Jay Jenkins burst into national consciousness in 2005 as Young Jeezy, but a few years later the Atlanta rapper shortened his official handle to simply Jeezy. And he’s certainly not “young” anymore, as he turns 40 on September 28. For over a decade, Jeezy has stood with his friend T.I. and his collaborator-turned-foe Gucci Mane as one of the titans of trap music, the street-hustler variation on southern rap that has become one of modern Atlanta’s biggest cultural exports.
With a hoarse but gregarious voice, Jeezy was at first more known for his ad libs than his rhymes, cackling “ha haaaa” and “yeahhhh” on his multiplatinum Def Jam debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, and his group Boyz N Da Hood’s self-titled album, both in 2005. But there was also an unflinching darkness to his music that he retained even in crossover hits like the Akon collaboration “Soul Survivor.” And an unlikely political bent emerged in his music with the 2008 album The Recession, which contained hip-hop’s biggest unofficial Barack Obama anthem, “My President.”
Jeezy The Snowman’s career has cooled off in the years since his rapid ascent to stardom, but he’s remained one of Atlanta trap’s most consistent hitmakers. He was early to adapt to new sounds like DJ Mustard’s west coast groove on “R.I.P.” and traded introspective bars with JAY Z on “Seen It All.” More recently, in 2016 he returned to the top of the charts with Trap Or Die 3 (a sequel to his 2005 breakthrough mixtape), which featured “All There,” a posthumous hit for the late Bankroll Fresh. And it’s hard to imagine Jeezy retiring anytime soon even as he marks another decade of life.