Jeezy just dropped his new single, “Back,” featuring Yo Gotti. For Jeezy, the song and the accompanying video, which plays like a short film, has an important message to deliver as he explained to me when we spoke.
Coming during the pandemic and tough economic times for many people, the song and video, which starts with him and Gotti entering a bank to secure a loan to give back to the community, delivers a message of leadership and supporting the people around you.
But the message is a delivered in a catchy and memorable beat. For Jeezy, that’s the balance he strives for. He has an upcoming Verzuz battle with T.I., but on his Instagram he recently made sure to point out the violence in Nigeria.
But as I found when speaking with him, the message, no matter how fun the packaging might be, is always on point for him. I spoke with him about how his upbringing shaped that message, the artists that inspired his drive for leadership and much more.
Steve Baltin: I like the balance you have of fun like the Verzuz battle but then recognizing what is happening in Nigeria on your social media. Where does that balance come from for you?
Jeezy: Coming from where I came from you had to learn to be that way because the situation was always bad, worse now of course in the world. Back then it was my neighborhood, but I was just raised that way, to see the best in things. And always try to express my message. My message right now is even in the dark we’re gonna see the light. It’s dark and we all know that, but we’re gonna still see the light. And we’re gonna go about it the way we know how to go about it. If life is hard you do it hard, but have fun while you do it. And when you say Nigeria, as far as what’s going on in the world with the pandemic and bringing everything together it’s all about awareness. And once you realize you can use your influence to bring awareness then you have to do so. With the video it was more so shedding light on what the world has come to. This is almost the new hustle because it’s what the world has come to. So if I’m gonna do something like that, and if I was to ever do it, I’m gonna give it right back to the people that deserve it. And hopefully they can dig out something to do with it to help someone else so we can build some generational love around here.
Baltin: What was the impetus for the video?
Jeezy: I’m very in touch with my surroundings, my community, my people. And I see what’s going on, so I’m like, “Okay, this is what we got going. I want to shed light on it.” And the way we’re gonna do this is to make sure we take care of our people. And I think me and Gotti coming together, me and Gotti came in the game through the trenches, from the bottom level being street guys. And we always kept a tight relationship that was beyond music. And I called him up and was like, “I got this idea and we’re gonna get some acting in it.” And he was just like, “Okay, cool.” So you’re already kicking it up another level. Then you got two guys that really come from the struggle and we’re in suits and cashmere turtlenecks and we’re going in the bank and we’re trying to convince these people we need this for our business. But our business is really our people. And I feel that’s a message within itself. And I didn’t want to go in a bank, guns blazing. We corporate thugging these days, we’re intelligent guys. We run Fortune 500 companies and we employ a lot of people on both ends, his company and my company. And I think that’s a strong stance we take in this game because it’s beyond the music right now, we’re leaders in our own right. We’re also CEOs and we run major companies and we have major employees. We start talking about unemployment and people from our culture and blacks not being employed we trying our best to do that. So even if we was to hear the hype we would go in there just like that in suit and tie cause we’re intelligent enough and we got enough street smarts to pull it off. But I think that needs to be shown to the world because you think about us and where we come from, you think about thugs and all the bad things that come along with it, you don’t look at the good. And that’s why we’re like modern-day Robin Hoods, neighborhood heroes. And we always look out for the people that we came up with.
Baltin: What do you want people to take from the video?
Jeezy: I want to show a video in a time where leadership is important. It’s important to be a CEO and employ people, it’s important to be a leader and show people how to make it through a crisis. I think that’s what we did in this video. And also went back to the streets. Did you know in our world, where we come from, the biggest thing you can do in the world is buy your mother a house? Give your auntie some grocery money and buy your little cousin a care for college. That’s the biggest, in the world you’re a hero cause these are things that they need that you can buy so they can go be better. And I think we show that.
Baltin: Were there people coming up who instilled you that the best thing you could do is give back to your family and your community?
Jeezy: My mom’s first home was $3500, a single-wide trailer home in a back road. And I hustled for months and months and gave her the $3500 to pay it off. She was so excited about getting $3500 she paid the trailer off and that’s where we lived for most of my childhood — me, her and my sister. And I always dreamed about buying my mother a home. And that led to me doing things to pursue that and I just remember the first real check I got when I got my deal, the first thing I did was buy my mother a house. And that was better than any feeling in the world because I was making sure my queen was okay and she was good. To me, that’s the beauty of life, being in a position to help the people that raised you or either gave you life. And that just taught me a valuable lesson growing up and I always been a giver. I always had to make sure the people around me are good, they got what they need. It’s not even bragging rights. I do things under the table that people wouldn’t even know just to give back. My grandmother brought me up that way and I just always believed in valuing people, treating people how you want to be treated and valuing people over money. If you value people the money will come.
Baltin: Are there artists you admire for the way they led the community and spoke out in their music?
Jeezy: Yeah, Bob Marley. I listened to the music, then I finally made it to Jamaica. And when I went to where he was raised I got it. I understood what the whole Jamaican culture was about, why they worked so hard, why they done what they did, with his music that he was a leader. Everybody in his neighborhood had a story about Bob Marley. His people loved him. He put himself on the line and he stood for something. And his intent was always first. And look at the intent. When I got into music I never really strayed from my music. I didn’t consider it as being an artist and I still don’t to this day. When you say rapper that almost offends me because I always took a position of leadership. I just do what’s right and that’s it. Any leader that’s really a leader knows you make mistakes and you fix them and keep moving. But you lead, you continue to lead and create other leaders. That’s what it’s really about. So for me I never looked at the music as music, I looked at it as a vehicle for my message. And my message was always motivation, desperation, inspiring people of doing aspirational things so they can see a bigger picture. Cause there’s this man coming from this single-wide trailer been all over the world preaching this message about, “You can do it, I did it. I went through adversity and I made it through. What makes me better than you? You could do it too.” And that’s been my message since day one. And I took a position of leadership and that came from listening and understanding what Tupac’s message was and Bob Marley and the list goes on of those guys who really stood for something and it was beyond music and making money.
Baltin: Since you are focused on being there for the people right now are there things you’re doing to help get out the vote in Atlanta?
Jeezy: Yeah, I teamed up with the NAACP, the Georgia chapter, to help them with their voting thing. I’ve been teamed up with Biden to get people out to vote. It’s one of those things, I just want to be active. I don’t want to tell people what to do or how they should move, but I just want to make sure they’re aware of what’s going on, how serious this is and that we have to be involved. We can’t sit back and we have to get in the routine to go out here and make our voices be heard when it’s time do so. So I’m just encouraging people to get out of their house and get out of their head and get out here and make a difference. If you feel how you feel, okay, then let’s go put it on the polls.
Baltin: I know you have your Verzuz battle coming up soon with T.I. If you could see any two people ever battle who would it be?
Jeezy: It definitely would have been B.I.G. and Pac. I just feel like there was so much tension between the powers that be, and I don’t really think the tension was with them, but they both were before time and we never really got a chance to enjoy them or their music like we should have because it was always some stigma around it. So if there’d ever been a time they could be in the same room and play some of their best hits I think that would have been the biggest dancing party in the whole world (laughs). The whole world would have been tuned in.