ALBUM: Seen It All: The Autobiography
Jeezy's consistency as a rapper is both his greatest strength and his biggest weakness. From a purely tonal standpoint, there's rarely a misstep in his rhythms and cadence, sinking into every beat provided him with a profoundly unwavering flow. From a lyrical standpoint, he's perfected the slow-flow, message-driven raps popularized in trap music and provides well-chosen phrasing and ideas to give each line individual power. Fine-tuning the standard limited palate rappers allow themselves, remains engaging with a fairly unchanging cadence, applying strong visuals and minimalist efficiency to tried-and-true rags-to-riches narratives. He's got a remarkable ability to avoid clunky lines, which almost no other rapper can claim. There's rarely a track that doesn't work, but there's rarely a risk taken either, and while an individual Jeezy track stands out among similar fare in the rap realm, a listen through a whole record highlights the all-encompassing sameness.
Seen It All: The Autobiography, Jeezy's fifth record, moves his overall discography forward so minutely it's hard to see the progressions, but they are present. He's talked it up in interviews as more personal and reflective than past efforts, and there are many moments of powerful specificity that pushes the pervasive hustle-rap tropes beyond the work of many rappers. But all in all, it doesn't push far enough, and the record is too middling in it's approach to really reach past slightly above average. The beats are likewise workmanlike, doing precisely what they're supposed to without really distinguishing themselves beyond standard trap. Songs are tightly constructed and hit precisely as they should, but it begins to feel very formulaic with further listens.
There was a time when Jeezy's style was not simply potent but remarkably impactful. His influence is heard in nearly every rapper in the trap milieu, and the blueprint of highly personal, inspirational drug raps can still be seen well over a decade past his debut album. The simplified, lean approach to hustle rap's self-assured uplift was once a game-changer that affected the progression of the music. But Jeezy has done very little to expand beyond this initial approach. Rap is in a different place now, and Jeezy, for the most part, isn't Longtime fans will find a lot to love here, and first-time listeners will likely appreciate this mid-career record more than most rapper's current output. But the most interesting rap happening at the moment pushes well beyond the kind of rehashing of tropes Jeezy engages in. Seen It All works to fine-tune the style and does so fairly effectively, but hip-hop as a whole is outgrowing what he's bringing to the table.
"I guess power and pain look somewhat the same."