Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101
used to hit the kitchen lights, cockroaches everywhere / Hit the kitchen lights, now it's marble floors everywhere”
The first line off Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation’s opening track probably has a lot riding on it, and as a representative image, it’s a good intersection of Young Jeezy’s diary-like rhymes, easy going vernacular and upwardly-mobile hustle. Not Escalades, St. Tropez and endless bottles of what-have-you but the classic Mario Puzo immigrant-ascension into the bourgeoisie. Way more documentary than The Documentary.
Go back to that opening image. In one flash, a young black guy moves from collapsing poverty houses to an upper middle class (probably) ranch house with a nice garage. Why? Because the peaks of his debut album string together a nice analysis in the truest sense of the word: he takes apart the hustle, investigates each part and reassembles the whole. The quad-cluster of “Trap Star,” “Go Crazy,” “Bottom of The Map,” and the pulsating album-closer, “Air Forces,” buoys the disc. Each one has a poky sense of urgency, not regional urgency like Mike Jones or linguistic urgency like E-40, but an economic urgency (if that makes any sense) reminiscent of No Way Out-era Puffy. The money talk is big, but the work/grind/hustle talk is the event horizon.
Speaking of urgency, Mannie Fresh (the only superstar producer on board), reaches deep into his ‘90s bag of tricks, eviscerates a horde of his own jams (most of the Big Tymer’s smashes) and gives up “And Then What,” the first single. It’s a last-light-in-August summer party; a thunderstorm of snares, claps, hi-hats and nasty kick drums setting themselves off like the definitive rap nervous system. Very close to Young Buck’s smash of 2004, “Let Me In”, “And Then What” is the obvious commercial crux of Let’s Get It and a single so white-hot that its expiration date just got pushed back to, oh, let’s say, March 2016.
The overall slang use is impeccable; Jeezy uses words like ‘trap’ so effectively that you can glean the meaning of the word from context alone. The details in his similes are the spoonful of jelly that helps the sometimes repetitive “message” medicine down. He “moves blocks / So call it Tetris.” Like Jadakiss and his torn lung demonic giggle, Jeezy’s drawn out “Yeaaaaaaaaaaah” is recognizable and hard to replicate. Angling around verses is Jeezy’s style and while you’ll tap an angry foot in boredom every song or two, he leaves welded verses to look back on.
If it weren’t for “Air Forces” the corpulent bottom half of Let’s Get It would numb the punches floated in the opening thirty minutes. “Soul Survivor” is Akon’s most maddening hook to date and the antithesis of his wounded, genuinely hearty work on “Locked Up.” None of the other guests make much sense; Trick Daddy intrudes the most on Jeezy’s battle-axe voice.
I’m frustrated because I still can’t figure out what really sets Jeezy apart from the already teeming mass of rappers claming street authenticity (still don’t know what that is either), but I can say that along with Slim Thug and T.I. he’s ballsy enough to make his own verses sound like everyone’s life story. That’s a good thing. Gangster rap should be all about the class struggle.
Fat needed to be trimmed from this bird, but at least Jeezy hasn’t let his brain go Michelin Man on the world. “Some say I lucked up, I call it perfect timing / I can't lose; the whole city's behind me” he says in the middle of the conquering “And Then What.”
Jeezy, turn on the tube man, log on to any rap site in the world. You’ve got way more than Atlanta in your corner.