Young Jeezy

'Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition'

He's still the Mayor of Trap City, but Jeezy's hustle suggests another level

Spin Rating7 of 10

Anyone familiar with any of Atlanta trap-rap icon Young Jeezy's prior Def Jam albums, starting with 2005's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, knows how this goes: The lyrics are largely ballsy statements about how "the Snowman" once shifted copious quantities of white powder on the streets, and now enjoys a luxurious lifestyle as a result. The beats flit between sparse, 808-heavy, synth-assisted productions — typified here by Drumma Boy's "What I Do (Just Like That)" and several tracks from Lil Lody — and occasionally more fleshed-out moments, the most persuasive this time being the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League's "Trapped" and "F.A.M.E.", the latter co-starring an out-of-the-chokey T.I. Still, there's a hint more depth to the project when Jeezy starts to embrace something close to a 2Pac martyr persona.

"Trapped" is the high point of this willingness to not just regurgitate the street-corner tales he's already told; it's a melodramatic redemption song that finds the rapper musing, "How I got here in the first place? / Oh, that's right, see, the trap was my birthplace." Throw in the lament "I've been cursed since the day my momma birthed me" and there's a sympathetic fatalism developing here — it's Jeezy against the world. (On "Everything," he even starts to refer to his own demise, vowing, "When I'm gone the whole world gonna know my name.") This thread isn't TM103's defining motif — the album's momentum is driven more by big-name guests (Lil Wayne on "Ballin'," Snoop on the weed-based "Higher Learning," and Jay-Z and Andre 3000 teaming up for "I Do"), and perked up with ridiculous brags like the time Jeezy "bought a Phantom just to take a nap" and the realization that he has "so many shoes I can't wear 'em." But it does suggest where he could go next, as both a songwriter and a public figure.

For now, Jeezy's still rooted to the street, content to boast about being a "superstar in my hood" and throw snide shots at his haters. When it comes to trap raps, he's coined and refined a slick, successful musical formula that TM103, easily maintains. But for his next manifesto, there's now reason to believe that might move on from motivating to leading.

By Phillip Mlynar