Originally published on BET.com, February 9, 2017.
A common ideology throughout show business, as glorified best in old glamour Hollywood films and perhaps now a bit cliché in real life, is the concept that an exclusive selection of people curiously inherited a quality referred to as "star power."
While it is an elusive and desirable characteristic that is naturally hard to explain, when someone has it, it is just known, felt and universally agreed upon. In the case of Atlanta heavyweight Jeezy, he was born with something else — a spin-off of star power that is arguably more influential, combining an undeniable cool factor with unrivaled street savvy, rounded out with a keen business sense. It's an essence that is truly unique to him and something that can be felt immediately upon his entering a room.
While sporting sunglasses — despite it being 7 p.m. on a breezy Wednesday night in New York City (Feb. 8) — Jeezy, dressed to the nines and casually sipping Tequila Avión, is exuding both his personal brand of star power and the wealth of wisdom he's collected over the course of two decades in the rap game. Over the years, Jeezy has become something of an unexpected motivational coach, an element not part of his initial job description as an artist and one that he organically gravitated toward through his music and by keeping older company. From rapping on what he's experienced to speaking on what he knows, Jeezy has elevated his own career while making history and captivating audiences simultaneously.
His anthem and ode to Barack Obama, "My President Is Black," became a movement in and of itself by praising the very movement that was as necessary as it was groundbreaking for American culture and history. When asked if he feels, in Trump's new regime, that a sequel to that track, perhaps titled "My President Is Still Black," is inevitable to manifest itself next, Jeezy's balance of confidence and cool factor isn't convinced.
"That was history," he states, in regard to the very song that ended up soundtracking such a meaningful and important moment in our country, one that grew into a legacy much bigger than the Obama family themselves. "We gotta leave that where it's at. I think it's time that somebody else step up."
"You know, I like YG's song, though," Jeezy says, laughing. "He's got a real good song about Trump. You know the one."
"It's almost like, you know Obama, to me, was a politician," Jeezy continues, diving into how he feels about our current political leader in comparison to the godsend that was Obama. "He is someone who handled himself in a presidential manner. Always. And in just my personal opinion, Trump, you know, he's a businessman. So he doesn't care about anybody's feelings as long as the business gets done. And, to me, that's the difference between the two.
"Trump acts as though his view on the country is the only view, as if he's the only one that lives in the country," he says. "A lot of the things he's doing are irate and it's our first time to ever see somebody in office that's difficult and outspoken like that. We usually go about things together as a nation, you know what I mean? At least we try to. And now we have to just see how it all plays out."
From there, it's almost reactionary to next touch on Trump's recent executive order, the controversial Muslim ban, with Jeezy reflecting on the horrific reality that the president's recent action is capable of doing some severe damage.
"I've never been racist, you know," he adds. "White, Black, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, whatever, you know what I mean? You gotta be right. But I just think a lot of the things he's doing, he's turning the people against the integrity that we built. You know what I'm saying? Now it looks like we're built on some bulls**t, so to speak."
While Jeezy is in a position where he has a platform to unapologetically discuss what is making headlines in Trump's sinister presidency, he's not hogging the mic either.
"I think with social media, the younger generation sees a lot of this stuff we didn't get a chance to see, or we didn't care to see," he says. "But it's all on the same platform now, so they all constantly hear about it. You know, they see what [Trump’s] saying on Twitter and a lot of it would offend anybody, maybe even a seven-year-old. So you have to expect that more and more younger artists are speaking on these topics in their music and day-to-day lives. These up-and-coming cats, they're young and rebellious and they don't care to hold their tongue. They don't care to be politically correct. They're gonna say what they feel."
Jeezy is someone who has kept it 100 throughout his entire career, owning what he needs to own and learning from his past mistakes. That’s part of why he's now at an incredible stage in his career where he's able to adapt with the times instead of participating in the age-old arguments surrounding generational rap while also encouraging intelligent conversations about politics finding their way into their music in ways that may surprise people in general to see that the youth is paying attention and is involved. Such is the case with YG's smash single, "FDT."
"By the way, they're not really into politics, this younger generation," Jeezy continues. "They're into people. So if you show somebody a side of you or show somebody a flaw, that means that flaw truly exists and people, like I said, these up-and-coming cats, they can detect it. So they don't have to bite their tongue because they've got their own outlets to put their music out now. They don't have to go through the labels or go through all this red tape. So, like, if someone says, 'Yo, I don't like him. F**k that guy,’ you have to respect it. That's their opinion and this is their generation. This is what's important to them."
When it comes to assuming the role of being a mentor, something that he's transitioning into directly while working with the likes of YG, recruiting Lil Durk and YFN Lucci to join his upcoming Trap or Die 3 tour and working with Tequila Avión to be a guide and resource for select rising artists, he's a seasoned vet who knows he has a lot to offer those willing to listen. Supported by his extensive resumé and in his words, he's always been a boss. So for Jeezy, it's just about saying what he feels is right for the situation and being honest when giving feedback or insight.
"What I've learned about people's opinions is that you take enough of it for it to make sense to you and apply it to what you were already thinking. That's how you move forward," he says. "So you can't just take everything everybody says for face value and think that's it, that's the end all be all. That's where I come in. A wise man once told me that you learn from somebody else's mistake, not your own."
At the end of the day, despite all of the headaches, anxiety and fear of the unknown that has come as a package deal with this election, Jeezy is here to remind us that this year still holds the potential to be great, and therefore it's going to be something special, save for the Atlanta Falcons losing the Super Bowl.
"I just take my time, you know, keep my mind balanced," he says of how he stays sane during trying times such as present-day political turmoil. "Keep staying in shape, eat good, drink good. Grind, get your stack, stay out of the way. That's what I say."
"Other than the Falcons, it's going to be a great year," Jeezy says with conviction. "You know everybody's in they pocket. Everybody's got their game face on. For everything that I'm affiliated with and a part of, business-wise, music-wise, we're going push it through the glass ceilings. It's going down this year. It's going to be a great year, for sure."
Once again, Jeezy's tried-and-true ability to keep it calm, cool and collected shines through, all without losing credibility for keeping things conscious at the same time. Yup, that's what star power is by definition and he's got enough to go around, lifting up an entire generation and, against all odds, inspiring others to do better along the way.
When The Snowman says it's going to be a great year, so it will be. He's sure to make a believer out of the most reluctant of optimists, leading by example and getting his jabs in when he needs to.