Artist Biography by Andy Kellman
Trap music trailblazer Jeezy, identifiable by his gruff and energized rhymes written from a uniquely streetwise perspective, emerged from the Atlanta underground as a member of Boyz N da Hood. Only a month after that group crashed the Top Ten of the Billboard 200 with their self-titled album for Bad Boy, the rapper nearly topped the chart with his solo Def Jam debut, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005). Simultaneously a key player in Atlanta’s commercial dominance and Def Jam’s enduring relevance, Jeezy hit the Top Ten with all eight of his subsequent major-label albums, which included the number one entries The Inspiration(2006), The Recession (2008), and Trap or Die 3 (2016). During this period, Jeezy accrued well over a dozen gold and platinum singles as the lead or featured artist. Four tracks were nominated for Grammys in the Best Rap Performance categories: “Put On” and “Amazing” (both Kanye West collaborations), “Lose My Mind” (assisted by Plies), and “I Do” (a summit with Jay-Z and André 3000). Jeezy intended to retire after TM104: The Legend of the Snowman (2019), his last Def Jam LP, but returned the next year with multiple EPs and full-length project The Recession 2.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina and raised in Georgia — first in Atlanta, then Hawkinsville and Macon — Jay Wayne Jenkins had an upbringing complicated by gang affiliation and street hustling. He entered the music industry in his early twenties, following a return to Atlanta with the intent of remaining in the background. Having set up Corporate Thugz Entertainment (aka CTE) and promoted Cash Money releases, he debuted in 2001 under the name Lil’ J with Thuggin’ Under the Influence, featuring input from early supporter Kinky B, Shawty Redd, and Lil’ Jon. Two years later, the album was expanded and reissued as Come Shop wit’ Me, a two-disc set credited to Jenkins‘ new alias, Young Jeezy. Around the same time, Jeezy became part of Bad Boy Entertainment signees Boyz N da Hood and provided the creative push behind the group’s self-titled album, a Top Ten Billboard 200 entry released in June 2005. Also signed as a solo artist to Def Jam, Jeezy‘s own Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 arrived the next month and entered the Billboard 200 at number two. The album positioned Jeezy as one of his genre’s most prominent artists. It went platinum, promoted by the gold-certified “And Then What” (featuring Mannie Fresh), the multi-platinum number four pop hit “Soul Survivor” (with Akon), “Go Crazy” (joined by Jay-Z), and “My Hood.”
Jeezy topped the Billboard 200 with his next two solo albums. The Inspiration, another platinum set, arrived toward the end of 2006 with the Top 20 pop singles “I Luv It” and “Go Getta.” After his success as one-third of U.S.D.A., whose Top Five Def Jam-issued Cold Summer landed in 2007, Jeezy returned to the top in 2008 with The Recession. Among its five charting tracks was another Top 20 pop hit, the Kanye West collaboration “Put On,” which went multi-platinum and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. By the end of the decade, Jeezy was also a featured artist on numerous hits. Among these were Usher‘s chart-topping “Love in This Club,” Akon‘s “I’m So Paid,” West‘s Grammy-nominated “Amazing,” Drake‘s “I’m Goin’ In,” and Rihanna‘s number eight hit “Hard.”
In 2010, “Lose My Mind” was issued as a prelude to TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition. It became Jeezy‘s fifth Top 40 single as a headliner, and his third recording nominated for a Grammy, but a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy delayed the release of the parent album until late 2011. Still eagerly anticipated, TM:103 went Top Ten and featured a few more successful singles, including “I Do” and “Leave You Alone.” The former, featuring Jay-Z and André 3000, made Jeezy a four-time Grammy nominee. Although he didn’t release another studio album for three years, he was on hits by Yo Gotti (“Act Right”) and YG (“My N*gga”), and unspooled several mixtapes during the interim. From 2014 through 2017, he released a new studio album on an annual basis. He shed the adjective of his performing name for the first of this series, Seen It All: The Autobiography, and continued to dispense wisdom and a little spirituality on the loosely conceptual Church in These Streets, Trap or Die 3 — his third number one album — and Pressure. The biggest cut off these LPs was “Seen It All,” another Jay-Z collaboration, certified gold. Promoted as his final course, TM104: The Legend of the Snowman followed in 2019 and maintained his streak of Top Ten albums. TM104 turned out to be merely the end of the rapper’s alliance with Def Jam. In 2020, Jeezy was back with a pair of EPs, Twenty/20 Pyrex Vision and Trap or Treat, while he readied new album The Recession 2. The sequel to his 2008 album The Recession was preceded by Yo Gotti-assisted track “Back” and was released in late November of 2020.GET TICKETS