”. I used to play that s**t every morning, that used to be my motivation. I used to jump up and throw that motherf***er in.
I used to be so tired; I’m a kid though still trying to go to school still trying to make sure people straight and my options just ran out on me. Either we going to survive or you know and we not have nothing or you can go to school and we going to be f***ed up. And I just had to make a decision; just like f*** I’m going to continue to do what I do. Still stay on my s**t; but I can’t go to school.
When I made my decision that was like the worst decision I ever made, but it was the best decision I ever made. It was the worst decision because everybody looked down upon me like, “Ah told you, you f***ed up”. You got to look at what my options were. When you quit school you kind of know what you dealing with; death or jail. When you know that, if you know that, that’s what you go to know. That’s your options. So you making this choice for everyone else, and you go to be the only that’s got to pay for it. Like I said, that s**t was just difficult, in eighth grade I was like f*** it.
AllHipHop.com: It’s good to hear you’re an advocate for education. What would you tell a young boy that comes up to you that says I want to be just like you Jeezy and drop out, I want to be a rapper.
Young Jeezy: I would tell the n***a to follow his heart. I wouldn’t lie to him, school ain’t the way for everybody. Some people never went and are the biggest businessmen you’ll ever see. But once you can go get it, go get it. That s**t just get you in the game. It takes so much more common sense to deal with this s**t. They can’t teach you life skills, and people skills, like nobody really wins, you just got to play it the best.
That’s a major piece. If you can get it I say get it. It’s good to have. Because a n***a can’t take that from you, they can take those chains and all that shit, take your car. I look at it like I got all this s**t and I’m going to wake up tomorrow they going to knock on the door and it’s going to be all gone.
But they can’t take this from you. They can’t take those motherf***ing plaques. They can’t take the fact that I got a voice and I could talk to n****s.
AllHipHop.com: With such a history deep rooted in the streets, do you feel your associates try to pull you back in?
Young Jeezy: It’s not even the circle I keep. Imagine this, a n***a told me the other day...I was just out and about and you know I still go do the strip clubs and everything, and I still go do my thing. But imagine this being the n***a in the club and you looking at n****s like JD and all these other n****s that’s on and you just a n***a in the club with a chain on and you got your whip outside but you a nobody; and you on the other side and you just watch these n****s like, “Damn, they them n****s.” But then you see how they interact with people, like motherf***ers f*** with him, they speak to him, but they speak to him as who they are. But imagine being the n***a that was on the other side that made it to the other side but you really know everybody.
So no matter what happen or no matter what move I make when I go out, I really know n****s. Like I know all the n****s in the street; all the thorough n****s. I know n****s from Maine to Spain; like literally. So n****s treat me with a certain type of respect, and I have to do the same. So even when I’m on my business s**t, I still got to acknowledge n****s because these are the people I knew before. And it’s like you know motherf***ers, you got to keep your word, like you got be real to what you saying because at any given time if you change up and act different, they going to notice and the word of mouth is bigger than anything. It’s like this n***a tripping, he don’t even know us no more.
AllHipHop.com: Behind all the cars and jewelry and fame, who is Jay Jenkins?
Young Jeezy: I’m a real n***a. I’m a realist and I’m fair. If you ask anybody about me, I’m one of them motherf***ers that I’m fair. I’m always trying to help the next n***a; giving the next n***a game. When I came up the old n****s wouldn’t give me game that’s why I had to learn more to walk.
That’s just who I am, I’m a grinder, I go hard. Sometimes I go so hard, I forget about myself. I might get in the zone and just spazz the f*** out and just go in and wake up a year later and I don’t even know because I just been grinding hard. I’m going to make sure my peoples straight. I got tunnel vision; got my eyes on the prize. I’m not coming up for air until I’m where I’m supposed to be. Everything I do is like a chess game. I don’t bring my dice to the chess game, I come to play. I’m going to sit back and strategize and s**t, like yeah watch my next move. You like that, watch this. That’s what I do everyday with everything, with my meal, with my food, with everything. I play.