Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Young Jeezy -- Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101
Def Jam; 2005

Street cred be damned -- Atlanta-based rapper Young Jeezy's story isn't wildly different from most other popular rappers (Jay-Z, 50 Cent, T.I., I see you!). From a young age, Jeezy made a career of selling "incalculable" amounts of drugs; that is, until his rap career finally became more lucrative. His lyrics sway precariously between playing eyewitness to the streets and thug-life booster. What separates Jeezy from the rest of the former-dealer crowd is witty charisma to smooth over the roughest edges of the grind and keep listeners marveling at unusually clever boasts. On Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, the one-track mind that pulled him off the streets fixates on what he knows best: the trapping business.

To get everyone on the same page, trapping is the practice of finding addicts and making them your lifetime customers. It's a much less "attractive" side to drugs, one the rap canon has spent significantly less time boasting about. There's no doubt about it, Young Jeezy is a hardcore, uncompromising rapper who spits topics that could make the average hip-hop head squirm. At the same time, these grimy rhymes aren't particularly alienating, even though they would be coming from most other rappers.

What allows Thug Motivation 101 to reach a broader audience is Jeezy's ability to turn a phrase. Money is, of course, a popular bragging point, like on the triumphant "Standing Ovation" ("Got it by the truckload, like the bread people / I got a sixth sense, I stack dead people") and on "Thug Motivation 101" ("I'm Donald Trump in a white tee and white ones / The conversation is money nigga, you want some?"). And since the entire album revolves around drugs, listeners get to hear Jeezy grandstand about his operation ("Kitchen fumed up, niggas jammin' 2Pac / Get my Benihana on, workin' two pots") and talk about hardships ("It's kinda hard bein' drug free / When Georgia power won't give a nigga lights free"). Snowman, as he's affectionately called, has enough choice quotes to fill up an entire column, many too irreverent to be printed.

Young Jeezy's rap style is much more casual than one might expect from an intense crack dealer. His slow, syrupy flow hits the rhymes when it feels like it, often giving tunes the illusion of being at a lower tempo. A leisurely, but not lazy, style is much appreciated for this type of rap, giving listeners a chance to chill out and catch Jeezy's wit. Often at the end of each line is one of his trademarked outbursts -- not dissimilar to those Lil' Jon is known for: "Ayyyy" and a drawn out "Thaaaat's riiiiight." These add a somewhat comical feel to the otherwise ultra-bleak tracks, which can be amusing or irritating, depending on your disposition.

Topping off the Jeezy platter is a delicious stack of beats, ranging from Cash Money hugeness (the Mannie Fresh-produced "And Then What") to metallicrunk thumpers ("Bottom of the Map," produced by the up-and-coming Shawty Redd) to the electro-tinged eeriness of "Let's Get It/Hands In the Air" (brought to you by the unknown Midnight Black). The album's first single, "Go Crazy," nabs The Impressions' "Man Oh Man" and makes it over into a party-ready anthem and a definite album standout. The album's diversity keeps it fairly fresh in spite of its length, even if it tends to drag a little towards the end.

Young Jeezy is an anti-hero, a guy whose appeal is both his gritty nature and natural charm that leaks through into his demeanor and lyrics. In a culture afraid of drugs and the requisite lifestyle, spending an entire album dwelling on his pharmaceutical past is a risky decision to make. Sure, it would be every trapper's favorite record, but would it give Jeezy the recognition he deserves? Yet Jeezy pulls it off with ease, crafting mind-boggling metaphors and uttering them in an unruffled fashion over top-notch beats. Thug Motivation 101 is Jeezy's latest trap, and this time he's caught a solid audience.

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