For a very long time, Young Jeezy's success was based on something really, really simple: He knew precisely what he could do well and wisely avoided everything else. Namely, he could shout and bray coke-dealer platitudes (with just enough of the dark stuff mixed in there to resonate) over damn-near-Wagnerian production. His debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, and the follow-up, The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102, were perfectly executed, operatic trap music. His third album, The Recession, was a sly political-ish album that found a new use for Jeezy's mean-mugging production: He began to voice a frustration outside of his own d-boy disappointments. 2011's Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition found some room for pop — mostly on the Ne-Yo assisted "Leave You Alone."
That 2011 album was a success and its singles stuck around, but it seemed as though rap music had, in part, gotten over Jeezy. He had his formula and he was doing it well, and suddenly, that just wasn't enough. Since then, Jeezy has enacted a slow reinvention. Part of it is hard-assed, prove-y'all-wrong pragmatism. If everyone is doing trap music, well, he would try something a little different. But another part is the same, ahead-of-the-curve, avant-street impulse that made him so fascinating back in 2005. With the recent single "R.I.P.," he embraced the "ratchet music" sound of "Rack City" producer DJ Mustard. Ratchet music is, in many ways, the anti-trap music: Minimal and light in every way that trap is maximal and stomping. Jeezy is also apparently working with "U.O.E.N.O." producer Childish Major. In short, he's reaching out to radio rap's vanguard.
Late last week, Jeezy released a tossed-off six-song EP, #ItsThaWorld. It slaps together a bunch of songs that Jeezy is featured on, which is no big deal, but they're tied together by their sonically adventurous street-rap beats. "Mob Life," "Woke Up," and "Hella Ice," from Detroit's Payroll skitter and screech and connect the dots between ratchet thump and Cybotron-like techno throb; two from DJ Mustard ("My Niggas," "The Homie") build off the farty-synth-sound insanity of "R.I.P.," but are a bit more playful; and EP closer "4 What," a Vangelis-like track from Drumma Boy, is a nice reminder that Jeezy has always been a weird-eared rapper when it comes to picking beats.
Content-wise, it's just relentless tough talk and hustler blather, but that's just fine. This exists as a a reminder of just how casually bizarre, closed-circuit street rap gets. This EP is a small mission statement: Here is Jeezy, back on the curve of what's cool and what's about to happen. He's no longer chasing his tail. Witness a trap-music innovator expertly co-opting rap's new contorted, rubbery sound in just 22 minutes. Perhaps this is Jeezy's version of Miguel's Art Dealer Chic EPs? The signal of a rebirth and the tease of a mini-seachange. These six little songs certainly make it seem that way.