On the track “How I Did It (Perfection)” off his latest album, Seen It All: The Autobiography, Jeezy reflects on a highway drug run that almost earned him football numbers in prison. This is just one of many life stories the Platinum-selling artist shares on his seventh solo album.
Currently embarked on a two-month, 35-city "Seen It All" tour to promote the project, Jeezy took time out to talk about the cross-country venture. He also talked about how Seen It All differs from previous efforts, Bishop T.D. Jakes’ issue with his “Holy Ghost (remix),” growing both musically and as a man, and why he prefers Avión over other brands of tequila.
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You’ve been on tour for almost a month now. How has everything been so far?
It’s crazy, man. It’s real personable and it’s real intimate. It’s an experience more so than a concert or a show. Just telling the story and watching the way records relate to different individuals. It’s almost like being in a small church, honestly.
Would you say this tour is more monumental than previous ones you’ve embarked on?
It’s more for them. You know, when I get on stage, I tell them, ‘This is y’all night. Whatever y’all want me to do up here, I’m going to do it and some more.’ But it’s more so, like, it’s really having a good time. It’s almost like being a pastor at one of those churches that holds 10,000, and then you just say, ‘You know what, I’m going to go back to my roots. I’m going to go to the local neighborhood churches, and I’m going to talk to the people and give them the same Sunday but better.’ I’ve been on tour with Jay-Z. I’ve been on tour with [Lil] Wayne, with Wiz Khalifa. I’ve been on great tours, but at the same time, it’s like this is touching people.
Prior to undertaking your latest journey, you co-headlined Wiz Khalifa’s “Under the Influence of Music” tour. How was that experience?
It was a great tour. This one is personal, but that was a real tour. That was probably one of the best tours I’ve been on. There were a lot of different types of people that I had never heard and seen live. It’s crazy because almost every night I got a standing ovation.
I would like to congratulate you on Seen It All. I thought it was one of the best projects I’ve heard from you. Explain how you think this project differs from your previous efforts.
What I did differently, I was just more honest, more personable about it, and more straightforward about how I felt. And the G’s, we don’t really get into that. We heard Jay-Z write, ‘I can’t see it coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry.’ It was his way of saying, ‘I know that I could never do it, but if this song feels that way to you, then go ahead.’ With me, when I say, ‘Seen it all,’ that’s what I seen — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I still stood the test of time, but when you get into records like “Holy Ghost” and “No Tears," those are really records that are real sincere. And I don’t think I would sit down and have that conversation with anybody, but through my music I can tell that story. But at the same time, I never made songs that was that vulnerable or honest like that. With Seen It All, I was real honest about everything. Even with the title track, I never really talked about exactly how I did it and how I pulled up at Magic City and what my view was like. At the same time, you take records like “1/4 Block,” that’s how I really felt my first day when I got on the block and I was hustling. I felt like I couldn’t be stopped. Those are real records. They weren’t made for the radio. They weren’t made for the clubs, necessarily. They were made for this tour because I wanted to go out and perform the record to people who really understand and know what it means to struggle and to hustle and to go through adversity.
Yep. I start it from the top, and I go all the way through it. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t do it for the radio and the clubs. I’ve done that so much, it’s like … you hear so many things on the radio and in the clubs, it’s not a place for real message music. And it’s just like, I’ve got radio hits, I’ve got club smashes, and it’s like, ‘You know what, let me take it back to the basics and go in these venues where I know these people really love me in and love this. And I’m going to do these records, and they’re going to sing along.’ They sing all the records word-for-word.
If nothing else, what do you hope listeners take away from the album?
I just hope they understand what it really means when somebody says, ‘I've seen it ll.’ It’s someone out there that’s seen the world, but when it comes to what we do and how we live, I think I’ve seen more than the average cat. I just hope they walk away with some type of gems, some type of jewels, understanding that, ‘Okay, when you get in situations in life, you can put this on and listen to it.’ I listen to Makaveli all the time. I listen to All Eyez on Me all the time because [2Pac is] pretty much the only person that understands where I came from. And he was ahead of his time when he was making those records. And I was just riding around listening to them. It was just cool, and I loved them because it sounded good. But now, I find myself picking up jewels and hymns out of his words, like, every other day. It’s like, ‘Damn, I just went through that. That just happened to me.’ So he was going through those things way before I was, but he was putting them in music form. So I hope that people can take what I'm saying and put them in music form, because it’s a different type of game out there now, a different type of hustle, and it’s a different type of world from when we came up, but the same rules always apply. That love and loyalty and that honor code, that G code. It don’t really apply because ain’t nobody really stressing it in their music and in their lifestyle.
You linked back up with Jay-Z on this project. Is it intimidating to go toe-to-toe on a song with one of the best to do it?
With me and Jay, it’s always been good. But I’ll tell you this, though, I feel like I’ve scrimmaged with him enough to be ready for that. Me and Jay got more songs than him and B.I.G. got. We’ve burned so many records and [rhymed] back-and-forth so many times, I feel like when it came around this time, I was ready for it. But it was perfect, though. We just performed it for the first time together in the Barclays for [Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2014]. And to see that response, in front of 20,000, it was unreal. It was worth every minute of writing the record and waiting to perform it.
In all actuality, it wasn’t meant for that version of the record to come out, but I was actually incarcerated at the time, so I think it was a mistake on my engineer’s and my team’s part but nothing that was blatant. But I understand his position, so I wasn’t really tripping on it. I spoke to [Minister Louis] Farrakhan about it, and we both agreed that it is what it is. And we kind of let it go, but at the same time I can see him trying to separate hisself from what I do. But at the same time, it is what it is. I always say, ‘Give glory to God.’ And I really wanted him to know that his words reach people in all walks of life, too. And I really wanted them to hear that speech, because when I heard it, it touched me.
Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 served as your official introduction to the world. From that album up to this point, how would you say you’ve changed as an artist and as a person?
Thug Motivation, I feel like I’ve got that under my belt, so I would never try to recreate my first album, but I just think that’s a big platform to stand on. So with everything I do now, I just try to keep my message going. And I think now, I’m a lot wiser, I’m a lot smarter, I’m definitely a lot more calculated, and I’m evolving. If anything, I just feel like I’m evolving. When you think about B.I.G. and Pac, they weren’t in the position that they were five albums in and 10 years into the game, and they had to figure the dos and don’ts from a whole other perspective, because you’ve got to keep going with the times. I’m riding those waves and those currents and figuring it out as I go, and I just think that’s new. The only other person I ever saw do that was Jay. People don’t last 10 to 12 years in this game. It’s just like being on your shit and making sure you’re staying true to yourself and to the people that ride with you. But a lot of the people that was listening to me when Thug Motivation was out, they’re grown now, so they don’t wanna hear no ignorant shit. You gotta come with something with some sense.
In a recent interview, T.I. talked about you guys doing a joint-album titled Dope Boy Academy. What’s the current status of the project?
Right now, we’re just in conversation about it. We haven’t went farther than that. It’s just been some conversation back and forth, but we’re just going to see where that goes.
You’re the multicultural advisor for Avión tequila? How did that come about?
I’m sipping some right now. I’m at my favorite restaurant Spondivits sipping some right now. I’m a big tequila drinker. Right now, I’m drinking a margarita. That’s my favorite drink. But what it was, I was drinking Don Julio 1942, and one of my partners put me on Avión. And when I went over to Avión, I just talked to them about making my own version of 1942, and they were with it. And it just kind of started from there. And I really switched over brands. Instead of me drinking Don Julio, I just started drinking Avión tequila. And it went on to be a business venture. I met the owner, and we became friends. It just made sense for who I am, because that’s what I drink. Anybody [who] knows me, knows that I’m shots or some margaritas. Plus it’s good. It’s better than a lot of the other tequila brands that I’ve tasted.
What’s next for Jeezy?
I’m going to finish up this tour, and I’m going to get ready to hit these folks again. I’m ready for it.
A new album?
A new everything. A whole new look and everything. I’m ready.
By Louis Goggans