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Jeezy is a walking hip hop legend, no matter which way you spin it. When you look at who really invented trap music, the Atlanta native is at the forefront. He stated, “You don’t have to give me my credit, I know where it came from. I seen this shit before, I invented that [trap music] by the way. But, they’re not going to tell you that.”
Bringing it all the way to 2005, Jeezy’s debut studio album, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, took the rap game by storm. To this day, lead singles “And Then What” featuring Mannie Fresh, “Soul Survivor” featuring Akon, “Go Crazy,” and “My Hood” ensue instant nostalgia upon hearing. If you’ve been to a Jeezy show, fans are rapping the lyrics verbatim. The platinum project, which went on to be deemed one of the best albums of the decade, didn’t just receive commercial success, it laid down a blueprint for all aspiring rappers. Whether you’re a product of the streets or simply trying to make ends meet, it’s Jeezy’s pure hustle, work ethic, and passion that gave you hope that you could make it, too.
This isn’t just his formula for success in music, but in life. While most people may be lucky with one or even two sources of income, Jeezy hails over 10. On his most recent album, TM104: The Legend of the Snowman, title track “The enTRAPreneur” reminds you how he turned the dope game hustle into a profitable means of living. In fact, he gave a whole lecture on the concept at Diddy’s REVOLT Summit in Atlanta, tying it back to basics and learning how to maneuver and excel in this thing called life.
REVOLT caught up with Jeezy to discuss narrating the new BET show “American Gangster: Trap Queens,” the definition of an “enTRAPeneur,” the importance of black businesses, and inspiration from Tyler Perry.
Being in the game for over 13 years, what inspires you to make music today?
Fans, the people, the culture, the struggle, the love for it. I love what I do. I love the art of it. I love the process. I love when the songs come together. It’s a whole thing. It’s like therapy. It’s my therapy.
Off the rip on Let’s Get It 101: Thug Motivation, you say “fear is not an option.” Do you have any fears?
What are your biggest fears?
Having a fear of fear (chuckles). If it’s some shit that I’m hesitant about, I like to run head first towards it. So, I have a fear of having fear.
How was celebrating Tyler Perry Studios’ grand opening in Atlanta?
Man, I can’t even describe it. Probably one of the best events I’ve ever been to in my life. Just to see the culture of it — to see how he put it together. To hear the backstory on the land and how [it] used to be a Confederate base, how they had the slaves there. For him to have the whole culture as far as all of black Hollywood, all the black entrepreneurs — to have all of us marching on the same land that they made slaves walk on was powerful. I’m from Atlanta... it’s going to do so much for our community. Jobs, it’s going to bring money to the city. All the way around, it was just amazing to see. Plus just the way he presented it, his imagination is crazy!
How did he present it?
Just the reveal was better than Disney World. No bullshit, the production was A1. Don’t forget that he’s a producer, so his imagination is crazy. The surprises, the guest list, it’s bigger than Paramount Studios. This is in Atlanta! Atlanta has always been black Hollywood, but now it’s black Hollywood for real! Now we in it. We in the game, so just look for a lot of good content, movies, etc. coming out of Atlanta. This shit’s real now.
What’s exciting about seeing black entrepreneurship on that level?
I tell you what, I left out of his event scratching my head like, ‘I gotta think bigger.’ ...Some of my dreams are great, but I just seen this guy’s dream be unveiled in front of the whole world. I’m going, ‘Damn, okay. There’s really no limit to this shit.’ It made me broaden my horizon. If you’re going by what you see and what you do everyday, you know what your goals are no matter how big they are. But, when you see some shit unfold like that, it just makes you think, ‘Okay, how big am I?’ (chuckles) But, I love to see it. Even hearing his story and the stories I heard, the Steve Harveys, the Tyler Perrys stories where they were homeless sleeping in their cars. When you look at them now, it’s like shit, anything is possible. For real, it’s living proof.
‘The EnTRAPaneur’: What does that exactly mean?
‘EnTRAPaneur’ to me is the guy who masters all his crafts. For myself just being from the streets, mastering that without a stain on my jersey. Getting in the game and getting out of it just in the knick of time, at the level I played it in. Then, getting into music and not forgetting where I came from. Getting my accolades from that, too, as well as my plaques. My respect and even my business. Going from that to now into the business world: tech, real estate, sports agencies, water companies, telecommunication companies, all these different things. That’s somebody that can’t be boxed in. He’s still a trapper, but he’s a trapper on a whole other level.
I want to change the narrative. I don’t want people to just be like, ‘Yo, we from the trap.’ That’s cool, we were that. But, we’re evolving now. We can take what we learned from the trap and take it to the world — in the business world or whatever it is that you want to do. But, that’s a part of having a bigger dream. I know what the trap is. I stood up in there in real life for a long time. That shit’s really a fucking trap, that’s why we call it that. Because if your ass get caught, it’s a wrap. So, to take that and put it with a sound is cool. But, to take that and put it with a movement is like these are people who are making something out of nothing. Let’s keep making something out of nothing. Let’s not just stop at music. Let’s make more shit. Let’s do more shit. Let’s own more shit. That’s an EnTRAPaneur.
‘Mr Pyrex’ is real. Bring us back to the dope days. What was that street hustle mentality? How did you carry it over to the music industry?
One, don’t get caught. Two, don’t get killed. Three, make your money. Four, don’t get caught up with your selling. Five, be the flyest dude while you’re doing it. Stack as much as you can, but live your life because you’re risking your life. So, it has to be good shit that comes out of it. For me, it was just staying on top of my game. Understanding how the streets flowing and staying sharp because you have to be sharp (snaps). You have to know how the jump off boys are riding. You have to know who’s robbing. You have to know where to hide your shit at. You have to know where to put the money. You have to know how much money you just counted… it’s a business. When you go back to that and look at what you learned, for me I learned so much from the streets. I get a lot of what I do now from the streets, but I mastered that shit. Going back to those days, I was sharp then. But, I’m still sharp now... If somebody puts you in the jungle and you still know how to eat, that says something about you.
How many sources of income do you have now?
Maybe 10. Anywhere from tech to real estate, venture capitalist funds to partnerships with brands to the companies that I own to my sports management company, Agency 99, to my telecommunications company. The list goes on. Every morning I wake up, I’m like, ‘What can I do today?’ I’ll never stop that because it ain’t about the money, it’s about having passion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be able to take care of yourself and the people you love. But, just don’t work for the money. The money should work for you.
On ‘Already Rich,’ you say rap n*ggas scared to say you’re great. Who were you addressing?
I’m just saying over time with anything, it’s like a relationship. If you tell your girl you love her everyday, she’s going to get used to that shit. It’s not going to mean as much. If you come great every time, over time people forget how great you are. They take it for granted in a sense and that’s cool, but you have to know that. You have to know you’re great. Fake people will sit there like, ‘He’s not real, he didn’t do none of that stuff.’ I never seen you on the block one day, while I was out there. Then, the rap community goes like, ‘I’m here, I sold this many records, etc.’ Okay, but where did you get the formula from? How did you know [to] be like this? That came from people like myself. You have to be great to inspire others. For me, you don’t have to give me my credit. I know where it came from. I seen this shit before, I invented that by the way. But, they’re not going to tell you that.
So the speak. The real trap music! Not the sound, but the real shit that the people in the streets are like ‘yeah…’ The movement of it, absolutely. Hands down.
What does it mean to narrate the BET show ‘American Gangster: Trap Queens’?
It’s next level man. For me to narrative anything, to know how distinctive my voice is and put it with something like ‘Trap Queens’ with BET, it’s genius. But, I actually understand it. The craziest shit is as I’m narrating these stories, I see people in these graphs or cases that I actually personally know. That I’ve had dealings with. I’m reading, I’m looking at this like, ‘Oh man, how the fuck he get in there?’
You found that out when you read the script?
When I was narrating, I was looking as certain things on the screen like, ‘Damn, that’s xxx.’ They filming these different scenes that I know personally. I was involved in these cases. To me, it’s mind blowing because I’m on this side of it, but I know the other side and I’m reading it for them. It shows you how far you came in life. Just to see their stories, women are strong. As you see the world changing now, you can see how strong they really are because they’re doing shit that we do, and they’re doing it well. To see how ahead of the game they were back then on building empires, it’s fascinating because it takes a special type of person to get out here with killers and fucking cartel leaders, and really run shit. Reading those different stories and seeing what they went through, whether they had a mental disorder, a mental illness or if they were abused. Just seeing how they fought back was fascinating.
Also seeing the type of money they were making. Damn. To see them go do prison time, come back and still be ambitious, that’s real to me. I was talking to Jamila about it, she just did 12 years. As a woman, she’s like, ‘The men tell more than we tell.’
Are we getting a Jeezy autobiography or documentary?
Shit, I don’t see why not. You have to stay tuned, but I don’t see why not. You smart.
I was recently listening to ‘My President Is Black.’ What are your thoughts on Trump and politics today?
To be honest with you, I haven’t really been paying attention as much. It’s a shit show, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The people you should be able to trust… these things are coming out as allegations. It’s just too much. It’s a lot. You don’t know who to believe. You don’t know who to trust. Everybody has a motive. You have to sit back and watch it pan out. There’s nobody that I would vote for right now. I have to be honest and say that.
I see you in the gym! Talk about your new fitness regime and healthy kick.
I love boxing for sure. Whatever you learn in the gym, you can use outside as far as mentally. But, training is that two hours I get to myself every day to train with my trainer. I don’t have to do any talking, I just zone out. It’s my little shit. I’m ready for my day after I do that because it’s like your Rocky moment in there. Now you’re ready to go out there and beat these streets up.
Who’s Jeezy bumping in the gym?
Aw man, it’s crazy. I’ve been on Durkio’s new joint. I’ve been on this Payroll, this kid out of Detroit. Been on YFN Lucci. I actually tried to give the Kanye album a spin today.
If you could bring back one song in 2019, which would it be?
It’d probably be ‘Trap or Die.’ Take it back to the basics.
You spoke on ‘The Art of the EnTRAPreneur’ panel at the REVOLT Summit back in September. What are those conversations with Puff like?
With Puff, it’s always, ‘What can we do better? How can we do things better?’ Just inspiration. I always look at it as we inspire each other in small ways and big ways. Even doing the REVOLT panel, for me, that was stepping into a different light. But, I felt comfortable about it because it was with REVOLT. It was with Puff. I knew it’d be the type of people there that would want to hear what I had to say. So, it was comfortable.
What can we expect from the Snowman next?
Everything. Keep your eyes and ears open. It’s going to be an interesting couple of months. You heard it first! Shouts out to Figgers Wireless, the telecommunications company I just partnered with. Shouts out to Defiance Fuel, which is my fitness water.