Rapper Jeezy (Jay Wayne Jenkins) has had to overcome a number of obstacles in his life. His parents divorced when he was still a child, and he has reportedly lived on the streets since he was 12. He chronicles some of that past on previous releases, but he digs deep on his new album, Seen It All. Subtitled “An Autobiography,” it details the trials of tribulations of being rich and famous. And it does so with the type of honesty for which Jeezy is known.
“Just being on the streets, I was listening to what was going on, and I just thought I could make it better,” he says via phone when asked about his childhood. “I just wanted to speak the truth and I had to change my lifestyle to be a part of it. I came up with it and at the same time, if I didn’t go through any struggle, I couldn’t make the kind of music I make. My music is based on struggle and adversity and the two go hand in hand.”
By the time Jeezy (then known as Young Jeezy) started his career in the early 2000s, hip-hop was thriving. Southern hip-hop was particularly popular.
“It was just a whole Cash Money/No Limit thing,” says Jeezy when asked about what the early days were like. “When Cash Money took it over, we could relate to what those artists were talking about. You know, cats like Gucci Mane.”
For his new album, he teamed up with a few rappers you might’ve heard of. Jay-Z makes a cameo on the title track and Akon, Game, Rick Ross, Lil Boosie and Future all have guest spots as well.
“I just wanted to get it on so I could take the next step,” says Jeezy. “There were some things I never talked about. I took this opportunity to speak in that way. That’s our connection and our experience. That’s what the tour is about — having a good time and leaving people with some motivation. That’s also what the record is about. It gives a different perspective on where I’m at.”
On “Holy Ghost,” he raps about having the weight of the world on his shoulders to a soundtrack of stuttering percussion and shimmering synths.
“It’s coming from a real perspective,” he says of the song. “It’s about how success and fame can change everything. It’s like when people find out about money and how they find out about how good you’re doing. It puts you in a difficult situation. You wanna see everybody win. It’s like you’re the star quarterback or star running back and you can’t bring your friends on the field with you. They can watch it from the stands but they can’t come on the field with you. With this music thing, people think they should have everything you have. It’s not like that. ‘Holy Ghost’ is about that. That could be for anybody. It’s me speaking. We celebrating but at the same time you can’t have people watching your every step.”
Not that the current live show will be a downer. As Jeezy says, the shows have been lively affairs.
“I speak for the struggle. I keep it real with you even though it hurts,” he says. “I see a kid walking down the street and he doesn’t have a dime to his name. he can look at me [for inspiration]. I speak for the struggle. I don’t talk down to the poor. I came from that. That’s what keeps me going. I don’t want to end up back like I was. I can’t do no complaining. [The tour] is everything I thought it would be. It’s sold out every night. People can’t get in. The crowds have been crazy.”
Jeezy, 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $35 ADV, $38 DOS, houseofblues.com.
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