NEW YORK — His signature Maybach parked outside Manhattan's Sony Studios, Jay-Z joined the likes of L.A. Reid and Fabolous on Monday night for a VIP listening session of Young Jeezy Presents: USDA - Cold Summer. The album, due May 22, is labeled an "authorized mixtape" and finds the Snowman introducing his new group, the United Streets Dopeboyz of America.
"It took a whole lot just to get to this moment in time," said Jeezy, seated in between close friends and recording artists from his Corporate Thugz Entertainment, including Slick Pulla and Blood Raw. Those two artists, along with Jeezy, comprise USDA.
"To be able to do the type of music I like to do with some cats that I know, that's ... a big thing for me. I'm really ready for this album to come. I wish today was the 22nd. I'm a street cat, so I really know what summer music is: It's that one album that comes out to get you through the whole summer."
Although USDA's album is just being released, they've been in the making for years. Fellow Georgia native Pulla actually came into the Corporate Thugz camp through Jeezy's manager, Coach K, before Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 was released in 2005 (see "Unk, Polow Da Don, B.O.B. Who Will Be The Next ATL Star?"). Raw, who's from Florida, came into the fold shortly after Jeezy discovered him at a show in Alabama. The USDA project probably would have come after Jeezy's first album, but with serious legal issues as well as troubles in the street for Pulla and Raw, Jeezy was forced to put it on the back burner and focus on his second album, 2006's The Inspiration.
"There's a lot of stuff that people don't really know," Jeezy said. "Like cats will just tell you they done this and done that ... [Blood Raw] was facing a life sentence. He had conspiracy charge. It was crazy because he was just getting on and I was telling him, 'I'm about to change y'all's life.' I was taking him to London with me. He went to the airport and [the authorities] snatched him up. Same thing with Slick. I had to calm him down a lot. He reminded me of me when I was younger.
"You gotta imagine, I'm working Thug Motivation and police snatch up Raw," Jeezy continued. "Then Slick goes and somebody shot him. He's on probation, so [after that] he can't leave the house. So I'm on the road by myself. We was trying to put the album out for so long, once we finally got together for those two or three months to get in together, it was like clockwork. We did 16 tracks, kept 14. It wasn't no rushing, it was good. They like my brothers."
The first video from Cold Summer, for "White Girl," just came out.
"You know we keep that white girl, Christina Aguilera," Jeezy says on the hook. "My jewelry too loud/ Baby girl, I can't hear ya/ I need about 50 of them bricks at a topic/ You know we run them streets, man, them boys best stop it."
" 'White Girl' is just us going to the clubs having fun," Pulla said, downplaying the record.
"It's controversial too," Jeezy jumped in. "A lot of people won't play the record. I don't know why. Here we go again. I happen to like Christina Aguilera. Holla at me, baby. Whenever."
"That's the USDA's version of having fun," Slick finished. "Take it how you wanna take it."
Jeezy can talk all day about how people that don't buy his music still don't understand him. But he'd rather save his breath and talk up Cold Summer. He and his crew call the album celebratory.
"People be like, 'Y'all are so uptight. Y'all posted up in the back. They 200 deep, everybody is in all black,' " Raw started to joke of their perceived image.
Cold Summer also includes the remix to "Go Getta" in which the group raps with Bun B and Jadakiss as well as "Corporate Thuggin'," the next single.
" 'White Girl' was some straight A-Town, Florida [vibe]," Jeezy explained. " 'Corporate Thuggin' ' was for the world. That record right there, once again we ain't with no fads. We do music. Ten years from now, you can play that song. 'Corporate Thuggin' ' is serious. We got the rest of our lives ahead of us. The album is really rejoice-ful. 'Corporate Thuggin',' I holler at the critics and everything. I didn't get five mics or anything [in magazine The Source]. I'm still platinum. I do it for the people who listen to what I got to say."
Although the Atlanta heavyweight is pumping his group project, his solo ambitions are riding high. He says he'll drop album number three at the top of next year and his The Inspiration album is still being worked hard. He just released the new single and video "Dreamin' " with Keyshia Cole and has at least one more single coming from the album after that. And as everyone knows, he's still reaping the success of his smash "Go Getta."
"It was good. R. Kelly is very talented, he do what he do," Jeezy said about working with R&B's Pied Piper. "At the same time, if you want [ladies], he's the guy you want to go see. I don't really do chick records like that. I feel that's not my lane. I don't do sexy records. But when I did 'Go Getta,' it made sense to me because I knew what he was going to bring to the table. I knew what I was going to bring to the table. It made sense."