I assumed Game’s R.E.D. Album was an anomaly, but maybe it was more like a blueprint....
DJBooth Album Review
I’m sure it’s pure coincidence, but the similarities are remarkable. Just like Game, Young Jeezy came off a successful album, The Recession, with the game already anticipating his new project. But that album would be delayed for years as singles like Jizzle and Shake Life went nowhere. When an official release date, December 20, was finally declared, it felt more like Def Jam trying to clear the seemingly stalled project off their yearly ledger than a vote of confidence. It’s safe to say that hopes were not high. But then a flurry of last minute releases, I Do and F.A.M.E. chief among them, revived a measure of confidence, and when Thug Motivation 103: A Hustlerz Ambition finally hit my headphones this week for the second time I found myself saying, “Damn, this is way better than I expected. I wonder what took so long.”
Unlike Jay-Z, who no matter how often he visits the Marcy Projects has forever transcended the streets, and a rapper like Plies, who seemingly can’t see beyond the block, Jeezy has always straddled two worlds: Too intelligent to remain only a gangster, too much of a gangster to take up residence in the corporate boardroom. Much like The Recession, TM103 mirrors Jeezy’s foot in two worlds existence. For example, I Do conjures up memories of Int’l Players Anthem, coasting across the speakers with a lush soul sample and verses from some of hip-hop’s most sought after lyricists Jay-Z and Andre3K. It’s rap you could play at a wedding, which is something I wouldn’t exactly recommend for .38 (unless your wedding reception is at the stash house). Capped off by a typically high caliber verse from his CTE signee Freddie Gibbs, .38 is a return to the booming bass, posted in the trap Snowman that first blew him up. The same can be said for the raw and uncut Just Like That, which Drumma Boy helps turn into the definition of a banger. And then, just a few tracks later, the Unlikely Hip-Hop Collaborations Hall of Fame receives a new honoree when queen of neo-soul Jill Scott joins Jeezy for the deeply auto-biographical and self-reflective Trapped. No one’s saying the man’s lyrically the second-coming of Rakim, but he’s far better than the doubters would have you believe, and TM103 contains plenty of proof for those willing to listen.
Unfortunately, you can’t sit around for years like TM103 did without packing on a little extra weight. Considering it came out literally a year and a half ago, I find it hard to believe anyone willing to buy this album doesn’t already have Lose My Mind, but considering the Grammy nomination we’ll give Jeezy a pass. Instead I’m talking about tracks like Everythang, which feels unfinished compared to its peers, and Higher Learning, which feels like it was included primarily under the “we have to have a song for the weed smokers” principle instead of any inherent dopeness. As for Leave You Alone…I’m still undecided. Like Higher Learning, grabbing Ne-Yo for a “song for the ladies” has strategic move written all over it, but it’s good enough to actually be enjoyable. As any true boss knows, you’re only as strong as your weakest soldier, and on TM103 you can’t help but wish Jeezy had recruited his army of tracks a little more selectively.
But to focus on that last paragraph would be to miss the forest for the trees? Or is that the tree for the forest? Whatever, the point is that despite the delays and false starts and question marks, ultimately Young Jeezy has continued an impressively consistent run of quality albums (studying TM101 isn’t a per-requisite for TM103, but they’ll help). However we got here, the point is we’re here, and the next time someone builds a highly-anticipated album, squanders that anticipation, and then somehow manages to exceed all expectations, we can call it the Young Jeezy blueprint.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 12/21/11
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