For many artists, relevancy can be a tiring, uncomfortable trifle. Requiring constant (sometimes forced) re-invention and awkward swerves into new lanes and soundscapes, the race to stay current often leads to burnout and bankruptcy.
But for Jay Wayne Jenkins, the Atlanta-based rapper known as Young Jeezy (or just Jeezy), one of the early pioneers of the now-ubiquitous trap music subgenre (see Migos, Future, Rae Sremmurd, etc.), it’s an adherence to the past that maintains his connection to the present.
Jeezy brought his Trap or Die 3 tour with Chicago drill rapper Lil Durk to a nearly packed house Wednesday at the Uptown Theater. Atlanta newcomer YFN Lucci was also billed as an opener, but according to promoters, pulled out of the concert earlier in the day.
Two years ago, Jeezy released “Church in These Streets,” a commercial failure panned by critics as a stalwart’s failed attempt to modernize and fit in with trap’s new-wave. “Trap or Die 3” however saw a return to formula (and the top of the charts) as Jeezy reconnected with Shawty Redd for a slew of pared down trap paeans and simmering club bangers.
The rapper often referred to as The Snowman arrived on stage crisply dressed in black, and punctually — beginning to the minute when he was expected (10:30 p.m.), a rarity for stars of his stature.
He immediately teased some of “Trap or Die 3’s” most promising tracks. He opened with the album’s first single “Let Em Know,” a simmering, twitchy club banger that rises like a monsoon, and with the assistance of the Uptown’s bone-rattling sound system, cascaded onto the crowd like a Shaq slam dunk.
From there things stewed for a moment with tracks like “Goldmine,” the Lil Wayne assisted “Bout That” and the rap/sung Chris Brown collaboration “Pretty Diamonds,” perhaps the album’s best chance for a national hit. It was a brief respite before the evening steered from concert to celebration as Jeezy revisited the hits that made him a hip-hop heavyweight.
For the next 45 minutes he dribbled through the 2005-11 hits, to uproarious effect. Sauntering around the stage like a king returning to court, Jeezy shared a litany of hits from his classic album “Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101” like “Bottom of the Map,” “Trap or Die,” “Go Crazy” and “Soul Survivor” and other singles from that era like “Dem Boyz,” “Way Too Gone,” and “Put On.”
He spent as much time performing as inviting, beckoning the all-ages crowd (many of whom were 25 and older) to sing along with the trap anthems that fueled the last half of the aughts. Even in 2017, it’s the Jeezy of 2005 whom fans yearn for.
The night’s zenith came, unexpectedly yet appropriately, when he performed the shrieking sledgehammer of a club record, the Grammy award-nominated “Lose My Mind” from his 2011 “TM103” album. A song that, while a veritable national hit, always seemed to enjoy a heightened level of popularity in Kansas City.
The crowd’s reaction was metaphorical for the tender relationship between Jeezy and Kansas City, and a reason, he hinted, why he has made KC a commitment on most every national tour he’s done throughout his career:
“When I ain’t have no videos, I ain’t have no record deals, when I came to Kansas City it was always love,” Jeezy told the crowd. “I don’t need no awards or Grammys. If I can come and do this with people like y’all, that’s all the awards I need. If you like it, I love it.”
He ended the night with his latest hit, “All There,” a booming trap anthem celebrating having everything you want in life. It was a fitting end to a masterclass performance from an old guard torchbearer still finding a way in the expansive, ever-changing world of rap.
An old dog’s newest trick.
Young Jeezy: Let ‘Em Know, Goldmine, Going Crazy, G-Wagon, Bout That, Like That, Pretty Diamonds, Standing Ovation, Let Me Talk To Em, Trap or Die, Bottom of the Map, Bang, Go Crazy, Trapstar, Nothing, Dem Boyz, J.E.E.Z.Y., Air Forces, Supa Freak, Tear It Up, Way Too Gone
Lil Durk: L’s Anthem, Gas and Mud, Bang Bros, Who Is This, 52 Bars, Party, Guns and Money, Waffle House, Make It Back, Dis Ain’t What You Want, Money Walk, My Beyonce