It’s clear to any music fan that the South currently rules hip-hop, from Lil Jon’s anthems to Houston’s laid-back "chopped-and-screwed" music.
The latest "dirty South" representer is Young Jeezy, a potent rhymer battling to become the new "king of the south." A month ago, his four-man crew, Boyz N Da Hood released their first album that dropped N.W.A into the backwoods.
Jeezy is known for his signature phrase "e’erbody"s and a cartoonishly drawled "Yeeeaaah" catchphrase , but his lyrical skill is not to be underestimated.
The unapologetically money-hungry Jeezy has done a fine job setting himself up for success: He’s got big-name backers, including P. Diddy and Jay-Z; a steel-clad hometown rep; and a well-publicized beef with fellow Atlanta MC Gucci Mane that allegedly resulted in the death of a man sent by Jeezy to rough up Gucci.
Jeezy made his name in the mix-tape game, pushing true-life tales and brawny freestyles like he’s pushing weight. Jeezy’s most widely circulated mix tape, Trap or Die, is full of over-the-top boasts and brittle beats that feature his Southernness at the dirtiest setting.
Young Jeezy’s official debut album, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, shows off his warm, raspy voice, his down-home charm and his no-nonsense approach to record-making. Jeezy is an expert self-promoter, but, with the exceptions of a few obvious singles, he expects the outside world to come to him, rather than the other way around.
On "My Hood," the album’s most head-noddable track, Jeezy drops smooth rhymes about "summertime cookouts and wintertime fights" and G-men jumping out of Ford Tauruses.
On "Let’s Get It/Sky’s the Limit," he repeats a hook that’s one part get-off-your-ass exhortation and one part financial-seminar sloganeering: "The world is yours/And everything in it is out there/Get on your grind and get it/Hey!/Hands in the air."
Jeezy never goes off-message on Thug Motivation: The album hammers home his persona as an ex-hustler who’s got as much regular-guy appeal as he’s got cash. On "Thug Motivation 101," Jeezy is "Donald Trump in a white T"; on "My Hood," he’s just another MC repping for his hood; and on "Get Ya Mind Right," he’s "the realest nigga livin’."
Amid the weirdly new wave chorus on "Trap Star," he outlines his seduction of a lady friend
while going on about cocaine, purple mangos and a pimped-out chopper. Gun violence is surprisingly absent; on the best tracks, such as the darkly seductive, G-funking "Don’t Get Caught," Jeezy outlines a past full of drugs and dirty-*** h**s, making pimping in the hot-as-**** Southern streets sound like big fun on a Saturday night. The main problem with Thug Motivation might be the expectations surrounding it: Had it not been promoted for big success, it would be just an above-average Southern-rap record. Only a handful of tracks grab you by the ears the way they should, and despite abundant reminders of his street-life struggles, Jeezy needs a couple more dimensions to his character. But if Thug Motivation doesn’t make Young Jeezy as famous as 50 Cent or even The Game, he’s surely not the last of his breed. As far as the rap game goes, the South is rising again and again.