Jeezy was part of my formative years in listening to rap.

Think about it. I’m twenty-six years old. My coming of age truly happened when mixtapes became a thing, music sales were just starting to get poached from free downloads, file sharing sites and torrents. I grew up when beef between two rappers was both a contrived idea of bullying, comedy and actual back and forth. Months from now we’ll be looking back at the time Houston snapped and said enough was enough. When Lil Wayne started making people believe he was the best rapper in the world after Jay Z retired. 16 is when you’re going to start forming a hell of a lot more sound opinions on the music you listen to, the sounds you crave.

Jeezy probably said the most factual thing in his life in 2005, the early onset of the “Intro” to Trap Or Die. “Most of these rappers are compulsive liars”. He may have been talking about himself in a way with bird prices that Pimp C eventually questioned him and others about but it was a fact. Rappers are here to entertain you, plain and simple. Sell you a dream, inspire you, keep you motivated or in a certain vacuum to avoid life’s unnecessary bullshit. How great they can sell the dream and inspire you determines some of their success. And some well … some just tell you silly things that you damn sure realize aren’t fact yet buy into it anyway. Jeezy didn’t come into 2005 like a typical rapper. He literally embodied the idea of a drug dealer who just happened to say fly shit and wanted it understood as clear as day.

There are three key Jeezy projects to absorb into your daily life. Thug Motivation 101 is chief of these. Whatever you choose to do with his involvement in Boyz N Da Hood during Bad Boy’s definite infatuation with the South period is up to you. Neither however set the stage for what followed like Trap Or Die did. From intro down to the tracks which eventually were poached for TM 101, Jeezy had a formula. It may have been annoying in 2005 but to my friends who had cars and decided riding out to an Atlanta rapper who referred to himself as Da Snowman? It was gospel.

“U Ain’t Perfect,” a song built on playing to Jeezy’s strengths employs a metronome and surrounds it with plenty of drums and amplified synths. It’s still Atlanta right down to the adlibs. Much of Trap Or Die wanted to forecast the future with Jeezy and his USDA pals. It kept wanting to create the idea that Jeezy was a trap superhero who decided preaching was a better side hustle than flipping packs. Whether you chose to believe Jeezy or not, his BMF affiliations made it all genuine. No rapper outrightly tells you to “Miss Me With The Rap Shit,” except Jeezy did.

By the time Trap Or Die went national, the rumblings from critics beyond the Mason-Dixon line were already loud and clear. “Too simple, annoying adlibs, why do people like this?” Ironically enough, the same thing was happening with Dipset and Cam’Ron but there’s just a different flair attached to it. Jeezy looked about as average as you can get, black T-shirt, round bald head – not a prototypical rap star. Until you heard him speak. Ever enjoy a sermon? No matter how inflated or bloated the concept? That’s what Trap Or Die was. A 70-minute sermon composed of breaks, clear outlines and guest speakers who also wanted to take up some clear space.

Bun B started off his insane year of running through everything in existence with his guest verse on “Trap Or Die,” a track so profound that sadly Slick Pulla’s strong verse got left on the mixtape floor when the track ventured its way over to Jeezy’s Def Jam release in July 2005. It still represents one of Jeezy’s more effortlessly great moments, “Last time I checked, I was the man in these streets…” He was. We pretty much rode around that entire winter thumping our chests high in the air and told people who we were. Even if the first Dedication tape was set to drop in the summer of ’05, we at least knew good and damn well who Jeezy was. Rap in small couplets, drop an adlib, boast and build with Shawty Redd & Drumma Boy.

2005 may be one of the more underrated years in rap and a dope boy from Atlanta made it that way.

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