Thug Motivation: 103 Hustlerz Ambition, the third full-length from Atlanta MC Young Jeezy, has suffered an unusually troubled genesis. The LP accumulated so many blown release dates that at some point people stopped referring to it simply as an “album” and began shouldering it with the modifier “comeback”. So here we are, in early 2012, with a Young Jeezy comeback album, though it’s unclear where exactly he’s coming back from. If Da Snowman’s own reports are to be trusted, Jeezy has spent the years since 2008’s The Recession alternately enjoying the yacht-filled good life in Miami, and laying low in Atlanta with close friend Shawty Redd while the latter faced (and eventually defeated) a murder rap. For an MC whose thug credentials have been a major selling point, it appears that if nothing else, Young Jeezy has certainly maintained the brand.
TM: 103 sticks close to the hard-knock bombast that catapulted Jeezy to national prominence with his 2005 debut: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. Jeezy’s thumping bark of a flow is again featured atop beats that hew close to a swaggering, mid-tempo template. The outstanding example of this style would be “Suprafreak”, on which Jeezy depicts the hustler good life through such borderline-ludicrous anecdotes as, “Too much money in the room, guess I hit her in the kitchen”.
Deft wordplay has never been Jeezy’s strength, but that’s fine; it doesn’t have to be. His outstanding appeal is a seemingly inborn talent for expanding his street cred into the realms of caricature. It’s only when he stops portraying himself as a dope-slinging, rosé-sipping tall tale that the record loses its stable footing.
“I Do”—the inexplicably awful collaboration with Jay Z and Andre 3000—tries to mix Jeezy’s real-as-hell style with two of its principle kryptonites: soul music and introspection. Jeezy’s attempt to sing-speak a chorus of “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do” is cringe inducing. He opens one verse with “Baby you can have whatever you like” and within four lines it’s back to “Smack it up, flip it down, weigh it up, break it down”. Jeezy’s feelings are obviously sympathetic to the latter sentiment, and by straying from that strong suit he betrays the ground he’s lost since going quiet in 2008.
It’s hard to listen to TM: 103 without giving at least passing thought to Rick Ross, a Miami MC whose coke-dealing braggadocio seemed at some points like a carbon copy of the Snowman. Curiously enough, when Ross’s credibility was torpedoed by revelations about his past as a corrections officer, it did almost nothing to damage his popularity. Both Ross and Jeezy are selling a character, and if Ross has gotten more attention over the past year, it owes mostly to the fact that his identity has proven more stylistically malleable. TM: 103 Hustlerz Ambition shows that Jeezy is still good at being Jeezy, but it’s not clear where else Jeezy has left to go.