Motivated Corporate Thug Jeezy learned a thing or two from last year’s Seen It All LP. First, there is an audience willing to absorb teachings from a reformed gangster in the game, and second, he’s still a fan favorite in hip-hop. With Def Jam still backing him, the Atlanta rapper returns this year with his eighth solo album, Church in These Streets, which was released on Friday, Nov. 13. While his new religion is not religion per se, some of his attitudes remain brazenly street, and most of the album’s impressionable preachings take place in the interludes by guests so except for a handful of moralistic songs (mostly near the end), the two-faced Church in These Streets is frankly a lot of ghetto-centric hood talk in rhyme.
This project is like an Oscar Mayer wiener, not bad, pretty flavorful, but with a little too much filler. After “Grind State,” where Jeezy brags about his “grind state/mind state,” he reflects on and prays for those chewed up and spit out by the vicious trap cycle in “Lost Souls.” He moves to make a correlation between baptism by fire and alcohol in “Holy Water” and turns himself completely loose in “Gold Bottles,” a gun-busting, bottle-popping orgasm of a rap anthem. Two cuts later, “Eternal Reflection Interlude” works for social justice through spoken word, and at this point it’s convincing enough in its sincerity. Singles “God” and “Church in These Streets” have some memory-making value, but if the very next song “New Clothes” does, it’s for the wrong reason: happiness in material possessions.
Celebrating his hard earned comfort in the tranquil “Sweet Life” with Janelle Monáe, Jeezy is rejuvenated for the second half of the album. “Scared of the Dark” puts down lowly dudes, and “No Other Way” explains why they call the trap “the trap.” Sister Good Game lectures on anti-violence in her “Testimony” interlude, and although her perfectly stereotypical African American vernacular is humorously corny, her words strike a very powerful chord nevertheless. The last five tracks are decidedly gentle, both in thought and in music. “J Bo” promotes the everlasting motto “death before dishonor,” “I Feel Ya” praises the honorable hustler, and “Go Get It” sympathizes for women tired of their “bullsh*tting” partners. And like a buzzer-beating three pointer, Jeezy relays some deeply motivational advice to the ghetto disenfranchised in “Just Win” and shows some tender empathy with an assist from Monica in the finishing “Forgive Me.”
Jeezy barely escapes with a win in this spiritually minded Church in These Streets album. Staid production and typical verbal content hold it back, but its sporadic maturity is enough to propels it forward to the finish line. After the meditative and reflective Seen It All, Jeezy could have done a complete three-sixty and become a newly enlightened (Bible-thumping?) truth spreader, but he has stayed his hustler course and maintained pretty much all of his street cred. His faith remains in the streets, but really where else could he put it and still be seen as the same old Jeezy? Church in These Streets does have the gangsta in Jeezy bloviating much, but be sure to stick around until the end of the service for his good word and gospel.