Nine years ago Let’s Get It: Thug Inspiration 101 introduced the world to Young Jeezy, a self-purportedly hard-as-fuck rapper with a sandpaper delivery and a chameleonic ability to wade comfortably in whatever production style is in vogue at the moment. His success can be attributed to the workmanlike approach he honed pushing narcotics in his youth. Despite the fact that he’s at the point in his career where he’s alternating between serving as a Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records and fighting million-dollar-bail gun charges, Jeezy is among rap’s least heralded elder statesmen. Seen It All: The Autobiography is Jeezy settling into his grizzled veteran status, sharing trap stories, dispensing fatherly advice, and extolling the virtues of hustling on crossover-ready beats that blur the ever-shrinking line between trap music and pop.
That may sound like a diss, but Jeezy’s juxtaposition of his trademarked thug guise against spit-shined radio-friendly production often results in some outright bangers. “No Tears” is a triumphant lighter-waver that explores the distance that fame has put between Jeezy and a friend from his youth. Buoyed by pulsating synths eerily reminiscent of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” and Future’s codeine-dripping vocal hook, it’s a pleasant moment of introspection on an album packed with sloganeering and showboating. “Black Eskimo” is lug-headed thug music at its best, with an intimidating machine-gun snare beat and Jeezy spitting a goofily dated Plaxico Burress joke that lands despite having every reason not to, and “Beautiful,” featuring Game and Rick Ross, is delightfully absurd opulence on par with Ross’s own “Diced Pineapples.” Game wins the track with the couplet, “Mirror, mirror, in my garage/Tell me which Lambo I should park at the L’Ermitage.”
Fitting of Seen It All’s supposed autobiographical flair, Jeezy indulges in a lot of trap talk. On “4 Zones,” his self-mythologizing succeeds: The Clipse-like attention to detail (“4 Zones” refers to the idea that any dealer can get back on solid ground if he can get four ounces of cocaine) lends the track a sense of gravitas worthy of the production’s Auto-Tuned bombast. Unfortunately, too many of the tracks’ motivational axioms are a little too on the nose: With its exhortations for the listener to try and grind “hard enough,” the chorus of “Enough” is too cheesy even for JV basketball warm-up tapes, and “Beez Like” wastes its sleek and sticky-sweet G-funk beat on a clumsy attempt to advise the young hustlers of the world on what Jeezy’s success “beez like.” When it comes to fleshing out his life story, Jeezy needs to realize that he’s far more intriguing when he regales the listener with specifics from his drug-pushing days rather than hollow guarantees of his realness.
Seen It All doesn’t show Jeezy evolving into anything he hasn’t already been, but it does crystallize his place in the pop-rap pecking order. On the Japanese flute-sampling title track, not only does Jeezy get a dexterous shit-talking verse from Jay-Z, but validation of his own origin myth and industry ascendancy straight from Mr. Knowles himself. On Seen It All, Jeezy proves you don’t need to overcome your own one-dimensional lyrical perspective in order to become a trap star: All you need is the right work ethic and a willingness to adapt to whatever craziness the kids are digging these days.