The arc of Young Jeezy’s career has been, for the most part, a consistent swing to higher heights. The underwhelming The After Party released in 2011 by USDA, which featured Jeezy, Slick Pulla, and Blood Raw along with sometime members Boo Rossini and 2Eleven aside, he’s carved out a career filled with gold and platinum plaques. He’s also, for the most part, done it through talking about roughly one or two subjects, and, despite certain other members of the Atlanta scene claiming his lack of pedigree, he’s managed to curate and maintain a rabid fan base that not only comes out for his singles, mixtapes, and albums, but chronicles his every move.
There are few artists in Hip Hop today who’ve been able to build the sort of career that transcends flooding the proverbial streets, and not only has he managed to co-exist with his original competition Rozay, and Gucci, but he’s managed to be just as successful. With his fifth studio album on the horizon, we decided to take a brief look back at the many stations of Jeezy’s stardom and just how the Snowman went from artist to A&R to mogul throughout his tumultuous career.
Young Jeezy’s Post Boyz N Da Hood Era
Album: Thug Motivation 101: Lets Get It
Release Date: July 26, 2005
First Week SoundScan: 172,000 copies sold first week
Notable Off The Mic Activity: Shredding his vocal cords
Although Jeezy and his DJ Drama-assisted classic mixtape Trap Or Die was already rumbling subwoofers in the streets for some time, Thug Motivation 101: Let’s Get It was the battering ram that really broke open Snowman’s trap door for the world to see. Jeezy Snowman t-shirts were everywhere as if a blizzard had hit Hip Hop, and it seemed escaping the now infamous “Yeaahhhhhhh” adlib was damn near impossible. His debut album sold 172,000 copies the first week en route to becoming RIAA certified platinum (numbers that would have almost every debut Hip Hop artist jumping for joy these days), and helped usher in a new era of “Trap music” that spoke to hustlers and dream-chasers all across the country. Jeezy’s solo success came right on the heels of selling over 100,000 albums a month prior, but those sales were as a member of Boyz N Da Hood, the Rap collective formed by Puffy as the poster-boys for the newly founded Bad Boy South. Unfortunately for Jody Breeze, Gorilla Zoe, and Big Gee, Jeezy the Snowman caught fire, which resulted in Boyz N Da Hood being left out in the cold. It was evident that with or without a supporting cast, Jeezy was ready to shine in the game.
Album: The Inspiration
Release Date: December 12, 2006
First Week SoundScan: 352,000 copies sold first week
Notable Off The Mic Activity: Public split with Keyshia Cole
It had been a year and some change since Thug Motivation 101: Let’s Get It had set the streets on fire, and Jeezy had definitely stayed friendly with the gas, also flaring out the mix-tapes Can’t Ban The Snowman and I Am The Street Dream within that time period. And although both were well received, they only added pressure and intensity to the question Hip Hop was wondering when it came to The Snowman: does he have what it takes to cement his spot in the game or was he going to fall victim to the sophomore slump? Well, after the first week numbers for The Inspiration hit the board, anybody thinking the latter was met with an emphatic Jeezy “Ha-Haaa!” Because not only did The Inspiration match the great first week sales of its predecessor Thug Motivation 101: Let’s Get It, it more than doubled those numbers, debuting at #1 on The Billboard 200 and selling a massive 352,000 copies in the United States. With two platinum plaques now to his name, the CTE general not only cemented his spot in Hip Hop, but started to see his name thrown in the mix with T.I. for “King of The South” honors.
Young Jeezy’s Mainstream Acceptance & Grammy Win
Album: The Recession
Release Date: September 2, 2008
First Week SoundScan: 260,000 copies sold first week
Notable Off The Mic Activity: Jeezy & Nas reconcile on wax
“My President is black, my Lambo’s blue, and I’d be goddamned if my rims ain’t too.” - Young Jeezy ft. Nas, “My President”
Forget the money, the awards, and the record sales, the impact that one specific line had on Hip Hop culture was definitely Jeezy’s shining moment in 2008. Barack Obama had just become the first African-American elected President of the United States, and “My President” featuring Nas became an anthem for the streets, Hip Hop, and just people everywhere that were excited about the changes going on in the country. What made the song even more legendary was the fact that it was recorded three months before Obama won the presidency, meaning Jeezy pulled off a Babe Ruth by “calling his shot,” or in this case, his president. Now although the cultural impact of The Recession may have outweighed it’s tangible accolades, that in no way, shape, or form meant it was lacking in the area. Jeezy’s third studio album garnered him his second straight album to debut at #1, moving 260,000 units its first week. The Recession also provided the Atlanta rapper with a career first, a Grammy nomination, which he earned for Best Rap performance by a duo for the lead single “Put On” featuring Kanye West. His President was black, his Lambo was blue, and he’d be goddamned if he wasn’t dominating music too.
Album: TM: 103 Hustlerz Ambition
Release Date: December 20, 2011
First Week SoundScan: 233,000 copies sold first week
Notable Off The Mic Activity: Multiple delays releasing the album
Now if The Recession was best known for seeing into the future, Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition was best known for not even being able to see the light of day. After the album initially being announced way back in 2009, it saw nearly five release dates attached to it before finally dropping two years later in December of 2011. As expected, reasons for the delay ran rampant throughout the Hip Hop community. Some speculated Jeezy just didn’t have anything left in the booth. Others felt Rick Ross had firmly taken his spot when it came to “Trap Rap,” and some felt Def Jam executives were just giving Jeezy the run around a la DMX. But as with most rumor tornados, none of them turned out to be true. Instead, the majority of the delay was attributed to Jeezy looking out for his close friend, the man he came in the game with, Shawty Redd. In an interview with HipHopDX, Jeezy detailed staying with Shawty Redd after he was released from prison.
“I stayed with Shawty and talked to him, every day and every night, because his mind-state wasn’t right,” Jeezy said. “I thought, what’s more important? My little brother, or the music? I kind of got off my rocker, but for six months, I lived with Shawty Redd in his spare room.” Karma did not forget. Even with the Internet starting to really sink its teeth into record sales by 2011, TM103: Hustlerz Ambition went on to move 233,000 units the first week, and received a 4-rating from HipHopDX. Hundreds of thousands records sold, silencing the critics, and providing that motivational music for the streets? Just another day at the office for Jay Wayne Jenkins.
Jeezy In A&R Mode And Beyond
Album: Seen It All
Release Date: September 20, 2014
First Week Soundscan: n/a
Notable Off The Mic Activity: Jeezy is named Atlantic’s Sr. VP of A&R
The numbers prove that Jeezy has had no problem spearheading his own career as a soloist. He’s expertly toed the line between feeding the streets with mixtapes such as Trap Or Die while gaining mainstream acceptance via collaborations with the likes of Jay Z, Kanye West and even his former rival, Rick Ross. But Jeezy’s track record as El Jefe has been somewhat spotty. Neither individual members of USDA nor Snowman’s CTE roster as a whole have enjoyed commercial success away from Jeezy, although the book hasn’t been written on the likes of Blood Raw, Slick Pulla, 2Eleven, and Boo Rossini. A 2010 pairing with Gary, Indiana native Freddie Gibbs appeared to be the beginning of a talent infusion for CTE, but by 2012 what was publicized as an amicable split turned uglier than a crossbred lovechild between Biz Markie and Craig Mack. As it turns out, Jeezy’s batting average as an executive was par for the course, as he was named Senior VP of A&R at Atlantic Records in August of 2009. After a few chance meetings with YG, Jeezy befriended the Compton upstart and essentially helped him reboot his career. The result was the #1 Billboard Hot R&B and Hip Hop chart debut of My Krazy Life, which also netted Jeezy a co-executive producer credit. With copies of Jeezy’s Seen It All already leaking to various corners of the Internet, it remains to be seen how Jeezy will balance his dual role as both an artist and an executive. However, allegedly being caught with an AK-47 assault rifle doesn’t bode well.