Young Jeezy’s previous album, The Recession, further burnished the rapper’s populist credence by showing that he had an intuitive understanding that people were feeling downtrodden, even if official economists hadn’t yet diagnosed it as such. On songs like “Circulate” and “Crazy World,” Young Jeezy added anxiety and paranoia to his triumphant trap rap, and the results were timely and affecting. But TM103: Hustlerz Ambition, his new album that finally sees the light of day after two years of postponed release dates, suffers from the lack of a moment. Jeezy’s nobody’s street poet. He’s made it to where he is because of an ability to apply pure emotion with blunt force and precision accuracy. His best albums have a coherent vision even if his lyrics are a few grunts and groans away from being fully articulate. But TM103 presents not a unified statement of Jeezy circa 2011 but a grab-bag of Jeezy circa 2009-2011. The album certainly has its moments, but on the whole it’s bogged down by too much middling material.
Young Jeezy’s records follow a pattern: start out with pugnacious street songs, e.g. “I Luv It,” and then loosen up on the second half, e.g. “Put On.” The problem with TM103 is that the early trunk rattlers don’t rattle hard enough and the second-half burners don’t burn hot enough. “What I Do (Just Like That)” is a welcome reunion of Jeezy and producer Drumma Boy, rolling slowly over a G-funk-infected beat of sinister synths and bass punches, with Jeezy counting off some familiar if effective smart-dumb rhymes like “I’m talking so much white, you would think I was racist” and “Even call me a plumber, she like the way that I pipe it.” But collaborations with trappers-of-the-moment Future (“Way Too Gone”) and 2 Chainz (“Supafreak”) fail to make a mark. These songs will definitely sound great turned to 10 on your car’s stereo system, but aside from a steady throbbing in your ear they probably won’t linger much.
The second half of TM103 features the album’s three best tracks – “Everythang,” “Trapped,” and “F.A.M.E” — and its most talked about, “I Do.” “Everythang” is classic rags-to-riches anthem, with a simple, sweltering organ line and an emphatic hook. Surprisingly, Jeezy sings the hook himself, even though the melody seems tailor made for an Akon, but he pulls it off nicely. “Trapped” features Jill Scott, an unlikely Jeezy collaborator, and a melancholy, live-instrument production by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. Similar to “Circulate” or “Real as It Gets” off Blueprint 3, the song places Jeezy in an unfamiliar environment, and he absolutely thrives. “F.A.M.E.” has recently released T.I., and another chilly, cinematic beat from J.U.S.T.I.C.E League. Jeezy is in full-on paranoia mode – “Your conscience got you feeling like you done something wrong / But the flatscreen saying motherfucker, we on” – but T.I.’s verse is little beyond a re-introduction and yet another apology.
Easily the album’s marquee track and its best hope for radio success, “I Do” features verses from Jeezy, Jay-Z and Andre 3000 over a horn-fed soul sample. A snippet of the song with only Andre’s contribution leaked last year; back then the snipped seemed to promise the perfect sequel to UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You).” But Jeezy and Jay weren’t on the original, obviously, and Bun B and Big Boi (not to mention a ghost verse from Pimp C) are nowhere to be found on “I Do.” What’s more, while Andre raps about his dedication to a woman, Jay and Jeezy rap about being married to hustling. The track is enjoyable, sure, but its parts don’t fit together coherently, and it definitely feels out of place compared to the rest of TM103.