Tuesday, November 29
Better than: Combing his Wikipedia page.
Perhaps Young Jeezy’s biggest weakness as an artist is the information that’s out there about him, or the lack thereof. Four albums and a plethora of mixtapes deep and even ardent fans like myself admittedly know very little about the man behind those guttural trap-rap bangers and deliciously elongated ad-libs, save for a smattering of his legal run-ins and imbroglios with fellow rappers—and, of course, his snowman emblem.
Enter A Hustlerz Ambition: The Documentary, the new biopic narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson that chronologically recounts how the man born Jay Jenkins evolved into Young Jeezy and available as part of the deluxe edition of Jeezy’s forthcoming Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition. The roughly shot film combines interviews with Jeezy (oft-taped Swisher Sweet in hand) and his family and colleagues (Jay-Z, Diddy) with childhood photos and concert footage.
This isn’t Martin Scorsese’s take on the Rolling Stones, nor is it Amadeus. Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining retrospective. Samuel L. Jackson’s booming baritone adds weight (and, sometimes, inadvertent comedy) to every word recounting Jeezy’s trip out of the small-town South, where an absentee father coupled with an addicted and violent mother turned the 11-year-old on to slinging drugs. The rapper candidly talks about the day he saw his own mother strung out in a crack house, where he watched in horror as his friend sold her several grams. This mindfuck couldn’t detract the young trapper, though; he continued hustling unabated well into adulthood, finally stopping only when he and manager Kinky B found music.
The doc is peppered with these rare, sometimes wrenching moments. Jeezy is soft-spoken but complex. The same man who is at once sensitive as he talks about his beloved grandmother or his struggles with Bell’s palsy is also a hardened gangster who once brandished an AK-47 at an intern who had leaked tracks from his first album. Walking the line between the street and selling out is at the crux of his inner demons, and whether Jeezy will choose to denounce them for greater career gain (not to mention his own physical safety) is ultimately left unanswered. In the end, the rapper is unsure of his future but trusting of his instincts; as long as he does it “the Jeezy way,” as he calls it, he’ll find success.
Critical bias: For those of you keeping count at home, this is the second Young Jeezy outing I’ve attended while hobbling around with a sprained ankle. No one can ever say that I don’t take the fall for hip-hop.
Overheard: “This better be the best movie of all time. This better be like Schindler’s List meets Half Baked!”—a nearby scribe griping during the hourlong delay before the screening started.
Random notebook dump: The theater boasted TSA-level security measures upon entrance, complete with thorough patdowns and bag searches. Remember when Jeezy rapped, “Wear a lot of jewelry/ Young don’t do security”? I didn’t get a chance to see whether he did or didn’t “do security” when he arrived.