Q & A: Young Jeezy on being "great live," how mixtapes are like sparring, and waiting on his Makaveli

by Chayne Japal

April 19, 2012






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Coming out of the last decade, Young Jeezy was one of the select few standing at the top of the hip hop game, mostly due to a trio of efficiently released instant classics, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, The Inspiration, and The Recession. He gained a following with his fresh concoction of stark gangsta rap laced with unapologetically awesome punchlines and an almost ironically brash character displayed by his conspicuous ad-libs. And his knack for turning slow, heavy, booming beats into anthems paved the way for top tier producers like Lex Luger’s and Shondrae Crawford’s success (even though, sadly, he hasn’t worked with either of them as yet). Recently, after what seems like forever between releases (really just three years), Jeezy has returned with his fourth LP, Thug Motivation 103: Hustlaz Ambition.

This April, he arrived in Toronto for his sixth consecutive show in Canada. His current North American tour had 8 Canadian dates booked, which is just short of unprecedented for an American rapper of Jeezy’s calibre. Unfortunately, a pair of untimely shootings at Toronto and London concert venues on the respective nights that Jeezy was slated to perform caused Canadian authorities to cancel the rest of the tour. AUX caught up with Jeezy on the eve of the now-infamous Toronto date. Jeezy’s uplifted and promising mood just makes the negative outcome of the tour all the more tragic.

AUX: Not too many hip hop artists, especially from the south, do the almost coast-to-coast Canada tour. How’s Canada treating you?

Young Jeezy: Good, man. I didn’t realize Canada was so big though. Like, I done seen the time zone change three times. I took a long flight, then a long bus ride, I didn’t know. I had no idea.

So how’s the experience been for you so far?

I think I needed it, man. I’m gon’ keep it a thousand, I think it was something that I needed to see as an artist. You know what I’m saying? I needed to see as a musician. I needed to see as a man that I got so many die hard, real fans that love me, like, especially in Toronto, it’s crazy. Edmonton was crazy. Saskatoon was crazy, like, everything was just crazy. And more than I expected, nah mean? And for me to still be able to do an hour show, you know, here in Canada and for people to be with me word for word. It’s just real, you know what I mean? It’s an eye opener. Like, what the fuck? Why I ain’t been over here? Three or four albums in, and I’m just getting over here?

Is the crowd reaction any different up here?

It’s a little different because they haven’t really seen me live. You know what I’m saying? I’m really good at that, by the way. I’m really good live. I think for the most part, it’s a give and take thing with us. I don’t expect them to be so hype and they don’t expect me to get so into it. It’s a back and forth thing. At the end of the day, we both win. Just coming here and seeing the energy, and feeling the energy, you know, it’s really something because when you’re writing these songs you don’t really envision coming all the way to somewhere like Toronto and getting that type of love.

You mention that you’re good live…

Great live. I’m great live. I’m up there with Prince and Michael Jackson. Fuckin’ right. Jeezy Michael Jackson, baby.

But at the same time, you’ve put out some really great albums, one after the other.

I mean, that’s my focus. You know, I understand the trends and all that. When I came in the game everybody was crunk and headbussin’ and all that shit. And I was like, “I’m gonna do me.” I’ve always just been a firm believer in that. I was raised to just do me. I just do what I do. When I go to do an album, I go in and make an album. I think it out. I think it through. I know that I want this type of record. I want an “Everything.” I want a “Way Too Gone.” I want an “I Do.” I want a Jill Scott record and I want it to be like this. I try to make to make timeless music. And sometimes timeless music can be before its time. You look at a lot of great pop records and they’re before their time. That’s why we still hear them now. You’re in the club and they play a Pac set and all those records still work because they’re timeless. Because there’s a lot of people that were around in his time that you don’t hear their records like that anymore. You know what I mean? So, that’s my whole thing. When it’s said and done, I’ll always do that. I look at the greats, Sade, Maxwell, Jill Scott, you know, they make their type of music. They’re not trying to be like the next person. You know what I mean? And that’s what makes them great. And that’s why when they make classics, they’re classic.

So is that difference between how you approach albums opposed to mixtapes?

Mixtapes are like sparring, man. It’s like when you go on the road, you feel it, you just want to get it off, you don’t want to wait, you don’t want to wait for an album release, and you just want to say a bunch of fly, crazy shit that you don’t care about. And you just go in and do it. You grab a gang of beats and you just go in there and do it. Thing is, I owe a lot of my existence to mixtapes because I was one of the few that had enough nuts to do it in the beginning stages and just give away a lot of great music. That’s why I have classic mixtapes. That pretty much put me where I’m at today. But it’s hard to top that. Now, when I do those type of records, everybody’s like “Yo put that on your album.” So it’s a little different. So now, a mixtape to me is like sparring, getting ready for a fight. Because when you’re getting ready for a heavyweight fight, you’re in the ring, you’ll spar with a couple cats that are pretty good. You’re getting ready for the Maywheather fight, you know what I mean? Paqiau, you know what I mean? You gotta spar a little bit. You can’t just jump in the ring. That’s what that’s about. You know, I did Real Is Back 1 and 2 to get ready for T.M. 103 all because I didn’t want T.M. 103 to sound like that, but I wanted to do that. I wanted to do those street hood records, the “I don’t give a fuck” type of records, you know? And then on this end I wanted T.M. 103 to be soulful.

As time grew between these two albums did you start getting antsy?

Oh man, of course. At the end of the day, we’re all business men and you know, I try not to make excuses. I try to make great records. But, you know, there’s a lot of things going on behind the table. And when you’re a businessman you have to make sure things are right with your biz because you’re in the business of selling records. With your record company, pretty much. But to me, it was like, I had a standard, and I felt like at the time, it was like you know. The building was changing, a lot of people were leaving, L.A. [Reid] left. Shakir [Stewart] passed. It was just a different feel and I was trying to test out the waters, you know what I mean? I was like “This ain’t moving how it’ll normally move. What’s going on?” So it’s a different time. But you know what? I’ma go in the studio. Jump on everything. Put out all these remixes. Put out all of these mixtapes. To just let them know I’m working. I’m not being lazy, like I’m not sitting around, sitting on my hands. So it was a big thing.

So, you’re back with this new one.

Yeah, I mean, you know. You live to fight another day, baby. I’m already plotting and strategizing on my next album. And I’m quite sure it’ll be greater. I have a whole ‘nother mind state going into this one. And, you know, I’ve been around the world this time so, I’ll see what it comes out like.

How many videos are you doing for T.M. 103?

I couldn’t even tell. I lost count. Actually I just shot, “Way Too Gone.” I’ma drop that in the next two, three days.

What about “I Do?”

We’ve been trying to put it together man. But you know, timing wise… And you know, Dre. Dre’s all about his feel. You have to catch him when he’s ready. When he’s ready, he’s going to go. I love Dre man. I think if it can happen, it’ll shock the world though. You know, we had that conversation about how big it would be. And then the old ladies will be calling me like “Oh, I love that song” and I’d be like “Boy, you have no idea how bricks I’m talking about in that mu’fucka.”

Right now you’re sitting at eight videos from this one album. What’s the strategy? Why so many videos?

Well, you know, it’s a different game. You know a lot of cats are viral. I was thinking about it the other day, to keep it 100 with you I put a lot of money into the “Leave You Alone” video with Ne-Yo, a lot of time and money into the concept but there’s just really no big platform those high budget videos. It’s like a hustle now. You do a song, you throw a video out. And it’s different, what we used to do coming up, you waited for your video to come on BET and MTV but now it’s the net. So it’s a little different. But that’s just the new game. I think the music doesn’t last as long though. You know, we were able to put out songs and they’d last you a summer and a half. Now it’s like, shit, you put out a song in January you better have five more ready to go by February, ready to go with the videos and all. But I get it though. You know, only the cats, like you know, you got Kanye and them, they don’t fuck around like that. They do that shit when they want to.

Well, this kind of speaks to your work ethic. I mean, even the the titles of your album suggest that you’re the hardest working dude in the game. But as time wears on, how do you stay on that?

I think it was something that was instilled in me from the block. The never give up, never lay down policy. As long as I got people out there doubting, I’ll keep going. I’ll go harder. I think the more doubt there is, the better off I am. When people tell me, “You’re doing great.” I think, “Don’t tell me that. Where the haters at?” That’s always been my thing.

I had this chick in my neighbourhood, she was an older chick. She had a cool car. She stayed in this shotgun house next to my Grandmama. It was probably like half the size of this room but it was the whole house. A shotgun house is a house where you’ll walk in the front door and you see all the way out the back. Anyway, she never wanted to talk to me, and I was like “Damn.” So I kind of used her for motivation. Like, “When I get me some money, she’s gonna want to holler at me.” So I’d go out, get my little money up. She still ain’t wanna holla at me. So I kept going, kept going, she still didn’t wanna holla at me. I’m like “Damn, what do I need to do?” So I kept going, kept going. Finally, one day she’s like “Hey, where you going?” I’m like “What’s up?” But she was still trying to, you know, little boy me and I’m telling her “I’m out here getting money, the feds watching me.” She goes “Ain’t nobody watching your little ass.” So I’m thinking, “Give me a little more time, you gon’ be watching me”. So I went back to it. That’s where how I find my motivation.

These days I’m still pretty much close to people. I’m a real person, I don’t fucking live in La La Land, so I hear a lot of things that go on on the smaller level. You know when people say “Oh, what’s he doing?”, “He ain’t doing this right,” and such; I’m like “OK cool” and it’s all just motivation. And that’s what keeps me in the game. Mentally, I’m always working. Trying to find that next thing or that next you know. So when people might not hear from you for a couple weeks they’d think “Aw, he ain’t recording”. No, I’m recording, how the fuck I’m hit y’all again. Because I’ve been in the game a while. And I won’t be able to just keep throwing shit out and expect you to keep going for it. I have to bring you with me, this is motivation, if you want to learn something, you come over here. If you want to read something, I’ll give you some knowledge. Because it’s not just a music thing with me. It’s a way of life. So that’s what keeps me in the game because everyday I get up, I try to out do what I did yesterday.

You mentioned that you’re a real person. As you gain more fans and pick up more, wouldn’t that get harder because you might try to keep them happy?

It’s more like, I learned this a long time ago. I was younger hanging with older cats. And I learned that you can’t please everybody. You have to get to a point where you just keep it 100 with yourself. I don’t have to have a hit record to be Jeezy. Niggas gon’ love me regardless.

Are you happy right now?

As far as personally? Yeah man. I can’t even complain, my child is straight, my mother’s good. She’s vacationing right now. And I’m still free and I’m young, man. I get to do what I love. Catch a Raptors game tonight. Go eat good. I love to eat. Real talk.

Is there anything that could make you happier?

There’s a couple loose ends I need to tie up. And I still have yet to make the best album that I could possibly make and I think once I do that I’ll feel a lot better. I feel my albums have been great but I have yet to make my All Eyez On Me, my Makaveli. I haven’t made my Doggystyle yet. I’m still going for that.

Tags: Music, Interviews, News, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott, Kanye West, lex luger, young jeezy






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