Photo: Jack McKain
Jeezy On Why He Met With Joe Biden, Going To War For Unity & ‘The Recession 2’
Jeezy’s had enough.
His latest album The Recession 2, the sequel to 2008's The Recession, wasn’t born from a marketing plan built off nostalgia for a franchise fans would recognize. It was conceived in Jeezy’s eyes, incubated in his soul and birthed through his mic after he watched Black people protest against police brutality in the summer. Ultimately, he felt an intrinsic obligation to help as he did during the 2008 economic recession with The Recession 2's precursor in which he raps about his views on the politics of the time.
"Two or three months into the pandemic I knew this wasn’t going to let up, and I had to do my part," Jeezy told GRAMMY.com. "The week I got back to Atlanta was the week the riots started. It was around the George Floyd situation and right after the Ahmaud Arbery situation. I was like, 'Whoa.' I wasn’t even in Atlanta for a week before there was rioting going on. It was unreal."
In and out of music, Jeezy sees himself merely as a vessel for communication—a gift divinely bestowed upon him to impact the world. While politicians' economic relief talks have obfuscated people on whether they will get more help during this unprecedented pandemic, Jeezy communicates the frustration of the masses and hits on the truth for many of those still left struggling with the government's first stimulus check.
"I made $1,200 Friday evenings when I was 11 years old. How in the hell am I, as a man, supposed to wait on the government to send me that to take care of my family and be ok?" he asked. That’s why The Recession 2 is a militant call to action for Black people to relinquish that which doesn’t serve their best interest—racist luxury brands, trapping, personal beefs—and unify against a government he fully believes is trying to start a war.
"From the beginning to the end, it is more militant. I don’t think people understood why they see me in the beret [on the album cover]. That’s what the strong Black men looked like when things were at its worst," Jeezy said alluding to the Black Panthers. "That car on the cover symbolizes where my uncle would play Al Green, Marvin [Gaye] and Curtis Mayfield, and I just looked at him as the strongest man in the world because he knew what was going on and it didn’t stop him."
Jeezy is making this push for unity across many platforms, not just the songs people can choose to listen to or not. Before the world heard a single song from The Recession 2 or knew when it would be released, Jeezy discussed helping others on his new Fox Soul talk show "Worth A Conversation." During his VERZUZ battle with Gucci Mane, an archrival of his since he put a bounty on his head in 2005, Jeezy set an example of unity for the more than two million people watching by ending the battle with the first performance of their song "So Icy" in over 15 years.
In a recent chat with GRAMMY.com, the Atlanta rapper discussed why he's trying to bring people together, meeting with Joe Biden, what he wanted to accomplish with his VERZUZ battle and more.
You pulled a Jay-Z on us by announcing you were retiring in 2018 and then returned this year with The Recession 2. So, tell me, are you retired?
[Laughs.] I was never retired. I was using a tactic to negotiate a better deal and it almost didn’t work, but we’re here. I was doing the Hov.
Your new album really addresses the turmoil the world has been under during this pandemic. What songs were recorded directly after you saw something in the news?
All of them really. "Oh Lord," which has Tamika Mallory, was one those. I saw her speech and I was blown away. In bad times, there is always someone who rises to the top who knows how to communicate to the people. That’s her. She’s that person. Her speech made me want to do more. It put me in a place where I was like, "Ok, somebody gets it." I felt like she embodied everything that was going on and spoke on it on a major platform. It was like, oh, now we’re mobilizing. I never forgot it. I called her and told her, "You said somethings I will never forget and I don’t want our culture to forget them either. If you give me your blessing, I would love to use you on a song." She was like, "Bro, you got it." That’s how we started the album off, by putting everyone in the mind frame of "These are the things happening to us." They’re trying to turn this into a third world country and turn us against each other. That’s their goal. If we don’t mobilize, that’s going to happen.
How has your political activism and involvement in voting changed since you debuted in 2005 with Thug Motivation 101?
Back then, I wasn’t a taxpayer, so I didn’t have a lot to say. Actually, I was avoiding Uncle Sam, if I’m honest. [Laughs.] The first Recession came about because I was sitting in a room with some business people [talking] about doing a business venture they weren’t going to let me do. [They] looked at me like [I was] some dude off the street. [But] they saw my worth in my celebrity at the time. I was [there] listening to these people talk about how the economy is going to be messed up. They were concerned about money and I knew, at that time, they had more money than me. I was thinking, "How could the world be short on money?” I asked them about it and they started talking about different things. I immediately went home, broke out my computer, and started to go through these things and do my research. I was blown away. I was thinking, "Let me put my cars up, my jewelry up and get into grind mode and also tell my culture about what’s going on. If it happens and we don’t know, how are we going to survive?" The Recession came about from me wanting to tell what was going on in the world. I had to go educate myself in order to speak on those things because I didn’t know anything about politics.
At that time, I was seeing this guy Barack Obama who walked the walk and talked the talk. I’m all about communication. If you know how to communicate with people and your team, you’ll make it far in life. I watched that and became an advocate to try and help however I could. That was one of the first times I voted, so I got as many people together as I could. I started organizing stuff with the radio stations to have people who couldn’t drive take buses to the polls. When I was recording The Recession, I felt in my heart he was going to win, so I recorded "My President Is Black” four months before he won and then he won. We all know that one person isn’t the end all be all and I hate when people say he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. He did enough because he got there.
So, when I saw this whole other regime come in, I sat back and watched. When I saw it was on some divide and conquer, it was like a company that was doing well but the CEO is toxic and divides the team. I was watching our country go through this turmoil and I was thinking, "What am I going to do? What am I going to say?" Again, I’m not a politician, but I want to know. So when [Joe] Biden called and wanted to sit down, I was like, "Ok, let’s sit down because if you’re going to be the next president, I want to know who I’m talking to." He’s not the end all be all either. We have to go out and vote and participate because every bit counts. Y’all see what y’all did? Y’all turned Georgia blue. That’s y’all. So, you have to know, going forward, if you all mobilize and do what you’re supposed to do, we can get results. Together there isn’t anything that can stop us if that’s what we all want.
You seem big on unity these days and you shocked everyone by doing a VERZUZ with rival Gucci Mane. How did that come about?
If I’m honest and I keep it solid without saying too much, it was more about the win. The shift has to happen somewhere. This is a step in the right direction to see where the shift is. Every little bit counts. For me, without saying too much because I don’t know all the details, it was more about the win. Here you go again with something that exploded during the pandemic — this VERZUZ platform. Now, it can be used as a tool for something else. [Laughs.] That’s as much as I can say.
Even with unity, you want to protect your name. On "Back" you said, “They say that I'm irrelevant, it ain't no way in hell.” That seems to be addressing Freddie Gibbs calling you irrelevant earlier this year. When you heard him say that, what were your thoughts?
If I’m honest, I mind my business. I hear things and I’m like, "Nah, I’m forever Young." Somebody in the penitentiary talking about what I did for them and their family and how I held them down, right now. There’s somebody right now whose mother’s mortgage I took care of. There’s somebody right now who I’ve done something for that couldn’t do anything for themselves. Somebody’s opinion about me is none of my goddamn business. [Laughs.] You know what I’m saying? It’s not my reality. If I walk out this door, the respect is there. Jeezy has nothing to do with this music. Those are two different people [Laughs.] My music will be forever, so there’s no way I can be irrelevant. You’re telling me because Tupac isn’t here, he’s irrelevant? There’s no way in hell. He’s Tupac. He left what he left for the people. Martin Luther King isn’t relevant? You see what’s going on? Who are they talking about? Who do they go back to speak on their marching?
When you look at trap music and all that sh*t they’re doing, how do you think they even got into this game? Who opened that door? There’s no way in hell someone can answer that without saying Jeezy. As a man, I’m not going to hold myself to music. I’m not going to put myself in a position where you can box me in and say because you feel like it isn’t what it should be, I’m less of a man. It’ll never happen.
This pandemic forced everyone to slow down and sit with their thoughts. What thoughts of yours surprised you that you had to sit with?
We all had time to reflect. When you have time to reflect, you think about your triggers; you think about the things that are traumatic; you think about post-traumatic stress. You think about all of these things because you’re wearing it. It’s on your shoulders. When you have time to reflect, you have to turn the world into your therapy session. Just hear me out, this is how I feel. I don’t think you knew that. People put you in this space where they think nothing affects you. So if you go see a therapist and start talking, they can automatically see where you’re coming from and know what your triggers are. For me, I wanted to lay on that couch and let the world be my therapist. I feel better [Laughs.] I don’t know who I owe for the session, but I feel better.