The Recession

Title: The Recession
Artist: Young Jeezy
Label: Def Jam
Catalog no.: B001153602
Release date:  September 2008

Possessing a distinctive voice is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, everyone recognizes it immediately, while on the other hand, there is no way to disguise its sound and whatever connotations are associated with that particular timbre. Young Jeezy has one of those voices, gritty, gravelly, and forceful, and therefore it is impossible for him to avoid sounding aggressive. It would be akin to James Earl Jones trying to sound timid and kittenish – not going to happen. As a result, Jeezy smartly avoids delivering many lyrics pertaining to love or sex, because to do so with such a voice would immediately sound predatory.

Thus, the bulk of The Recession, Young Jeezy’s third major album release, sticks to a lot of similar topics. In addition to the narrow group of subjects addressed in the lyrics, the instrumental backing of the tracks remains relatively static. Many of the tracks are formulaic, following a protocol which has worked for Jeezy in past efforts and continues to deliver in this album as well. It goes something like this: a slow introduction (sometimes with spoken words which foreshadow the upcoming lyrics), which the leads into a synth string or brass ostinato layered with a frenetic hi-hat pattern and topped with snarling lyrics from Jeezy. If you’re a fan of this pattern, you’re in luck, because “Welcome Back,” “By the Way,” “What They Want,” “Amazin’,” “Hustlaz Ambition,” “Who Dat,” “Don’t You Know,” “Word Play,” “Vacation,” “Don’t Do It,” “Put On” (feat. Kanye West), and “Get Allot” strictly adhere to the layout.

A few tracks deviate from this pattern and are a welcome respite from tracks that, at first, are difficult to distinguish from one another. “Circulate” (feat. Real Talk) features sweet interludes from Real Talk and brassy samples from Billy Paul’s 1975 track, “Let the Dollar Circulate.” “Everything” (feat. Anthony Hamilton and Lil Boosie) actually does follow the formula outlined above, but it is more soulful, thanks to Hamilton’s sung choruses (Hamilton was first introduced to audiences in Nappy Roots’ 2002 track “Po’ Folks”) and Lil Boosie’s distinctive tenor range in his guest verse. A curious pulsating, fluttering synth opening in “Takin’ it There” (feat. Trey Songz) and sounds more like Philip Glass or the Reading Rainbow theme than the intro to a hip-hop track, and Songz’s sung delivery in the chorus is very reminiscent of mid-1990s pop ballads. “My President” (feat. Nas) is underlain with an Americana-patriotic-esque theme. The guest vocals on the track are performed by Nas, which came as a surprise to many fans after Jeezy publicly doubted Nas’s skills. Nas’s rapid-fire verse on “My President” trounces any of Jeezy’s efforts in the same track, so listeners may read into that however they see fit.

Lyrically, most of the songs address various aspects of Jeezy’s hustler ambition, superiority over other rappers, dealings in drugs, and avoidance of the feds. Most lyrics with a political bent are observations or complaints aimed at the current administration, such as “I think Bush trying to punish us, sending little messages out to each and every one of us,” (from “Crazy World) or “Bush robbed all of us, does that make him a criminal? And then he cheated in Florida, does that make him a Seminole?” (from “My President”). While The Recession doesn’t tell listeners anything they didn’t already know, it’s still a strong, sharply engineered effort from Young Jeezy and his many collaborators. It delivers exactly what is expected, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by Amanda Sewell

Hip Hop

GZA/Genius.  Pro Tools (Babygrande, August 2008)

GZA, one of the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, once again proves he is a master of production, combining great rhymes and beats into an album that is sure to become a classic. A host of guest producers were involved as well, including Bronze Nazareth, Allah Mathematics, True Master, Arabian Knight, Jay Waxx and Black Milk. Featured artists also include GZA’s son Justice, and Wu-Tangers RZA and Masta Killa. Tracks include the ode to ghetto youth “Short Race” and the politically charged “Columbian Ties” and “Path of Destruction.”

Knarls Barkley. The Odd Couple (Downtown/Atlantic, May 2008)

The duo known as Knarls Barkley is a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) and Atlanta rapper/singer Cee-lo Green, a former member of the Goodie Mob who pioneered the Dirty South style.  This was one of the break-out albums for 2008, which built upon the success of their previous release St. Elsewhere.  By merging hip hop with neo-soul and blending in large doses of special effects, they’ve created a style that’s all their own.

Young Jeezy.  The Recession (Def Jam, July 2008)

When Southern rapper Young Jeezy released The Recession last summer, he probably had no idea that the economy would continue to freefall.  And he cut the final track, the Obama shout-out “My President,” well before the election.  Addressing these topics put him somewhat ahead of the pack and add a significant degree of social relevance, though its not sustained thoughout the album. Then again, maybe he’s found a new focus since it was just announced that he is performing at the “Hip Hop Inauguration Ball,” along with T.I. and LL Cool J.

Akrobatik.  Absolute Value (Fat Beats, February 2008)

Boston rapper Akrobatik, who interestingly has a side gig as an announcer for the “Sports Rap-Up” segment on Boston hip hop station 95.5 FM, released his most significant album to date in 2008.  Absolute Value positions him firmly within the socially conscious alternative rap pantheon, with tracks such as “Rain” that addresses gang violence, and “Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)” which slams gangsta rap with the rhyme “They shut down the conscious rosters/But talk about being a pimp you’ll get an Oscar.”   Among the many guests are Talib Kweli (“Put Ya Stamp on It”), Little Brother, Chuck D, and B Real.

Will C.  Down the Dial (Double You Productions, 2008)

Compiled by Will C., a Boston area deejay,  Down the Dial is a mix of highlights from the influential radio program Rap Attack, hosted by DJ Mr. Magic and broadcast over New York’s WBLS-FM in the 1980s. Will C. combed through piles of old DATs and cassettes containing airchecks from the show, culling watershed moments from the original programs. What is unique about this project though, is the manner in which the old is mixed with the new.  “What I did with this project was absorb the format of Mr. Magic’s radio shows over a period of years . . . when I went into the studio to put together some Will C. mixes, I always kept in mind the master mixes of deejays like Marley Marl and Chilly Q on the Rap Attack. . . The end result, if all went according to plan, are moments on Down the Dial where you can’t tell if you’re hearing the vintage side of things or the new pieces.”