Jeezy - Seen It All: The Autobiography

Jeezy drops a satisfying, if not wholly envelope-pushing, new album that slightly expands on his template.

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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."

1. 1/4 Block
Jeezy introduces the album unassumingly, jumping immediately into his standardized tales of being on the corner and getting that money. The beat purports to build to something by introducing the drums only during the chorus, but the formulaic structure reflects how Jeezy doesn't really strive to build a cohesive album arc.6.5
2. What You Say
The beats plodding trap drums move at a similar pace to the beat that preceded it though the instrumentation is more stripped away and synth-driven, and again Jeezy turns in a performance that is straight-froward and uninspired. The imagery and flows hit every note they should to craft the kind of hustler trap that is Jeezy's strength, but this song and many others found on the record are relatively interchangeable.6.5
3. Black Eskimo
The slight stretches in Jeezy's cadences and the breezy track length make this the strongest offering thus far, but it's similar enough to make these minor differences difficult to parse out. As with the previous two songs, this sits well on it's own but not within the context of the rest. As the album unfolds, there's enough differentiation between tracks to hold it all together, but the fact that the three introductory tracks are among the album's least standout speaks to it's core issues.7.0
4. Enough
Continuing Jeezy's tradition of motivation music, "Enough" directly aligns his hustle raps to the listeners struggles. The ethos is generic ("grind" and "stack your cash" are about as specific as the advice gets), but Jeezy turning the details of his personal forward movement from a brag into a mantra expands the album's tropes beyond himself.7.0
5. Holy Ghost
Kendrick Lamar appears on the remix of "Holy Ghost" but not on the album proper, perhaps as a way to both benefit from the look Lamar's verse provides without being overshadowed by it. Kendrick's "Control" verse famously made you forget that Jay Electronica or Big Sean were on the track at all, and in that sense the original version is the better of the two in the album's context. Jeezy delivers some of the record's best lyrics, getting introspective about former friendships and loyalties. The remix provides an excellent Kendrick verse that steals Jeezy's lyrical thunder with his trademark flow acrobatics, but it's the album version that speaks more to the vibe Jeezy tries to achieve overall.8.5
6. Me OK
Sparse piano-driven trap is so within Jeezy's wheelhouse that all he needs to do is switch his flow slightly to push "Me OK" above some of the other similarly paced tracks. This is one of the truly gritty highlights of the record. It also speaks to the album's sequencing that this sits better placed after a stronger track like "Holy Ghost" than it would earlier on.8.0
7. 4 Zones
Here, Jeezy proves he can sink into a Mike Will Made It beat with a melodic auto-tuned hook that works surprisingly well without feeling trite or contrived. Many MCs have failed at pairing with their cities next up-and-coming generation but Jeezy moves masterfully into a new era's style while retaining his own. He's a strong enough vocalist to work outside his lane, but in doing so he also points out how little he actually bothers to.7.5
8. Been Getting Money
Next to Jeezy's heaviness and specificity, Akon's comparatively banal lyrics don't push his the hook beyond passibility. The song's beat is tightly constructed and the background vocals add a lot to the verses, but your enjoyment of this song is contingent on your tolerance of Akon.7.0
9. Fuck the World
More often than not, the "track for the ladies" tends to be the low point of albums, not because softness is inherently less interesting but because rappers spend so much of their material working against the sensitivity required to pull it off. But Jeezy's consistency brings this above most, delivering some appropriately lofty lyrics and a surprisingly deft pre-chorus to a shifting trap&B beat. August Alsina appears for the melodic side but actually sounds better backgrounding Jeezy's soft-sung hook.7.5
10. Seen It All
Jeezy's tough approach over Cardo's symphonic trap beat alone would've made this among the best of the record, but it's Hova returning to traphouse reminiscences that bring the album's lead single to the heights it reaches. The pair show off a similar chemistry, expressing how far they've come with a sort of nostalgic reverence tinted by the spoils of success and the pride of being past the harsh life detailed here.9.0
11. Win Is a Win
It's hard to tell when short songs are intentionally brief or simply unfinished, but assuming the former, this snippet of an introspective Jeezy works as a pre-cursor to the living-in-the-moment feel of "Beautiful". As with many tracks here, it comes off stronger isolated from the rest of the album; there's some minutely powerful moments that get lost in the midst of the album's repeated themes.7.5
12. Beautiful
MellowHype fans will recognize the sample instantly, but it's flipped appropriately here as a backdrop to Jeezy, Game, and Rick Ross's lap-of-luxury rich man brags. I'm generally disinterested in rap beefs, so Ross's appearance may be more meaningful to someone who keeps up on hip-hop pettiness, but this is the kind of beat he excels over, hitting a stride similar to the smoothness of "Devil In A Blue Dress". The boasting is similar as elsewhere but the beat is less stark and more lavish.8.0
13. Beez Like
Jeezy recruits Boosie Badazz for a decently rendered huslter's lament. Lil Boosie talking about not being around for his daughter's first period is the kind of detailing that makes the track work, and Jeezy saves some of the specifics of hardships of drug dealing for this track, but it still leans heavily on cliched tropes. For the moment, though, a track with Boosie period is a highlight.7.5
14. No Tears
Future's adeptness with optimistic-sounding ballads helps push this beyond standard latter-part-of-the-album fare, but Jeezy really doesn't hold his own here and serves as sort of a distraction to what could've been a great Future solo track. It's distinctly more pop ballad than Jeezy's used to, but he adepts remarkably well to the ever-shifting sound of Atlanta.7.0
15. How I Did It (Perfection)
This is such standard final track fare - smooth jazz samples, side stick snares, generic lyrics about getting over - that it hardly registers. This was phoned in and implies the same about some of the other tracks. There's some great anecdotal drug deals taking place here but it feels like it should be culminating the album's themes better than it does.6.0
Written by Jack Spencer
A freelance music writer from Minneapolis that has been featured in the City Pages, Bitch Magazine, 2DopeBoyz, The AV Club, Consequence of Sound, Thought Catalog, and more.

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