Young Jeezy (Thug Motivation 103 listening session)
Quad Recording Studios
Thursday, November 3
Better than: Waiting until December 20.
Young Jeezy’s Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition had become the stuff of hip-hop lore over the past few years. A perpetually delayed release date coupled with a glut of mostly underwhelming early singles had people lumping the album in with perpetually-in-limbo relases like Detox and the follow-up to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The deluge of somewhat comparable rappers—most notably Rick Ross—who came up in the interim and the general capriciousness of hip-hop fans didn’t help, either.
Last night at Quad Studios, the rapper previewed most of the final installment of his Thug Motivation triptych (new release date: December 20) to a small crowd of journalists and label honchos. The album holds true to the Snowman’s formula of percussion-heavy, drug-infested tales about a habitué of Atlanta street life, enveloped in a deliciously gravelly voice. Ideal for the requisite listening-session head-nods, tracks like “.38” and the Plies-assisted “Lose My Mind” are the kind of grit meant to growl, puff your chest out and shove a few folks around to. “It ain’t nothin’ to a boss, my goons got goons/ House stupid dumb big, my rooms got rooms,” Jeezy raps boastfully on “Lose My Mind.” Any New York City resident knows that nothing beats a good real estate diss.
His opportunities for braggadocio don’t stop at the bedroom, and there’s no shortage of relationship-centric fare; Jeezy said he made a conscious decision to record music for the purpose of attracting new female fans. “Smoke and Fuck” and “Supa Freak” were a bit too literal for my tastes, but the melodious “Leave You Alone,” featuring Ne-Yo, is poised to be buzzy. It also demonstrates for the umpteenth time that Ne-Yo’s smooth, honeyed voice makes everything sound good.
TM 103‘s gems lie in the deviations; when Jeezy steps outside of his comfort zone, the results are stellar. “Higher Learning” is a delightfully airy, marijuana-inspired jaunt featuring the pied piper of pot Snoop Dogg and Devin the Dude, along with a bewildering mention of my sleepy little hometown Kalamazoo. Jeezy explained to me that the name-check was for his homies locked up at the local jail (I subsequently drew the parallel between small-town life and incarceration, but said joke regrettably fell flat with the Snowman). One of the other standouts, “I Do,” is the album’s jumpy pièce de résistance. The feel-good number with the hypnotic hook “I do/ I do/ I do/ I do” boasts guest verses by two lyrical juggernauts: Jay-Z and Andre 3000. This is a big deal. Prepare to flail your arms accordingly.
Jeezy told me that he expects TM 103 to be the final installment of the Thug Motivation series and that he’s already moving on to other sonic frontiers. “I’m happy this motherfucker done!” he exerted with a sigh of relief. No arguments here.
Critical bias: I wear my personal penchant for Jeezy quite literally, as the proud owner of a (now ostensibly vintage) TM 101 promo t-shirt emblazoned with a huge, snarling, bedazzled snowman. To retain its original sparkle, this tchotchke is reserved solely for special occasions.
Overheard: “Make sure you write right and shit”—Young Jeezy teaching those scribes taking notes.
Random notebook dump: This was my first music outing with a newly sprained ankle, and I must say that a cast was the best accoutrement to snag prime event seating—not to mention, a modicum of welcomed chivalry from the male guests.
Trap feat. Jill Scott
O.J. feat. Fabolous and Jadakiss
Leave You Alone feat. Ne-Yo
Smoke and Fuck
Lose My Mind feat. Plies
Higher Learning feat. Snoop Dogg and Devin the Dude
Used to Have Nothing
I Do feat. Jay-Z and Andre 3000