The recession may be in full swing, but Young Jeezy is livin’ good. His first two albums, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and The Inspiration, served as tutorials in gettin’ money and achieving success and made him a platinum trap star. His appearance on Usher’s number one single “Love in this Club” this year made him a pop star. But Jeezy isn’t one to gloat. His third album, The Recession, which debuted at number one on Soundscan, is a heartfelt effort urging people to not give up at a time when gas prices, the war in Iraq and the U.S. economy has everyone feeling uneasy. A day after being chauffeured onto the 2008 VMA red carpet by a driver in a John McCain mask, Rhapsody got the outspoken Obama supporter on the phone to talk about meeting Michael Phelps, questions he doesn’t like being asked during interviews, and Sarah Palin.
On meeting Michael Phelps for the first time at the 2008 VMAs
We chopped it up for a hot minute. He’s a cool dude. We were just talking and seeing what was going on for the night. He’s taking that swimming stuff seriously like I take what I do seriously. We work hard and play hard. [His accomplishments are] definitely different, but I definitely respect it. It’s something he took the time to train for and come home with them medals. It’s like going in to work on the album and coming home with those plaques.
On memorializing Pimp C on “My President Is Black”
It was an opportunity to address a lot of things. I just wanted to go ahead and get whatever was on my mind off because I knew it was something a lot of people were gonna listen to. It was something to straighten out everything across the board. I just told [Bun B] that’s something I had to say. Me and Pimp actually got a chance to chop it up real big before he passed, and we saw eye to eye. You gotta know Pimp to know he was like that sometimes.
On Nas' response to Jessie Jackson’s controversial Obama comments: "His time is up. ... It's a new day. ... I'm here now. We got Barack, we got David Banners and Young Jeezys. We're the voice now."
It put things in perspective. You gotta look at it like we speak the ghetto gospel. So, sometimes, we really don’t need those hypocrites. He made a point. We the ones talking to the youth and the streets. So, why would you come and mess that up for us?
On why “Don’t Know You” is one of his favorite tracks
My whole thing was, if I didn’t know you before rap, then I don’t know you, period. We can do a million songs together. ["Don't Know You"] is the type of music I normally do. And that’s what I put my heart into. I didn’t hear anything that sounded like that out there. That’s one of the first songs I actually took out of the studio and put in the car and rode around to. I don’t normally just ride around to music. I remember one Friday I listened to it all day.
I represent what I represent for real. I speak on what I know. It wasn’t based on no money or nothing like that or trying to portray an image. This is who I am. But I didn’t want it to become a fad. Everybody get in the game and talk about the same thing and then burn out. I was like, "That’s cool, but that ain’t what I do. This has been me." Go get the first thing I ever put my vocals on. You gonna hear the same dude. Now it’s saturated. Even when I’m out, everyone is like, "You sound like such and such." And I’m like, "Whoa?" It’s a lot of cats that originated this before me, real talk. But I just happen to know I’m 100 percent me when it comes to this. And I just didn’t want it to be a situation where everybody thought you were just fabricating some sh*t just to get some money.
On where The Recession stands against other “Album of the Year” contenders like Lil' Wayne’s Tha Carter III or Nas’ Untitled
I think I stand firm. Everyone plays the numbers game. But I think it’s what you can play five years from now. I’ve seen people still play damn near everything on Thug Motivation in the club ‘til this day. It’s gotta stand the test of time. It’s definitely a different era and different time, but it was much needed. Everyone seen what was going on around them with the whole election and recession. So, there’s always gonna be something at the point in time that makes people reminisce about what was going on around this time right here.
It’s gotta be one of the most solid albums I’ve done. I’m happy with how it came out. I dropped a few jewels and I did me. And then I ain’t have a lot of features; that kind of showed cats where I was going. I really wanted n*gg*s to respect my gangsta and my hustle. I get that a lot, like, "Can he rap?" That’s cool, but I can make a song. You’ll love that sh*t from front to back. I think it’s because if you not street, you don’t get it. It almost comes off like I didn’t really say nothing. The average motherf*ck*r might hear a line like “whole car’s strapped and I ain’t talking about seatbelts” [from “Bottom of the Map”] and be like, “What’s a strap?” and think you’re really talking about seatbelts.
On questions he doesn’t like being asked
When they are real up-front and ask you about street sh*t. Like a n*gg* might just ask you the dumbest sh*t in the world. Like when’s the first time [you sold drugs or have you ever killed someone]? I just sit there and don’t answer like, "N*gg*, I don’t got nothing to say about that." [The interviewer asking me about hard-boiled peanuts] was trippin'. It’s different ‘cause I have to humble myself to even deal with some of that sh*t, and my patience is shorter than an interlude. I might flip out at any time. So, I just have to be like, "Alright, be cool and just calm down." But yeah, he was different. I don’t know what the f*ck he was on. It was awkward. That interview was probably like 10 minutes of him asking this and that, and I was like, "Man, what the f*ck?"
On being driven onto the VMA red carpet by “John McCain”
He was helping me support Barack. [Laughs.] You ain’t see the Barack stickers on the side of car? He’s a good guy. [Laughs.] Then you got the soccer mom. I guess if that’s who you want to run your country, because the other guy looks like he might not make it that long. They might tell him he won and he might [have a heart attack] on the spot at the podium. She looks alright though.