Jeezy shot to fame in the mid 2000s with street-certified projects like Trap or Die and Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, but behind that success lurked a darkness that fueled his desire to make it.
The Atlanta rap kingpin sat down for an interview with Yahoo! News on Wednesday (July 26) to promote his new book Adversity for Sale: Ya Gotta Believe (out August 8), where he reflected on his turbulent breakout in music, which coincided with him transitioning from a drug dealer to a full-time rapper.
The Snowman’s dope boy hustle had earned him a lot of money and notoriety, but with that success came an unshakable paranoia as he swapped the streets for the studio in an attempt to realize his rap dreams. Like his hero 2Pac, death was around the corner for a young Jeezy.
“I just knew that there wasn’t no other way if I didn’t figure it out,” he said. “I was going to end up in prison or probably dead like the rest of my friends.
“A lot of my music … was me just wanting to be heard. I was writing my music as if I wasn’t gonna be there anymore. So I was like, ‘This better be the best I ever said.’ And so that’s what Trap or Die and Thug Motivation was, because I was preparing myself for the worst.”
He added: “And when it popped, I understood, and now I was like, ‘OK, I gotta sustain this.’ So I just carried that same energy into all my next projects.”
One of his generation’s most lauded street poets, Jeezy has frequently poured these kind of morbid confessions into his music — namely on his 2006 song “Bury Me a G,” on which he imagined his own untimely demise.
“Paramedics on the way, but they wastin’ they time/ Everybody standin’ over a n-gga, screamin’ and shit/ Damn, y’all give a n-gga a second to think/ Which one of you n-ggas shot me? It was one of you bastards/ Let my n-gga Kink throw a hundred grand in my casket,” he rapped.
“At that point in time I was like, ‘These n-ggas are either gonna kill me or I’m going to kill them,’” he told Billboard of the song in 2014. “That’s how I was living.
“I’m talking about me being out in a club and me running into somebody who maybe it might not go right and them shooting me in my white tee. That’s what I was thinking about when I was going out: This could be the night so fuck it, let’s just go.”
It wasn’t until the release of his third major label album The Recession in 2008 that those feelings began to subside.
“I couldn’t even explain to you what my nights were like. I didn’t sleep a lot. I had a lot of nightmares. I really went through a lot because I really wanted to do this and I felt like all this was going to be taken from me because of all the bad stuff that I had done before I got here,” he said in that same interview.
“I think it was right around The Recession when I was like, ‘You know what? I think I’m going to be alright. I think I’m going to be here.’ I felt like if it ain’t happen yet, it ain’t gonna happen. It was just all the stress. I didn’t get a chance to live the superstar part of it because I was in so deep.”
Fast forward almost 20 years, and life looks very different for Jeezy. The CTE boss married his wife, The Real co-host Jeannie Mai Jenkins, in 2021 and they welcomed their first child together, a daughter, the following year.
While he remains relatively active as a rapper, he’s since built a multimillion-dollar business empire that includes real estate, a marketing agency and partnerships with liquor and sports energy drink brands.