On Church in These Streets, Jeezy Tries to Rediscover Himself

Paul carbonella

For Jeezy, 2015 was supposed to have been a special year. For one, he dropped the “Young” from his name. After all, “Those zeros get to adding up, you gotta drop the ‘young,’” said Jeezy himself in an MTV interview earlier this year. So has Jeezy matured, like fine wine, in some way? Or perhaps the name change is indicative of a musical transition, where Jeezy says goodbye to the street bangers that made him famous in favor for a more ruminating, conscious record. But with Church in These Streets, Jeezy lets us know he’s not too old to party, but may be ready to look further inward than ever before.

The cover of Jeezy’s eighth studio effort, Church in These Streets, depicts Jeezy as an intercity preacher, donning Malcolm X’s signature garb; a persona he sometimes channels on the record, but barely.

The biggest question I had during this record was, “where is Jeezy going with all this?” He’s clearly attempting to make an artistic transition, but may not know where he wants to take his career. For instance, “Gold Bottles” sounds like a cut from Jeezy’s classic Thug Motivation 101, whereas a track like “Eternal Reflection Interlude” exudes a To Pimp a Butterfly-style Kendrick Lamar interlude. Jeezy also goes into full cloud-trap mode on songs like “New Clothes” or “God,” whose beats would have better served someone like Future or Young Thug.

Church in These Streets was an opportunity for Jeezy to solidify himself as both a seasoned veteran, as well as a relevant artist today, but he seems to have trouble bridging that gap. Songs like “Hell You Talkin’ Bout” are good, old Jeezy fun – “We hustle on your birthday/We hustlin’ for Christmas,” he raps. The premise is simple fun and catharsis, and it’s the type of track where Jeezy shines: when things are not too serious, and when the stakes are not so high.

On the other hand, cuts like “God” attempt to force the new, (Old) Jeezy down our throats. The beat, produced by TM88 and Southside, is epic in scale. It’s an intense, low tempo beat full of the periodic synth stabs and snare rolls 808 Mafia are known for. “God” had the potential to be Jeezy’s next banger, but he can’t seem to take advantage of the beat enough.

On the title track, Jeezy is as Jeezy as ever, though. “My ***** got a plug and then he got indicted/Saw him in that foreign thing then got excited/Graduated from the streets and I ain’t have a tutor/If you see another day then just say hallelujah.” It shows us that Jeezy is at his best when he’s unapologetically himself, and not trying to ride aesthetic trends that may have been successful for his peers.

We probably will never get another Thug Motivation 101 from him, but we can only hope he remains consistent in the future. Church in These Streets shows us Jeezy is as ambitious as ever, but how he will channel that ambition is largely in question.