“Church in These Streets” is the new Jeezy album, so you know what to expect. Jeezy makes it clear he’s about real, hardcore rap — the trapping, the money and the sinning. His album’s title also suggests an air of spirituality. On the cover, Jeezy fashions himself to look the part of a preacher, even playing down the CEO’s salary worth of jewelry he could have whipped out for the shot. He sports a handful of pins on his peacoat and the top end of a watch just peering out from his sleeve. This semi-conservative fashioning is not necessarily new for Jeezy, but it can still be contrasted to previous record artwork for The Inspiration — or going further back, to the “Icy” era, or his endless verses on bottles, bucks and babes.
The absence of flaunted flair on the cover reflects the contents of the album itself, with just two features over 19 songs — it’s Jeezy going steady. The album’s lack of features keeps with trends over other recent releases, like Fetty Wap’s Fetty Wap and Future’s What a Time to Be Alive, but unlike these two relatively new rap phenomena, Jeezy is a true rap game veteran — so much so, that famed hip-hop manager Coach K credits Young Jeezy with the founding of Trap-style rapping with his early mixtapes, Tha Streets Iz Watchin and Trap or Die.
Church in These Streets is a testament to Jeezy’s own veteran status, bragging that he is “a God in the hood,” over the psychedelic trap beat of “GOD” and proclaiming himself a “ghetto profit” in “Sweet Life.” Hard beats can be found at every turn, from “Holy Water” to “Church in These Streets,” from balling out of control like “J-Bo” to grinding and hustling in “Just Win.”
Per usual, Jeezy is meticulous about his image and sound, taking his time to put his best foot forward on “each and every song, each and every verse, each and every ad lib,” as always. It pays off, as every track on Church in these Streets feels clean, crisp and fresh despite the repetitive content.
An anomaly emerges in the album’s last record, “Forgive Me.” Jeezy admits his imperfections, asking forgiveness from those he has wronged. He dives one level deeper, bringing in some personal life events to his music, referencing his declining relationship with his Auntie and an unresolved quarrel with his little sister over her wedding planning. What’s even more meaningful is that Jeezy himself, perhaps vis-à-vis one of his affiliates, took the time to personally annotate and define these lyrics through his certified Rap Genius account. While perhaps a minor detail, it exemplifies his intense dedication to his craft.
Other deviations, such as the spoken word poetry-esque lines of “Eternal Reflection Interlude” and the sermon-like motivational words that bookend “Just Win,” add to the spiritual mantra of the album artwork and name.
I have said a lot of good things about Church in these Streets, but there’s one major element missing — it doesn’t have a killer track (or two) which the record can build off of. Think of what “Put On” was for The Recession; or how “Seen It All” and “Me OK” hyped up Seen It All: The Autobiography; or how “Soul Survivor” and “My Hood” boosted Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101; or, one of my favorites, how “Air Forces” got stuck in your head from Tha Streets Iz Watchin. There’s not one or two songs that stand out in the album that could drive radio play or conjure wider press for the record.
Jeezy has had a lot of success in his career, with platinum and gold records and number one hits, but if Church in these Streets breaks any records, it’ll be from a loyal fan base backing Jeezy’s steady trap sound, not because it’s his best album yet.