Young Jeezy The Recession

[Def Jam; 2008]

Styles: conscious-less rack rap
Others: 2Pac, Kanye West, J.U.S.T.I.C.E., Nas

This past year has found Young Jeezy transitioning: from the streets of the ATL to the bright lights of Fifth Avenue, from crack rap’s king to pop’s go-to support act (peep: “Love In This Club,” “I Luv Your Girl [Remix]”), from The Snowman to Barack’s man, and from thug motivator (“Donald Trump in a white tee”) to hood economist (“Gas higher than me”). As a result, it's not surprising that each of these evolutions -- some upwards, others lateral -- dominate his latest album, The Recession, both inspiriting and, largely, flattening it.

Jeezy has always had a golden ear for production, continually mining liminal producers for imposing, hard Southern beats that rightly compliment both his raspy, brusque voice and lazy, Dirty South flow. Such is the case on The Recession, which is filled with archetypical-Jeezy production. Take the 2Pac-sampling (“Ambitionz As A Rider”) “Hustlaz Ambition” and its generous use of synths, an overriding and often numbing characteristic of the beats found early in the album. But, thankfully, Jeezy does occasionally stray away from this formula later, most notably on the awesome J.U.S.T.I.C.E.-produced “Word Play,” which abandons familiar drum patterns for a more soul-sampling and consequently nominal sound.

Although, the latter tracks on The Recession showcase new musical frontiers for Jeezy, his persona and lyrics are unfortunately still as stylish as they are substance-less. Jeezy has always strove to inspire others via his own example of realness, namely thuggish charm and verbal brawn. Take “Get Allot,” on which Jeezy drops witty punchlines about his rousing success in the drug game: “Just like Ziploc, I made a killing in plastic.” Although Jeezy has platitudinal lines by the bowl-full, it is between these barbs that Jeezy the MC is exposed as average. Nowhere is this more obvious than on “Put On.” On this track, Jeezy is murked by producer-sometimes-rapper Kanye West. Where Kanye effectively pulls at the listener’s heartstrings (“I lost the only girl/ In the world that know me best/ I got the money and the fame/ And that don’t mean shit/ I got the Jesus on a chain/ Man that don’t mean shit”), Jeezy tediously grabs at old themes (“Ain’t nothin’ but a young thug/ HKs, AKs, I need to join a gun club/ Big wheels, big straps/ You know I like it super-sized”). And where Kanye is captivating, Jeezy is sluggish, as even Kanye’s (played-out) use of Auto-Tune fits the aesthetics of the track more appropriately than Jeezy’s typically on-point voice and flow.

It's laudable that Jeezy attempts to meld the disparate elements and tracks of The Recession with coinciding conceptual arcs of the digressing economy and the 2008 Presidential Election, but such ambition is missing in many modern rap albums (read: Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III). However, this endeavor only serves to highlight his shortcomings as a lyricist, whether it be his cringe-worthy chorus on “Amazin’” (“Bitch, I’m amazing/ Look what I’m blazin’/ Eyes so low, I look like an Asian”) or his inability to match bars with Nas, who actually makes a strong comeback (after his deplorable, untitled album) on “My President.”

Young Jeezy’s seemingly upward movement this past year would seem to indicate his maturation as an artist, MC, and lyricist. But it simply demonstrates the opposite. His growing ubiquity on Top-40 radio proves Jeezy’s ability to write a hard-hitting, punchline-driven 16-bars of rhymes, but when he attempts to write a complete song, he has difficulty relating narratives or maintaining motifs, making Jeezy’s attempt to make a socially conscious album ultimately hollow. The Recession, then, is a portrait of the artist as an over-his-head young man.

Most Read