ATLANTA (AP) — Rapper Jeezy was so poor growing up as a child that he and his mother sometimes knocked cockroaches off their meals so they could eat.
It's a moment Jeezy will never forget. The four-time Grammy-nominated rapper is now far removed from those poverty-stricken conditions, but those tough childhood memories still makes him hungry for a better life.
Now, he wants to use his testimony of overcoming life's daunting obstacles to inspire listeners to "trust the process" through his new album, "Pressure," out on Friday. His eighth studio album features Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, J. Cole and 2 Chainz.
Jeezy, 40, said "Pressure" is focusing more on his evolution from the street life.
"If you take my situation, I was a coal, a coal in a dark hole, going through everything in the world," he said. "Every type of problem you can think of. Every type of obstacle. Every type of blackball ever done. I still stood with my head up and chest out. And over time, all that pressure, it created a diamond. I came out shining. ...No matter what you're going through in life, just stand your ground and believe in yourself."
From rapper to mogul, Jeezy continues to make power moves. He has an online merchandise shop called 99 Agency, opened a steakhouse restaurant in Atlanta, partnered with the Atlanta Hawks for his own apparel, became an adviser for Avion Tequila and built a six-story compound studio in the city. He also has his record label called Corporate Thugz Entertainment.
Not bad for Jeezy, who used to struggle to pay his own water bill. The rapper said at this point in his life he's the most happiest and healthiest.
"You have to know this is possible," he said. "When you see me, I'm living proof that you can do these things. If you look at where I came from, what I've been through or the obstacles that I've dodged to where I am now, it should give you hope. I came a long way."
Known for his trademark ad-libs from "Yeeaaah" and "That's riiiigght," Jeezy emerged in the mid-2000s with his raw firsthand experiences of his crack-entrepreneur tales and violent street life. But he's also dealt with critics who felt he glorified street life, including gun violence and drugs.
But Jeezy said he's always tried to speak the language of those living in impoverished neighborhoods that relate to him. He said there's a motivational message within his music, which he calls "ghetto gospel."
"I'm going to explain this to them the best way they know it," he said. "Sometimes it takes the gunplay. It takes the talk about the penitentiary. That's the only thing that's going to catch their attention. That's what they relate to. The message is bigger than the music."
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