Ayyyyyyyyyyyeeeeee….Aaayyyyyeeeeee…You gotta believe, you gotta believe…..
From the moment you hear the opening adlibs on Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 you know you’re in for something you have never heard before in hip-hop. There’s this darkness that surrounds TM101 but there’s also hope. There are catchy lyrics, hypnotizing beats, and overall the American dream: going from nothing to something. Young Jeezy wasn’t a rapper at the beginning of his music career but his artists kept getting locked up and he had to get his Clark Kent/Superman on by hopping in the booth. What he did was create a definitive album for hip-hop. TM101 turns 10 years old this month and it’s about time we begin to honor it for what it really is: a classic body of work.
The day was July 26, 2005; less than a month away from starting college at Indiana State. I don’t remember what I was doing that day but I do remember going to FYE, dropping $15 on TM101, heading to my car, and popping it in my Alpine CD player. I had a system in my 1995 Mercury Cougar at this time, a JL Audio amp with 2 12” Rockford Fosgate P2’s; this system was the one that lasted the longest in my car out of them all. I remember hearing “Thug Motivation 101” and just how crisp it sounded; then the Shawty Redd bass kicked in and my trunk began rattling. I instantly cracked a smile and started driving from the mall over to 7th St by my house. I had been anticipating this album after hearing a few Jeezy tracks earlier in the year, most notably on Fabolous’ “Do The Damn Thing” and his own “Trap or Die” song with Bun B. I ran through and played the songs I had heard before, such as the previously mentioned “Trap or Die” and also the Mannie Fresh produced, and featured, “And Then What…” before playing the album front to back.
During my first full listen I was awestruck. I hadn’t heard anything like this in my short amount of time listening to hip-hop. I was used to hearing the sappy radio songs, the boom-bap sound of classic hip-hop, Jay Z, and pretty much anything that wasn’t from the south. My brief experience with southern hip-hop started a couple of years before when the “crunk” era began taking over. Before that, I knew of Outkast, Lil’ Jon & The Eastside Boyz, Ludacris, and some Three-6 Mafia and Project Pat songs. My parents didn’t listen to hip-hop so I had to discover it all on my own as a teenager; I had a lot of catching up to do.
“I’m what the streets made me/
a product of my environment/
I’m what the streets gave me/
product in my environment”
What I was exposed to on TM101 changed my perspective on music forever. Before this I thought you had to have extensive rhymes to be considered good. What I heard on this first Jeezy album was the struggle. It wasn’t my struggle, but it was something I felt I could relate to by listening to his story. Jeezy told us the story of what he did to get to this point; all of the drugs he had sold and all of the cases he had avoided just to get to this point in his life. At the release of the album he was 28, so he had seen and been through enough to document it audibly. The beautiful thing about it is he did it his way. He didn’t have to get lyrical, he didn’t have to have any pristine production in the background; he told his stories in a gritty way and the production showed that as well. From the scathing strings and filtered drums of the Akon assisted “Soul Survivor” to the “ladies” song that is “Tear It Up” to the obnoxious bass drums from Shawty Redd throughout, it was only going to take time before this style of music took off and became a trend.
“Trap or Die gave em hope/
they waitin’ on the sequel/
it’s clear to see the boy Jeezy
do it for the people”
Artists had been rhyming about moving drugs and doing them for quite some time but none had done it in the way Jeezy did it on this album. He made it cool to learn about this lifestyle. We can practically credit Jeezy with the creation of the trap rap sound: drug rhymes mixed with heavy bass and adlibs to boot. In one album, his debut at that, Jeezy changed the landscape of southern hip-hop which essentially changed the SOUND of hip-hop overall. Before the trap sound that was ushered in, hip-hop was being dominated by crunk. There’s nothing wrong with crunk music and it’s one of my favorite eras of hip-hop but the dynamic shift from crunk to trap happened in as little as two years. Snap music tried taking over for the summer in 2006 but that was short lived before everyone wanted to sell drugs over heavy 808’s and rapid fire hi-hats. Jeezy helped open the doors for so many artists with this sound and gave them an opportunity to tell their struggle for us to understand and try to relate to. If it weren’t for TM101 we may not have artists like Starlito, Peewee Longway, Young Dolph, Future, Young Scooter, and the list can keep going.
“These are more than words/
this is more than rap/
this here is the streets/
and I am the trap”
I go back and play TM101 from time to time and I always find a new favorite. Some days it’s the Young Buck and Lil’ Scrappy featured “Bang”, some days it’s the heavy drums of “Get Ya Mind Right”, and some days it’s the last track on the album in “Air Force Ones”. The best thing that can happen when you go back and listen to an album 10 years after it has been released is realizing how fresh it still sounds with the new landscape of hip-hop. TM101 has stood the test of these first 10 years and still sounds as fresh as the first day it was released. One final thing before I close this out: DID ANYONE FIGURE OUT THE RIDDLE JEEZY GAVE US ON “Gangsta Music”?!