Seventeen years ago, Jeezy made one of the boldest claims in rap, uttering to anyone listening that he was the realest in the game.
His street fame and ability to make hustler music led to universal praise and admiration from gangsters and moguls alike. Universally revered for his impact and music, Jeezy’s ability to invoke passionate praise in a time of instant success, reminds us of what authenticity and influence are about. Standing alongside EST Gee earlier this week at the BET Hip Hop Awards to perform the song, “The Realest”, Jeezy once again provided more evidence for his opening statement.
Names like Jeezy, T.I., Gucci Mane and Yo Gotti are synonymous with the trap music era that started after 2001 and bubbled until about 2009. The four horsemen of trap music, their personas and lyrics conveyed the pain and brilliance of the streets and served as a blueprint for musical success for the next generation of southern rappers like EST Gee, The Migos, and more. Out of all those names, though, Jeezy, affectionately referred to as Big Sno, is the only one whose voice brings listeners back to a period in history before social media.
A time when mixtape DJs like DJ Drama could make an artist and a time when fans scurried to purchase physical copies of music. A time when wearing his shirts could lead to school suspensions and a time where opulence and stunting became the norm. We take these things for granted now because that’s the norm, but when Jeezy came on the scene, we hadn’t seen someone comparable since Jay-Z. Since he’s become a part of music, he’s been involved in a range of major events and sometimes beefs, but through it all has maintained his position as one of the top ambassadors of coke rap. Just ask Pusha T.
Seventeen years ago, Jeezy released his monumental album, Thug Motivation 101, and bottled lightning. The album perfectly captured the energy of the people and locations surrounding him, including the infamous BMF Crew. Backed by BMF and aligned with Jay-Z and Def Jam Records, Jeezy was the most important rapper then, admired by the hustlers, and equally by the music executives who saw the dominance of his project.
Though times have changed, what hasn’t is the level of respect his music creates. In a time where southern MC’s are associated with melody and cadence, Jeezy’s bars remind listeners of just how intricate the street poets are.
“The way I had the block flooded, thought I had a boat (Boat)
I flipped them bricks, I’m talkin’ spicy, I’m the curry G.O.A.T.
Same stove, same kitchen, Granny cook that pork (Woo)
I’m in my auntie Nissan, yeah, I’m on a mission (Mission)
That weight so heavy in the back, it might just need suspension (Woo)
I’m in that kitchen, whippin’ smoother than a Cadillac (‘Llac)
Image aside, Jeezy’s BET Awards performance is a further testament to the power of making music from lived experiences. In fact, seeing him perform his opening bars next to CMG founder Yo Gotti who signed EST Gee to his label is even more confirmation of their importance to the continued success of the culture.