When Young Jeezy is equipped with the right beat, his croaky, workingman rhymes are irresistible; he maneuvered “3 A.M.,” “Bury Me a G,” and “Air Forces” with wonderful ease. But when his backing tracks are big and overbearing, which is often, he is among the least tolerable rappers in the business. 2008’s The Recession remains one of the grisliest, most bloated albums of the last several years, filled with one deafening and deadening production after another. Without anything as camouflage, Jeezy’s flow reveals itself as a major liability.
Such a problem hinders parts of his latest mixtape, the Don Cannon-endorsed Trap or Die 2: By Any Means Necessary. He hasn’t changed a lick since The Recession: He’s still rasping rote lines about clubbing and counting bread (“I think I’m half Jewish,” he exclaims), and those lines are still sometimes dreadful. His wordplay is unspeakably lacking in wit, never mind subtlety: “They want me to be gone with the wind/And blow away.” On “Losing My Mind,” he enlists the “help” of unintelligible squealer Plies, highlighting the similarities between the two MCs; they’re both narrow-minded, aggressive, and entirely willing to forgo the qualities that serious hip-hop fans enjoy. Ironic, isn’t it, that the tape is subtitled By Any Means Necessary, since Jeezy is the anti-KRS One?
Thankfully, Cannon, an Atlanta man responsible for exhilarating jams like OutKast’s “Da Art of Storytellin’ Part 4” and Freeway’s “The Beat Made Me Do It,” is one of hip-hop’s strongest producers, and he continues to soar here. It’s a lot like hearing Just Blaze circa 2002-03. Cannon beats Shawty Redd at his own synthed-up game, and he is handy with a sample, so Trap or Die 2 juggles aesthetics in a way that the less versatile The Recession failed to. “Hood Politics” shines as soulfully as anything on Jay-Z’s The Black Album, and on “I’LL’IN,” Jeezy pairs up with the pointed, laser-focused Clipse. On “Ride wit Me,” Trick Daddy, too, rides the beat like the pro that he is. Similarly, nice things can be said about the grittily emotional “Go Hard,” which is bested only by Trap or Die 2’s swelling opener, “Trap or Die Reloaded.” If The Recession was a dark album made during uncertain times, then Trap or Die 2 is insistent and lively—great for a summer weekend.
The song titles (“Insane,” “D Boyz,” “The Takeover,” “Da Greatest”) are pretty telling: This is not hip-hop at its most inventive. But give Jezzy a twinkling piano line (“Talking”) or distending string motif (“Time”), and he reveals unexpected grace. With him, Trap or Die 2 proves it’s all in the beat.