A decade is an eternity in Rap years, and that truth isn’t lost on Jeezy. These days he raps about crimes for which the statute of limitations would have long expired with a renewed sense of purpose, as if reflecting upon everything he has survived with a smug sense of satisfaction. It isn’t that he foresees his impending downfall; he simply hears the grumblings of those writing his career obituary while the scene he helped build rapidly changes around him. There’s a subtle self-awareness to everything he does now—attempting to preserve his legacy with YG, the ill-fated Freddie Gibbs signing, growing noticeably more deliberate and introspective, etc.—and it’s clear to all paying attention that he doesn’t have the cachet he once did. But perpetually shifting release dates and internal turmoil within his CTE imprint haven’t yet rendered him impotent. Jeezy is more in tune with his craft than ever; we, the fans, have simply changed.
With Seen It All: The Autobiography, the seventh LP from Rap’s preeminent coke hustler-turned-rapper, Jeezy chronicles his ascension between the two points with the acuity of a far wiser man, and does so with some of his sharpest writing. He pens his own memoir as if he might not get another chance and he does so with a stunning mindfulness. Jeezy has been the face of Trap long enough to no longer be young, so naïveté plays no part in how he assesses his own career arc. On “No Tears,” he raps, “I guess this is what it feels like when you’re royalty, holmes / And you wake up and the loyalty’s gone,” and it almost feels like he’s hashing out his relationship with both Def Jam and the subgenre that has seemingly turned its back on him. In that regard, Seen It All is a proud commemorative created to remind us of Jeezy’s place in the Trap pantheon, and while the output does get rather uneven in spurts, it feels like an honest, autobiographical retelling of Snowman lore.
Concepts quickly get stale in music, but on Seen It All Jeezy subverts beating the proverbial dead horse by pushing his craftsmanship to new, hyper-reflective heights. The songwriting is much more personal this time around, and it gives new life to ideas Jeezy has worn dry over the years, ideas that have evolved into Trap tropes.
“I'm from a small hood, but I had big dreams / My uncle Robert taught me how to use the big beam / That was right before he caught his life sentence / Said do what you gotta, just put your life in it,” he raps on the sober, horn-laced “How I Did It (Perfection),” and it’s that kind of glimpse into the past that helps a listener understand basic criminal psychology. On “Win Is A Win” he spits, “I hope my words they inspire ya, spoke like a true leader / The first to admit life's more than two seaters.” He’s a bit more thoughtful this go-round, and he must be given all he’s seen.
Seen It All: The Autobiography does get muddled at times. There’s no place for “Holy Ghost” on this record, “Enough” is just plain cheesy with strained attempts at crooning, and things get even dicier on the deluxe edition. Even with its sometimes-questionable decisions, however, it cuts through the clutter with piercing moments of brilliance. The LP has standard Trap anthems like “1/4 Block” and “What You Say,” which both hearken back to the classic Jeezy of old, but it also finds Jeezy stepping outside his element for the groovy, Akon-assisted “Been Getting Money” and street reunion “Beez Like” featuring Lil Boosie, which both lay stringy guitar licks under Jeezy’s boisterous voice. That voice itself is still enough to clear a room; it stands as the centerpiece, broadcasting this drug epic.
At its very best, Seen It All is a glimpse into how Jeezy can make his living on the back nine in a crowded subgenre with no use for him anymore: By recalling the most chilling details of his drug dealing past with a flashback-like crispness. The title track finds the host reminiscing nostalgically about coke, what it forced him to endure, and what it gave him, getting an increasinly rare, great verse from Jay Z in the process. “Me OK” is signature Jeezy with drug mathematics and drug kingpin ostentatiousness. The longer Jeezy sticks around the more obvious it becomes that to some he will always be the “drug-dealing rapper” archetype incapable of evolving into something else, something more. He’ll always speak for the streets. It’s just a matter of whether or not we’ll still be interested in receiving his message.