Jeezy's been preaching the gospel of the streets since he dropped his debut album, but on his Nov. 13 release, Church In These Streets (and his Politically Correct EP), there's a new sense of urgency in the Atlanta rapper's verses.
That fervor was inspired both by the protests that have swept the nation in response to police injustice, and Jeezy's own experience with the cops when he was arrested in Los Angeles last summer, on suspicion of possessing an illegal firearm.
“I had my incident in LA where [the police] locked me up, and it brought me back down to humble level," Jeezy told MTV News. "At some point you have a career and success, and you forget that people go through that every day. Even though it ain’t your problem, that still happens, so I’m speaking for those people.”
It was a sobering moment for Jeezy, who then felt compelled to address issues of race and justice in his music this year, in addition to lending his physical support to fans, by rallying with them at the Million Man March 20th Anniversary in Washington D.C.
"I'm not a politician or a fake revolutionary. I'm just saying this sh-t is f--ked up and I'm gonna speak the truth every time I get the chance," he explained.
"The only way that I can talk to the masses is by putting it in the music. Information is the key but sometimes, as a culture, as a people, we don’t take the time to get information, so I think the music connects the dots. If you put information in a form where somebody could understand it, they might actually listen to it."
Despite the struggles he faced before rap changed his world, Jeezy admits the events that took place in Ferguson and Baltimore, for example, really shook him to the core.
"I’ve never been through [anything like] Ferguson when I was growing up," he said. "We never had to go protest for anything, for me to see that...I was blown away. It feels like the civil rights era. It's serious, so I’ve got to speak up a little louder. I’ve got to put some bass in my voice, drop gems in the music and hope people understand what's really going on, what we're really going through."
As he processed those feelings, Jeezy also took a friend's advice and began to write in a diary, instead of going straight to the booth to record songs. He was hesitant about trying it at first, but eventually it helped him to tap into something new.
“With Politically Correct, especially, I wrote everything as if I was writing in my diary -- what was bothering me right then, in paragraph and letter form, and then read it off in the booth to make sense of it sonically," he explained. "It actually gave me some relief, because there was a lot of built up tension after that incident in L.A. how they did me wrong for no reason. I was angry.”
On Church In These Streets, Jeezy voices some of these concerns through 'Pastor Young,' a figure that was born organically.
"Pastor Young came from me doing my shows, and people in the crowd really saying that, ‘I came to see my pastor.' I know I’m not an actual preacher, but when it comes to this ghetto gospel, I’m serious about it. People put the things that are more important to them first. And if I'm guilty of anything, it's always putting people before me."