Young Jeezy

Young Jeezy
In a nightclub, real gunshots sound distinctly different than the studio-concocted bass-heavy blasts sometimes used to gussy up rap records. They sound more hollow, crisper, quieter. And everyone scatters and ducks and remembers precisely where the nearest exit is.

We spoke to Atlanta trap rapper Young Jeezy one day before real gunshots clipped through the air at his Sound Academy show on April 4 in Toronto, hitting a man thrice in the chest and cancelling Jeezy's show before it started. The following night, at London, ON's Music Hall, two other men were shot at the Jeezy concert during one of the opening act's sets. Again, Jeezy's performance was cancelled. Because of the shootings, Friday night's gig in Montreal was axed before it started. All three victims are in stable condition, according to a Montreal Gazette report.

"You out here performing for real people that really kill and shoot and slang and bang," Jeezy told us prior to the Toronto incident. "It's every day. It's not like, 'Oh, Jeezy in town. We about to be real tonight.' No, this is everyday life."

What's one of the craziest road stories you have?
This ain't the craziest, but it's the most recent: I was in L.A. a couple weeks ago. I had a group of guys come to the meet-and-greet afterward. You know, when you pay to take a picture, dap me up, we chop it up a little bit. These dudes came through and gave me an iPod with their music on it, and at the same time tried to give me a stack of money. Probably $20,000 or $30,000. These are guys I never met. They said, "We just owe this to you because you kept it so real." That's my story. When people see me, they relate to that time when they thought shit was fucked up and I helped them go through it. So when they tried to give me the money, I was like, "Nah, I'm cool, but I'm-a listen to your music anyway." Then he walked over to one of my homies and tried to give him the money to give to me.

Yeah, this happens all the time. I been to Detroit before, talking to one of the old-school hustlers, and he'll dig in his pocket and pull out $70,000 and give it to me on GP. It's just the love like that.

Have you ever accepted it?
Nah, I wouldn't do that. Actually, I was in… [turns to a member of his crew] was it Edmonton? What was after Edmonton? ["Calgary," the man tells Jeezy.] Calgary. An African guy walked up from the back of the club to the stage, took his $2,000 Gucci watch off his wrist and threw it on the stage: "I want you to have my watch! I love you, man." I was like, "Oh, shit." I wasn't gonna take his watch, but I couldn't just give it back in front of everybody ― that would've been disrespectful. So shouts out to him. I'm-a wear it.

So you kept it?
Yeah. I've had cats throw me their hats in my car. "I just love you." Bam. Throw me their hat. I might throw it on in a video or somethin'. It's just love like that.

Did you ever feel that strongly about an artist?
Of course. Tupac. Master P at his prime. The Big Tymers in their prime. E-40, definitely. B-Legit, Juvenile, B.G. ― these are all the people I came up on and that had input in my life so that I'm able to say the things that I say. Because I really went through that struggle, and I was like, "Man, if I could just get Juvenile to come and see how I kick it…. I got Rolexes too."

Did you attend Cash Money shows back then?
I actually booked them. I booked Cash Money because I wanted them to see that I had two Lexuses, a Navigator, and an Expedition on Mickey Thompsons, Rolexes ― I wore all my Rolexes that night. Had three Rolexes on.

So you picked them up from the airport and everything?
This was in '99, whenever the Hot Boys was big. I picked them up from the airport, had the gold grill on. I wanted them to see I was about that life.

Now were you trying to slip them a demo at that time?
Nah, because I thought I was too cool at the time. I remember they was in Atlanta and they called me to the studio. I drove to the studio in my Porsche; I had a 911 at the time. I fly up to the studio in my Porsche, with all my chains on. I had braids on at the time. And Gotti from Boo & Gotti was like, "Yo, bust a rhyme for Baby." I was like, "Nigga, I'm too gangster to rap. I'm too real to rappity rap, whoopty whoop." And I remember I saw Gotti at the club later that night, it was called Level 3, and I pulled up in a CL Benz 600, which I got the same day, the coupe. It was about a buck-60, a buck-70 at the time. But no street cats had 'em. It was so new, I ain't even put rims on it. I pulled up and Gotti was like, "Yo, nigga, I just seen you in a Porsche." I'm like, "Yeah." He said, "That's what's up. I see why you ain't wanna rap."

So if you had an opportunity to meet these guys, be in the studio with them, and you didn't rap for them, what purpose did rap serve for you in your life then?
Rap was keeping it real. When you was a rapper, we believed you. You had to be about that life. I see now that it's a little different. People want you to go all out. If you say you ride around with 50 choppers, let's see 'em. You don't play? Let's do it. And when you have altercations, you have 'em. But it's a little different being on the business side. I'm like, damn. I can go like that because I'm really like that, but if I lose everything, y'all gonna laugh at me. So it's that balance now. I see a lot of the things that Pac was talking about, that E-40 was talking about.
For the younger kids that don't understand E-40, he's a legend, he's a god. He went in and sold his music out his trunk and put his cousins and his sister on. People rode around listening to The Click, believing every word, and he's still here. I look at the game like he was smart, he invested, but he's still relevant to those who matter because he's an OG.
I look at myself like I want to be here, too. I ain't scared of death, not at all. I ain't scared of that shit; I'm-a die alone anyway. You want to be here for your kids, but you also want to live this life, and it's a balance. You out here performing for real people that really kill and shoot and slang and bang. It's every day. It's not like, "Oh, Jeezy in town. We about to be real tonight." No, this is everyday life. I was in Calgary: big-ass shootout in the club, stabbing. I was like, wow. This is everyday life for me. So instead of giving you all the negativity, I choose to motivate as well. Instead of saying, "Fuck it. Kill everybody." If you feel like you gotta handle your business, handle your business, but at the same time, you might want to be smart about it. Because these guys that last ― the Jay-Zs and E-40s and Snoop Doggs ― they took the right steps.

So how are you going to last that long?
It's a mind game. It's an ego/pride thing, man. One thing I can say is, when you're true to yourself, that'll stand the test. When you're sittin' in that cell and you're thinkin' about all the things you had that you might lose, that's just what it is. You live your life how you fight. If you fight every day for what you believe in, you a fighter. I'm a fighter. I get up and give this shit 100. I don't give a fuck what niggas talkin' 'bout. Niggas hate OGs ― that don't matter. There's nothing you can do about it. You gotta fight every day. And when you don't fight, you don't live.

A personal favourite of mine is "Vacation." What's the best vacation you've ever taken in your life?
I just got back from Cabo; it was actually my third time going. My best vacation was when me and my homies, 200 of us, went to Cancun for Memorial Day Weekend. And we chartered a plane, not a jet but a plane ― we took the whole city of Atlanta with us almost ― and we tore Cancun the fuck up. Drunk about 3,000 bottles of Cristal ― this was when Cristal was the jump ― tore up a few Jet Skis, a few boats, tore down a couple of clubs.

Your sound is so big. How do you test your records to make sure they sound right?
To keep it 100, I don't really test. I go off the fact that I was always a fan of music. I know what's car wash music ― that's that song on the album where your car's clean on a Saturday and you're just pulling out the mall, and you gotta listen to that song 1,000 times, start it over every time you hit a red light. That's car wash music. Then you got ride music, where you listen to a few certain songs on an album over and over again because they got that vibe. Or you got that shit you out on when you gonna get some work, that song you put on to pump you up. It's the same music I listen to before I go onstage for my shows: old Project Pat, Three6Mafia, that ungh. Me, I'm worldly. I'm from the 'hood, I'm from the gutter, everybody knows that. But I'm worldly. I've always been good about being around older people and observing what they're about and how they live. 'Hood things are cool, but you get to a point when you're in a different tax bracket, you gotta experiment. Go places, see what different things are about. Try different food, try different women. things that you're not accustomed to.

Whose adlib do you wish you created?
Ah, man. It would have to be this cat out of Atlanta, Pastor Troy. He used to do "Uh huh." Let me tell you: that adlib made me want to shoot up the club every time I had the chance. This is when I was younger. He used to have this song called "No More Play in GA" or this joint called "Help Me, Ronda." I was like, "If they play it, I'm-a go upside a motherfucka head…" They play it. Baow! [Punches fist.] 'Hood fight. I was just in the zone. That was when I was younger.
So when I got on, the thing that made my adlibs so unique was, I felt my adlibs more than a lot of the things that I said [in my verses]. They kinda work together. I would say something that would go over people's head, but then the adlib would make them go back and listen to it, and they'd go, "Ohhh… that's what he said." Over time, I feel like the adlib is so watered down now. They're different. To me, I put soul in it. It's like an R&B reverb. You might hear undertone in an R&B song that's better than the actual hook: [sings] "Oooooh, yeah!" They goin' in. They in the booth, spazzing out. That's what my adlibs was. I was in the booth feeling it. Like, damn, I just said that. Wow, when the streets here this shit, it's on.

What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
Getting my clothing line where it's supposed to be. This year I should do about $50 million [in sales]. That's a plus. 8732. Getting CTE World where I want to get it, getting Freddie Gibbs where he wants to be ― that's my main focus. Finishing up this It's the World [CTE compilation] album, get started on my new project. I want to make history. I want to make good music; I want to make timeless music. That's something that I've done, but I don't think that's something I'm done doing. My focus is right there. I got a sunglass line coming out, but other than that I've been just reading and powering up, getting ready to take the world. Thug Motivation against the world.