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Fuck Huey Long: Young Jeezy is the master of populism. Here’s a self-made millionaire who empathizes with the day-to-day troubles of the working class, preaches distrust of the media and authority figures, and always gets his base boiling. While he leaves the lofty rhetoric to the arugula-chomping pantywaist he endorses on “My President,” Jeezy uses his brilliantly timed third album to sharpen his stump speech: The Recession focuses on America’s economic anxieties while reframing his well-chronicled career in cocaine as a political act. Hey, it worked for the CIA.
His first two albums were well-crafted, uncompromising in their focus, and exceptionally entertaining. The Recession makes it three. Over monster hooks and grandiose, swelling beats, Jeezy reprises his roles as paranoid gangster and hokey optimist to fit the current climate—our economic maladies can be beaten by grinding even harder. Though it’s not without the personal flourish (“Trying to pay the light bill, phone bill, plus my granny’s nerve pills/Feel like I should be takin’ ’em, imagine how my nerves feel”), he gripes over operatic chanting and bludgeoning brass hits on “Hustlerz Ambition.” Earlier in his career, Jeezy’s shtick consisted of amateur-hour one-liners—”They used to call a nigga ‘Pringles,’ the way I stack them chips,” he quipped on 2005’s “Let’s Get It”—while he furnished his own laugh track with ad libs that resembled the roars of a joyful sea lion. Here, the bellowed grace notes are toned down to make room for a wordier, more limber delivery, and he’s a whole lot funnier: “Yayo in my kitchen, Scott Storch everywhere/White vest, black top, Kung Fu Panda bear,” he raps over the frenetic horror-flick strings of “Welcome Back.”
He’s been tinkering with writing devices, too: “Put On” employs a series of culinary double entendres, “What They Want” does the same with sports terminology, and “Don’t Do It” repeats the song-title trick from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. If Jigga pioneered the trend of rappers who insist their profession is a calculated hustle, Jeezy embodies it—his marked improvement on The Recession is either a product upgrade or a hint that he enjoys this one-two shit.