Young Jeezy & USDA: Long Cool Summer

The concept of established artists fronting a group effort is about as original as a duet with Akon, creating a clothing line, or dropping a DJ Drama assisted mixtape. Someone must have forgotten to tell Young Jeezy—he’s managed to release two certified multi-platinum albums and stretch his fan base as if it were one of […]

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The concept of established artists fronting a group effort is about as original as a duet with Akon, creating a clothing line, or dropping a DJ Drama assisted mixtape. Someone must have forgotten to tell Young Jeezy—he’s managed to release two certified multi-platinum albums and stretch his fan base as if it were one of his extended ad-libs, all while maintaining love from the streets. If Jeezy can manage to repeatedly make a lucrative hustle out of what are usually trite Hip-Hop marketing strategies for others, then what should his fans expect from his group?

That’s not a rhetorical question. For those that don’t already know, Jeezy, Slick Pulla and Blood Raw—collectively known as USDA—will provide the answer on May 22 when they drop their album Cold Summer. Do Jeezy and his crew have what it takes to distinguish themselves from all those other solo artists who have promoted crew members from carrying the contraband to rocking the mic? There aren’t any documented cases of snowmen surviving the heat of an Atlanta summer, but would you really bet against Jeezy at this point? No need to answer those questions either; Jeezy, Slick Pulla and Blood Raw were more than up for the task. How are you guys handling the transition from being artists to becoming CEOs?

Blood Raw: It’s all about understanding the big picture. When you have the dedication and love the way we do when it comes to this music thing, you know that your time is going to come. It’s just on you to make that happen. What’s your assessment, Jeezy?

Young Jeezy: Once I started keeping them n***as out of jail, we was straight. [Laughs] Raw was always doing his own shows, so he was straight. Slick was with me, so he was coming up and doing his thing too. Everybody pretty much understands, we’ve all grown and everyone does their part. I like these n***as ‘cause they’re students of the game. They watch s**t and they learn how to do a lot of s**t on their own and it definitely helps me out. At the end of the day, everybody is focused over here. We got our eyes on that money. It’s like having tunnel vision with a pair of binoculars on. We ain’t seeing nothing but that green, baby! Nowadays 50/50 ventures are pretty rare. What made CTE decide to release this USDA project through Def Jam?

Blood Raw: It was a whole movement that Kinky B and Jeezy had from the beginning. They always wanted to operate as a label, so Jeezy just stepped into the forefront as an artist to get the label situated the way he wanted. Everybody knows when you sell units you get leverage, so that was a good way to bring CTE into the game. What other way to present his group than with the two most successful up-and-coming artists?

Young Jeezy: We could’ve done it a lot of other ways, but you gotta f**k with the people who f**k with you. Def Jam really supports anything I do right now, so I just wanted to be in a position where I could have some say so and some creative control. Considering all of the obstacles that have gotten in the way of that success, how did you guys maintain your chemistry?

Blood Raw: What makes the chemistry so spontaneous is that we’re like three brothers from a different mother. We’ve actually lived together—ate together, hit the club together and all that every day. It wasn’t nothing that we didn’t do together, and when you’re with a person that much you pretty much have the same vibe. It’s like best friends or brothers. If you have a brother then you feel where I’m coming from. You can kind of feel what your brother’s thinking just by him making a reaction. When we got in the studio and sat down it was just there. Really what it was, was just a weekend of us going to the club. Despite that club vibe, USDA is big on being loyal to the streets. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, but Slick especially, if someone from the streets tried to shoot you, why do you feel the need to be loyal to that element?

Slick Pulla: It really wasn’t an incident like that. What happened was, I’ve got a little temper sometimes and I saw some things that led me to believe that dude was trying a little slick move. I reacted and [the shooting] was a reaction to how I reacted. At the same time though, when all that happened the big homie Jeezy was on the road or doing radio. Raw was stuck in his situation, and those guys keep me grounded.

I’m a grounded individual, but sometimes I’ve got a hot temper. I could be over here trying to just do me and the smallest thing will make me snap. I’ll always have love for the streets because the streets love me, so that could never make me turn my back on the streets. That’s where I got my love, wisdom and guidance from. From the verses, even down to that 808 feel of the beats, this album has a mixtape vibe to it. I’m talking about an actual cassette tape…

Blood Raw: We’re just trying to cater to our core audience, and our core audience is the streets. We didn’t get out to the radio, and I think that’s a good thing. People try to cater to the radio too much, and they forget where it comes from. We honestly feel that if the streets accept us, then everybody else will come along. Slick’s 4th Ward Day mixtape and my Indictment Papers mixtape with DJ Drama were extremely successful. That’s why I was quick to tell people, “If Jeezy sold a million units, then who do you think is going to the store when me and Slick drop?” I think the music will speak for itself and Jeezy is just presenting us to the rest of the world.

Slick Pulla: That’s the thing that makes us feel so comfortable. When you know you’ve been in the game and you’ve got that support from the streets. Cats think this and cats think that, but we’ve already established a fan base in the streets. Once the other people hear the music they’ll go, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t have looked at it like that.” A lot of artists out now can’t hit you with that one-two punch, but we bring no less than a three or four punch combo. We’ve got the whole twelve rounds around here, and we’re going strong from start to finish. How do you feel about the RIAA? On one hand they cut your publishing checks, but at the same time they’re responsible for the raid on DJ Drama.

Young Jeezy: Man, they don’t want no trouble. I don’t wanna have to get my ski mask and pistol. [Laughs] Everybody cool. We don’t have no problems because our business is tight.

Slick Pulla: I still think mixtapes are an essential part of the music. When people can’t tax on stuff like that, then they find other ways to get their cut. Mixtapes can still be done; it’s just about how you do it.

Young Jeezy: We ain’t really trippin’ ‘cause we’ve got mixtapes two for five. Was there any concern in going with the name USDA? You’ve said that the term “Dope boy” can stand for many things, but with artists like Project Pat and Beanie Sigel they tried to use their lyrics against them in court.

Young Jeezy: Let’s just hope we don’t go to jail. [Laughs] Then we don’t have to be in court to deal with that bulls**t. We’re some real individuals, and I’d rather be questioned in court about some s**t that I said than have them questioning me about some s**t they caught me with. Everybody wanna’ trip when you start talking about getting money. Nobody’s talking about stopping all these rappers from talking about killing, but when you start talking about money then it’s a problem. I am not a drug dealer. I’m not implying that. If anything, what you just said speaks more about America’s legal system than the music itself.

Young Jeezy: That’s some real s**t, my n***a. Just like that s**t I was talking about that happened to Drama—rap is a billion dollar industry, and until they figure out a way to tax everything they’re gonna continue to do bulls**t like that and tell us that our music is representing the wrong thing. F**k that. As far as the streets are concerned, that doesn’t seem to be an issue…

Young Jeezy: That’s what I’m saying, so f**k them. The streets buy the music. I ain’t even trying to be on no ignorant rapper s**t; I just mean you can’t make everybody happy, homie. You can’t try to please everybody because you never know what people’s ulterior motives are. You never know why they’re talking so bad about our music, but at the same time we came from the streets. What’s wrong with that? It’s not like people are out here getting shot for nothing. Sometimes you might just have to f**k a n***a up.

All bulls**t aside though, people wanna make it seem like I’m not out here trying to do something positive. I’m really just trying to something right for my homeboys. I feel like these n***as deserve it. I’ve seen Blood Raw go through his case, and I’ve seen Slick Pulla laid up in the hospital, so I know what it is. I done seen Slick and Raw in jail and I know it gets real, but what type of n***a would I be to let them go through all of that for believing in me and then when it’s their time I don’t go equally hard for them?

To keep it all the way real with you, I just think it’s a good thing to see us, or anybody from the South out there like that. The other day, somebody asked me why Southern rappers come out the way they do. Just think about it—when you’re in the streets, and you know I’m a street n***a, you know other n***as in other cities who run they city, right? Yeah.

Young Jeezy: When you cool with a n***a, you can go do a video with a n***a or a record with a n***a or things like that, and you’re keeping the South strong. That’s why the South is keeping music strong, ‘cause it’s a way of life. That’s what you learn how to do. You learn how to do good business by keeping it real with a n***a and putting other n***as on.

I’m doing my numbers; I’m selling records and s**t. At the same time, I’m keeping my ear to the streets too. So, what better way can I do it than with some street n***as who know the streets like I do and want the same thing? We’re going to get together and do this album and put it in the streets. What’s wrong with that? Raw, I know all of your legal trouble started in 2006 as you guys were about to go on an overseas tour. Are you looking forward to making it over there this time?

Young Jeezy: I don’t think the n***a wanna get on the plane. [Laughs] The way they jumped out on that n***a, I would never wanna go to the airport again.

Blood Raw: [Laughing] It was rough man, but I’m ready to go back out of the country. I feel good and I’m blessed to be here. The big homie has given me an opportunity that I can’t even put into words. It’s crazy. Hopefully, at the end of the year we’ll be back out of the country.