Church in These Streets is a provocative, title for Jeezy’s sixth album. For a man who has been very successful at sticking to what he knows, even when he tries his hand at politics a la The Recession, the prospect of a spiritually-themed album is enough to pique any Hip Hop fan’s interest. Jeezy comes through, not with Hip Hop hymns, but as a man who inspires his people in a time of racial injustice in Black America.
When considered, it’s no surprise that it’s Jeezy who steps up on a street soapbox and calls out to not only his ‘hood but America as a whole. Your favorite rapper’s favorite trapper has been inspiring and motivating for a decade now. This time, though, his messages include doses of spirituality, politics, and an improved acumen for emceeing.
Church in These Streets works mostly because Jeezy remains true to himself as a trapper-turned-rapper without sounding stale. The album contains more of his real-life tales of his clandestine past on songs like “New Clothes” and “Forgive Me,” but the spiritual tones of these songs and the underlying chill of Jeezy’s trap-inspired tunes keeps Church in These Streets from sounding like a flip through the same old hymn book.
Make no mistake; this is not a gospel rap album. Jeezy does not venture into Lecrae territory, except to express faith in God and a few regrets. Mostly, the spirituality shines through as symbols of hood life; the “Lost Souls” are strippers and drug dealers who met sad ends, the “Holy Water,” is liquor to get Jay Jenkins through another impossibly hard week in the ghetto, and “God,” is Jeezy’s view of his stature in the ‘hood. Most of the time, this symbolism, coupled with Jeezy’s commitment to his improved flow and delivery, makes for compelling narratives.
Wisely, the most overtly political moments on Church in These Streets are on interludes. “Eternal Reflection Interlude” finds Jessica Care Moore indicting police for unjust slayings of African Americans while Sister Good Game speaks out against black-on-black violence. The interludes allow for Jeezy to have his messages expressed clearly while rhyming the kind of first-person trap confessionals he wants to spit.
Jeezy is wise not to be too rigid within the concept of Church in These Streets, and he makes sure to include bangers like “Gold Bottles” and “Hell You Talkin’ Bout.” However, a heavy knock on Church in These Streets lies in its length; at 19 tracks, a few of the hustle-hard anthems, i.e. the lackluster “Hustlaz Holiday” would have better been served for the cutting room floor. And while most of Jeezy’s signature trap sound is enjoyable, the alarm sounds of “God,” are a jolting earsore. Fortunately, moments like this are the exception.
Following all the street tales and reflection, redemption for Jeezy, and for his listeners, comes at the end of the album. It comes not only in his humility on “Forgive Me,” but on the penultimate track, “Just Win,” which finds Jeezy nudging his listeners forward in the face of adversity. The chorus seems to sum up the message of the entire album: “Win my nigga just win / It’s a dirty world, but that bitch still spin / And we don’t trust the preachers or the crooked politicians / The motherfuckers always talking, they don’t ever wanna listen.”
With Church in These Streets, Jeezy has succeeded in staying fresh through six albums. Church in These Streets is a batch of trap-based jams that will inspire its target audience and delight a wide array of listeners.